Author: kstreet607

Politics! Politics! I love politics! Unapologetic Barack Obama enthusiast.

10 things you need to know today: November 23, 2014

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry | Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

The Week

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry dies, Afghanistan approves a new NATO deal, and more.

1. Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry dead at 78

Marion Barry, the former four-term mayor of Washington, D.C., and a sitting member of the city council, died Sunday morning. He was 78 years old. Barry’s family did not specify a cause of death, though the lawmaker had been in poor health for some time. Barry served as mayor from 1979 to 1991 and again from 1995 to 1999, with a six-month prison sentence in between after he was caught smoking crack. [The Washington Post]

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2. Afghanistan approves new deal with U.S., NATO troops

Afghanistan’s parliament on Sunday approved in a near-unanimous vote an agreement to keep U.S. and NATO troops in the country after 2014. The U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan was scheduled to end this year, but the deal will allow 12,000 troops to remain working with local forces beyond December. The 152-2 vote came shortly after the news that President Obama in recent weeks approved new guidelines to expand the scope of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. [The Associated Press]

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3. Ferguson grand jury to reconvene Monday

A decision in the Michael Brown shooting case will not come over the weekend despite previous reports to the contrary, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The grand jury that is deciding whether to bring charges against Darren Wilson, the police officer who in August shot and killed Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, will reconvene Monday. Anticipating widespread protests once the decision is announced, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) last week declared a preemptive state of emergency. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

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4. Putin says he won’t be president for life

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he won’t run Moscow forever, though he could run for another six-year term in 2018. “This is not good and detrimental for the country and I do not need it as well,” Putin said when asked if he wanted to be president for life, according to Russian state media. The 62-year-old Putin has been president since 2000, excepting a four-year stint, from 2008 to 2012, when he served as prime minister. [CBS]

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5. Buffalo threatened by dangerous flooding

A flood warning was in effect Sunday for parts of upstate New York, including Buffalo. A week of intense lake-effect snow buried the region in up to seven feet of snow that is expected to rapidly melt as temperatures climb to close out the weekend. The historic snowfall killed 13 people and forced the NFL to relocate Sunday’s scheduled game in Buffalo. [NBC]

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6. Tunisia holds first direct presidential election

Tunisians voted Sunday in the first free election to pick the nation’s new leader. A revolution in 2011 ousted former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Thirty candidates are vying for the position, and the race is expected to go to a runoff vote in December. [Reuters]

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7. Virginia suspends all frats after sexual assault report

The University of Virginia on Saturday suspended all fraternities for the rest of the semester following a shocking Rolling Stone report on sexual assault at the college. In a statement, President Teresa A. Sullivan said the report “caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community,” and that the school and students would meet over the coming weeks to discuss sexual assaults at UVA. “Meaningful change is necessary, and we can lead that change for all universities,” Sullivan added. [Rolling Stone, NBC]

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8. Israeli police kill Palestinian man in Gaza

Israeli security forces on Sunday shot and killed a 32-year-old Palestinian man in the Gaza Strip, the first fatality since the two-month war between the two sides ended in August. Israel said officers fired warning shots when the man approached a “no-go” buffer zone. More than 2,100 people died in the conflict. [The Guardian]

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9. Al-Shabab kills 28 on Kenyan bus

Members of the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabab over the weekend hijacked a Kenyan bus and killed 28 non-Muslims on board. The group claimed the attack was in response to crackdowns earlier this week on mosques in Mombasa. [BBC]

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10. Bill Cosby maintains silence on rape allegations

Comedian Bill Cosby has responded to a recent wave of rape allegations by saying he will not “answer to innuendos.” More than a dozen women have accused Cosby of sexually assaulting them over several decades. The legendary entertainer’s lawyer said last week Cosby would not comment on the claims. [The Chicago Tribune]

Paul Ryan’s stunning hypocrisy: The little-noticed way the GOP proved it’s full of it

Paul Ryan's stunning hypocrisy: The little-noticed way the GOP proved it's full of it

Paul Ryan | Credit: AP/John Minchillo

SALON ~ 

GOP’s still banging the “Grubergate” drum — but an under-the-radar push from Ryan shows they don’t mean a word

As a general rule, I try not to write about hypocrisy in politics. It’s such a constant, such a fact of life, that it can feel a bit like complaining about traffic or the weather.

