Congressman James Lankford and Attorney General Eric Holder in conversation.
Congressman James Lankford expressed deep concern for the current state of leadership and management at the Department of Justice (DOJ) after questioning Attorney General Eric Holder at an Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing today.
“Operation Fast and Furious is a tragic case that has already cost the life of one American agent. While we cannot reverse this tragedy, we can put standards in place that prevent similar disasters from happening in the future,” said Lankford. “Serious reforms are needed at the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to stop ill-advised operations and build a more efficient and accountable investigations process. The Oversight and Government Reform Committee will continue to press the Department of Justice and ATF to adopt better practices so that no more Americans lose their lives due to faulty organizational structure or communication.”
Lankford also raised serious concerns about the recent DOJ approval of the President’s appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) without Senate advice and consent, which violates the Constitution. He requested documents from the Attorney General on how the decision was reached to endorse the latest round of controversial recess appointments.
“Mr. Holder applied the ‘separation of powers’ clause this morning to defend the Department of Justice’s refusal to fully disclose information to Congress regarding the ongoing ‘Fast and Furious’ investigation,” said Congressman Lankford. “However, less than one month ago, the same Attorney General ignored the separation between executive and legislative authority when he disregarded Article 2, Section 2 of the United States Constitution and recommended political appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Labor Relations Board.’
“In 2010, the Department of Justice testified before the Supreme Court that NLRB members could not be appointed without Senate approval, and then changed its position in 2012. By denying Congress its constitutional power and responsibility to provide advice and consent on appointments, the checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches have become null and void,” continued Lankford. “These latest actions are a dangerous consolidation of executive power and unacceptable in an attempt to score political points.”
Specifically, Lankford requested Attorney General Holder provide documentation to the committee, explaining their approval of these appointments in light of DOJ’s statements in 2010 that a less-than-three-day recess would not suffice. On March 23, 2010, Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal had the following exchange with Chief Justice John Roberts before the Supreme Court:*
Chief Justice Roberts: And the recess appointment power doesn’t work why?
Mr. Katyal: The — the recess appointment power can work in — in a recess. I think our office has opined the recess has to be longer than 3 days.
“When the president and his cabinet officials took office, they swore to uphold and protect the United States Constitution. This administration has since thrown that oath by the wayside by picking and choosing which parts of the Constitution currently fit its political agenda,” concluded Congressman Lankford. “Its short-term actions have serious long-term implications and are unacceptable and intolerable as the means to its political end.”
Sources in the mainstream media were quick to jump on Mitt Romney for saying he doesn’t care about the very poor — without placing the remark in context.