But just as there’s a difference between waiting an extra 20 minutes during rush hour and being stranded in your car for five days — or between a typical snowstorm and what’s happening currently in Buffalo — there’s a difference between the routine hypocrisy of politics and the kind we saw this week from Republicans in the House. One kind is an annoyance to be quickly forgotten; the other leaves a mark.

Before getting into why they’re so egregious, however, let’s pause to recap the Congressional GOP’s recent machinations.

Aware no doubt of how President Obama’s announcement this week on immigration reform would dominate both the media and the public’s attention, Republicans in the House, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, have been working to make sure the next head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — which acts as Congress’s honest broker when it comes to scoring fiscal policy — is not a nonpartisan technocrat, as has usually been the case, but rather a loyal member of the conservative movement. And, as former CBO chief Peter Orszag recently explained, because the CBO has no institutional protections from partisan hackery, and maintains its integrity mostly through tradition, there’s precious little anyone can do to stop them.

While there are no doubt many changes ideologues like Ryan would like to see the CBO make, reports indicate that the main reason GOPers want to install a right-wing hack as its chief is in order to make the agency integrate “dynamic scoring” more fully into its estimations. “Dynamic scoring,” for those who don’t know, is a phrase conservatives like to use to give a tenet of their anti-tax religion — lower taxes lead to more revenue! — an intellectual gloss. More importantly, dynamic scoring is generally the special sauce right-wing “wonks” put into their projections in order to claim that massively cutting taxes on the rich won’t lead to fiscal ruin. Remember the absurd claim that Bush’s tax cuts wouldn’t explode deficits? Thank dynamic scoring for that.

So that’s what’s happening under the radar with the CBO. And if that were the whole story, it’d probably fall under into the “routine traffic and weather” category of hypocrisy I mentioned earlier. What makes this more of a Buffalo snowstorm-level problem is the context — specifically, the fact that Republicans are destroying yet another norm of American politics, the nonpartisan CBO, at the very same time that they’re waging a relentless and disingenuous campaign to persuade the media (and thus the American people) that the way the Affordable Care Act was written was a breach of democratic norms without precedent.

Yes, this is where “Grubergate,” the most recent of the GOP’s seemingly endless supply of manufactured outrages, comes in. If you’re not familiar with this tempest in a teapot, I recommend you catch up by reading my colleague Joan Walsh. But for our purposes here, all you need to know is that Republicans have been devoting a ton of energy toward making MIT’s Jonathan Gruber’s admission, that the White House designed Obamacare with the likely political ramifications of the CBO score in mind, equivalent to the 18-minute gap in the Nixon tapes. Because the president knew that calling something in the bill a “penalty” instead of a “tax” would make it harder for conservatives to scream that Obamacare was the tax hike to end all tax hikes — as they did (and are still doing) with Hillarycare — that means, conservatives argue, that the bill itself was only able to pass through the most dastardly lies.

As BuzzFeed’s Adam Serwer noted, the Grubergate politicking is most likely an attempt to lay the groundwork for defending a possible future Supreme Court gutting of the ACA. (Although Gruber’s confirming the right’s suspicions of liberal technocrat elitism and piggishness, by calling voters stupid, is operational, too.) But when you see it through the lens of Ryan’s dynamic scoring push, you’re confronted with a level of bullshit that is flabbergasting — even in the context of partisan politics. According to Paul Ryan and other Republicans, it is absolutely not OK for a president to design a bill in a way that makes it harder for its opponents to demagogue. It is not OK to write a bill and think of the CBO at all. What is OK, apparently, is corrupting it from within.

First Grader Was Told ‘Guess What, You Can’t Have Lunch’ Because His Family Was In Debt

Xavier, the first grader who was denied a lunch | CREDIT: Q13 FOX NEWS

Think Progress

First grader Xavier says that when the lunch lady at his Snohomish County School District school was recently handing out bagged lunches to all the students, she told him, “Guess what, you can’t have a lunch.”

His father says Xavier is on the school lunch program, but he was sent home without eating and with a slip saying he had a negative lunch balance.

A school spokesperson told Q13 Fox News that if a student’s account goes $20 or more into the red, he should still get a cheese sandwich, a drink, and unlimited fruits and vegetables. But Xavier says he didn’t get anything to eat, and his father argues that this shouldn’t apply to his son anyway since he gets federally funded lunches. “My question was never answered as to why he was denied,” he said.

“It happened to me as a child and I can still feel that hurt and I can only imagine what he went through,” Xavier’s dad said. “It made me feel really bad for him. That’s not right. That’s like saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have your book bag so you can’t have your education.’ You can’t do that. Feed them. They need to eat. They need to concentrate. They can’t concentrate without eating. I just don’t want this to happen to any other kid. It’s hurtful.”

But these kinds of incidents are not uncommon. A school in Utah threw out about 40 elementary students’ lunches because their parents were behind on payments. A school in Texas threw out a student’s breakfast because his account was 30 cents short. Those who get free lunches have also been humiliated, as students in a Colorado school who had their hands stamped in front of better off classmates. A Congressman even floated the idea that students who get free meals should be made to earn them by sweeping school floors.

Some school districts are taking a different approach that could do away with hunger problems, public shaming, and fights over account balances altogether. They’re participating in a federal program that allows them to give all students in the district free breakfast and lunch, regardless of income. So far districts in Boston, Chicago, Dallas,Indianapolis, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina have signed up, and New York City has explored the idea. The change reduces paperwork for parents and for schools, which reduces costs, while it also helps parents who had originally fallen just outside income eligibility limits.

It also addresses the hunger crisis in America’s schools. Three-quarters of the country’s teachers say they have students regularly showing up to class hungry. More than one in five children live in a food insecure household. Hunger has a particular impact on the young, as it can hamper their cognitive and social development and puts them at greater risk of mental illness. If more students got free breakfast, it would mean a significant boost to test scores and graduation rates and a drop in absences.

In districts that haven’t enrolled in the federal meals program, however, some private citizens have stepped in. A man in Texas paid off students’ balances so they could keep eating full meals. A first grade teacher in New Mexico started a program to send students home with backpacks full of food.

Sunday Talk: ¡Ay, dios mio!

Daily Kos

Thursday night, in a nationally televised (sólo en español) address, President Obama totally #Grubered any chance of bipartisanship in our time, using only his bare hands.Contra the claims of his loyalist subjects, Obama’s so-called “executiveactions are without precedent in Real American history—which is not to say that they’re entirely unprecedented.

If not for the fact that Obama already shredded the Constitution, we’d probably just find ourselves in a constitutional crisis right now; but, instead, we’re faced with the prospect of widespread rioting and/or ethnic cleansing.

No me gusta.

Morning lineup:

Meet The Press: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ); Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (9/11); Lawyer for Michael Brown’s Family Anthony Gray; Georgetown University Prof. Michael Eric Dyson; Former CEO of Shell Oil John Hofmeister; Author Daniel Yergin; Roundtable: Joe Scarborough (MSNBC), Jose Diaz-Balart (Telemundo), Amy Walter (Cook Political Report) and Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D).Face The Nation: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL); Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID); Roundtable: Michael Gerson (Washington Post), David Ignatius(Washington Post), Susan Page (USA Today), Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune) andMark Leibovich (New York Times Magazine).

This Week: President Barack Obama; Roundtable: “Brain Surgeon” Dr. Ben Carson, Democratic Strategist James Carville, Republican Strategist Matthew Dowd andKatrina vanden Heuvel (The Nation).

Fox News Sunday: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA); Texas Gov.-Elect Greg Abbott (R); Roundtable: George Will (Washington Post), Julie Pace(Associated Press), Kimberly Strassel (Wall Street Journal) and Ron Fournier (National Journal).

State of the Union: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA); Roundtable: Princeton University Prof. Cornel West,Sherrilyn Ifill (NAACP), Jim Wallis (Sojourners) and LZ Granderson (ESPN)..

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: a report on the critical condition of America’s infrastructure and why the problem persists (preview); a report on the current state of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (preview); and, a report on the use of modern technology to locate the remains of airmen missing in action in the waters off Palau, the site of costly World War II battles in the South Pacific (preview).

New York City Police Officer Shoots And Kills Unarmed Black Man For Using Stairs In Building

akai gurley

Akai Gurley | no attribution

Addicting Info

A New York City police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man Thursday evening after the man and his girlfriend opted to take the stairs instead of the elevator in the woman’s apartment building. The couple encountered two police officers in the dimly lit stairwell as they approached the woman’s floor. One of the officers already had his gun drawn while in the stairwell and shot the man, 28-year-old Akai Gurley, once in the chest as the couple came upon the officers. The officer who killed Gurley has been identified as Peter Liang, a rookie officer who was on a probationary assignment patrolling a housing project.

Michelle Butler, Gurley’s girlfriend, recounted the tragic event to the New York Daily News.

“They didn’t identify themselves,” said Butler, 27, who began dating Gurley in January 2011. “No nothing. They didn’t give no explanation. They just pulled a gun and shot him in the chest.”

The terrified couple ran down to the fifth floor before Gurley collapsed in a pool of blood. Butler, who was standing alongside her boyfriend when he was hit, recalled their frantic final moments together as she begged Gurley to keep fighting.

“Yo, you OK? Talk to me!” she recalled shouting. “He wasn’t saying nothing. That was the last thing I said to him.”

Butler said the officers never came down to check on the mortally wounded man, and medical help was only sent after she banged on a neighbor’s door for help.

NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton held a press conference Friday morning to discuss the shooting incident. He stated that it was “an unfortunate tragedy” and said that it appeared to be “an accidental discharge” of the officer’s weapon. Bratton also pointed out that the building had seen two robberies and four assaults recently, perhaps providing cover to the officer regarding why his weapon was drawn as he entered the stairwell.

DNAinfo, a news website covering New York and Chicago neighborhoods, provided the following tweets from the press conference.

Based on the evidence and the police commissioner’s statements, Gurley was killed for no other reason than being a black man walking up some stairs in a building that had recently witnessed crimes. A nervous police officer had his gun out and as soon as he encountered Gurley, the officer shot first without hesitation. Due to this natural inclination to be prepared to shoot at a moment’s notice, a totally innocent man is dead.

While this may just be an unfortunate “circumstance of events,” it further validates the feeling among the black community that people of color are unfairly treated and targeted by law enforcement. In a September article, Mother Jones provided data from the CDC showing that over the past 40 years, blacks have been four times more likely to be shot and killed by law enforcement than whites. While that disparity shrank last decade, Mother Jones also revealed that over the same time period, the FBI’s stats still showed a 4-to-1 disparity in the rate of justifiable homicides between the two races.

H/t: Ted

10 things you need to know today: November 22, 2014

Obama's orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan.

Obama’s orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan | (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Week

President Obama expands U.S. role in Afghanistan, GOP-led committee concludes Benghazi investigation, and more

1. Obama quietly approves expanded U.S. role in Afghanistan
Over the past few weeks, President Barack Obama reportedly gave the go-ahead on new guidelinesfor U.S. missions in Afghanistan. The new orders will not affect the number of U.S. troops stationed in the country — total American forces in Afghanistan are expected to be lowered to 9,800 by the end of 2014 — but they will impact the scope of the remaining troops’ missions. Previous plans had limited troops to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida, but the new guidelines will allow U.S. forces to provide air support to Afghan operations and target Taliban members who “directly threaten the United States.” [The Associated Press]

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2. GOP-led panel finds no intelligence failure in Benghazi attacks
A Republican-led House Intelligence Committee concluded that both the CIA and U.S. military carried out appropriate responses to the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic quarters in Benghazi, Libya. While the committee did find that initial assessments on the motives behind the attack, along with the identity of the militants, resulted in “flawed” talking points by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, the overall findings agreed with the Obama administration’s description of events. [The Washington Post]

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3. Thailand’s justice minister: Martial law to continue ‘indefinitely’
Saying that martial law is “necessary” for the government and junta, Thai Justice Minister GeneralPaiboon Koomchaya said on Friday that Thailand will not lift it for the foreseeable future. The army imposed marital law nationwide following a military coup in May. All political protests are banned under the law, although some demonstrators have tested that. “We are not saying that martial law will stay in place for 50 years, no this is not it, we just ask that it remain in place for now, indefinitely,” Paiboon said. [Reuters]

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4. Rookie police officer fatally shoots unarmed Brooklyn man
A New York City police officer who had been on the force for less than 18 months fatally shot an unarmed Brooklyn man on Thursday night. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton called the shooting an accident during a press conference on Friday. Officer Peter Liang reportedly drew his flashlight and gun while patrolling the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York with his partner. The two were walking down an unlit stairwell when Akai Gurley, 28, and his girlfriend, Melissa Butler, 27, entered the stairwell a floor below. Bratton says Liang’s weapon accidentally discharged at that time, and a single bullet struck Gurley in the chest. [The New York Times]

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5. Republicans officially file a lawsuit over ObamaCare
House Republicans filed a lawsuit against the secretaries of the Health and Human Services and Treasury Departments on Friday. The suit accuses the Obama administration of “unlawfully postponing a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties.” The White House originally deferred the requirement until 2015, and then delayed it until 2016 for employers with 50 to 99 employees. [The New York Times]

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6. U.S. stock markets see fifth-straight week of gains
The U.S. stock market closed out its fifth week of positive performance — its best stretch since 2011— on Friday. The People’s Bank of China announced an interest rate cut on Friday that nudged international markets higher, while the European Central Bank’s president, Mario Draghi, made comments about the bank’s plans to double down on boosting the eurozone economy. “It’s short-term good news, but the really good news is going to take longer to play out,” Tom Kolefas, of TIAA-CREF, said. “What we really need is real economic growth (outside the U.S.).” [Fortune, The Wall Street Journal]

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7. Global study qualifies violence against women as ‘epidemic’
A five-part series of studies presented in medical journal The Lancet reports that violence against women is a “global public health and clinical problem of epidemic proportions.” Entitled “Violence Against Women and Girls,” the series reports that 100-140 million women have undergone female genital mutilation, 7 percent of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and 70 million girls are married before turning 18 years old. The study’s authors said one problem is that much of the research and education on violence against women takes place almost exclusively in high-income countries. [Time]

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8. Hackers attack websites supporting Hong Kong Occupy Central protests
Apple Daily and PopVote, two independent news sites which have been covering and supporting Hong Kong’s Occupy Central protests, are being “bombarded by attacks of unprecedented size.” The cyberattacks are “larger than any attack we’ve ever seen,” Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudfare, a company that protects websites from distributed denial of service attacks, said. The identify of the hackers remains unclear, although it’s likely the individual or group is against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. [Forbes, The International Business Times]

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9. Aereo files for bankruptcy following Supreme Court ruling
Streaming serviced Aereo announced in a statement on Friday that it is filing for bankruptcy. The Supreme Court ruled in the summer with Fox and CBS networks, which said that by allowing subscribers to view TV stations via the internet, Aereo was violating their copyright. “The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo’s technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty,” Chet Kanojia, the company’s CEO, said. “Without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome.” [NPR]

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10. New study finds most heavy drinkers are not alcoholics
A survey of 138,100 adults in the United States found that nine out of 10 people who drink too much are not alcoholics, and they could imbibe less with some encouragement. For men, five or more drinks on one occasion, or 15 drinks or more in a week qualifies as excessive drinking; for women, four per sitting, or eight drinks or more in a week qualifies. While about 29 percent of the population does drink excessively, 90 percent of those individuals do not fit the definition of an alcoholic. “We need to think about other strategies to address these people who are drinking too much,” Dr. Robert Brewer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. [The New York Times]

House Republicans Sue To Raise Health Care Costs For Poor Americans

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

I’m concerned about the Bulls**t  factor that politicians have served to it’s constituents since the beginning of this Republic.

House Speaker Boehner seems especially adept at this factor even better than most.  When will Americans wake up and see they’re being duped over and over again.  I favor no one party in this assessment.  They are all the same when it comes to the Bulls**t factor.

Think Progress

House Republicans filed a long-awaited lawsuit against the Obama administration on Friday, arguing that the president has inappropriately acted without congressional authority to implement parts of the health care reform law. If it’s successful, the lawsuit could increase out-of-pocket costs for millions of vulnerable Americans who already struggle to afford health services — even though the GOP has repeatedly accused the law of making coverage too expensive.

According to the legal challenge, the White House shouldn’t have acted unilaterally to delay the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. But it also takes issue with a different provision of the law: subsidies known as cost-sharing reductions, which cap the amount that insurers are allowed to charge people for co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Over the next ten years, the ACA will give an estimated $175 billion in subsidies to insurance companies to keep health costs lower for Americans earning between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty line. House Republicans are arguing that money was illegally appropriated without getting approval from Congress.

If insurers no longer receive subsidies from the government to offset the cost of capping out-of-pocket costs, however, the New York Times reports that “the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere.” That could directly affect out-of-pocket expenses among a population that already worries about being able to afford insurance.

GOP lawmakers are setting their sets on repealing this particular consumer protection despite the fact that they’ve have previously had a lot of complaints about the health lawraising out-of-pocket costs, arguing Obamacare threatens to make coverage too unaffordable for average Americans.

In advance of the law’s first enrollment period, Republicans were quick to criticize the other expenses accompanying new Obamacare plans aside from the monthly premiums, saying the deductibles were much too high. At the time, the Senate Republican Communications Center circulated a roundup of consumers complaining about their deductibles.

In April, House Speaker John Boeher (R-OH) complained that Obamacare has caused his co-pays and deductibles to triple, and said he’s been getting letters from his constituents having similar issues. In the lead up to the recent midterm elections, Republicans in close races relied on the messaging that the health law was driving up co-pays and deductibles. Candidates like incoming Sen. Jodi Ernst (IA) argued that the Obama administration was hiding the “true cost” of out-of-pocket expenses from enrollees.

“The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action,” Boehner said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. But if he gets his way, the House GOP might also end up fueling its own complaints about the law.

4 Things You Should Know About The Democrat Who Has Just Kicked Off The 2016 Elections

Barack Obama, Jim Webb | CREDIT: (AP PHOTO/STEVE HELBER, FILE)

Think Progress

Hillary Clinton has been crowned by many as the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2016, but there are other Democratic hopefuls out there. On Thursday one of them became the first potential candidate to form an exploratory committee, the first step in the long run for the presidency.

That man is former Virginia Senator Jim Webb. You may remember him as the guy who served one term in Senate between 2007 and 2013, and chose not to seek re-election. Webb served in the Reagan administration as Secretary of the Navy but ran as a Democrat for senate in 2006. In his announcement video, Webb highlighted his bipartisan roots, his military history, and made a generally centrist argument as to why he is considering a run for the presidency. Here are a few more things you should know about Jim Webb, the guy who has officially kicked off the 2016 Presidential elections.

1. Webb is not a dove.

Webb opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. His stance on the issue has led to many people calling him a dove-ish democrat, but that characterization is not all that clear. Webb did not oppose the war in Iraq on humanitarian grounds, but rather because he believed it was a strategic error, arguing that the conflict would sap vital resources from military engagements in other parts of the world and strengthen Iran. “I am not against fighting when fighting is necessary,” he told Inside the Navy at the time. “What I am for is making sure you are fighting the right war.” A Vietnam veteran, Webb famously said in 2007 he still believed that the Vietnam War was a good idea, and partially blamed the “anti-war left” for the way things turned out. In his announcement video, he speaks vaguely of “ill-considered foreign ventures that have drained trillions from our economy and in some cases brought instability instead of deterrence,” but doesn’t name names. Webb was opposed to military intervention in Libya.

2. Webb only recently evolved to support marriage-equality.

Webb was against same-sex marriage during his time in the Senate, although he wasopposed to a Virginia constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. Last month he told The Richmond Times that he was “comfortable with the evolution” the issue has seen over the past few years. “I think it has been a good thing for this country,” he said. Webb also voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell after having campaigned against it.

3. Webb didn’t want the EPA to regulate greenhouse gasses.

Webb has been less than progressive on the issue of climate change. In 2011, he voted for a bill that would’ve halted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gasses. He is a proponent of the Keystone pipeline and even called on Obama to open Virginia’s coast to oil and natural gas exploration.

4.Webb is big on prison reform.

If Webb for President is a long shot, at least his candidacy can serve to bring the important yet rarely discussed issue of prison reform into the spotlight. Webb is outspoken on the issue and introduced legislation in the senate that would’ve created a commission to recommend widespread reforms to the criminal justice system. The bill hoped to remedy racial disparities within the system, address the fact that there are four times as many mentally ill people in prisons than in mental hospitals, and probe into the causes of the U.S.’s extremely high incarceration rate. The bill had unanimous Democratic support but was filibustered by Republicans and did not pass.

And there you have it. The 2016 elections have officially begun.

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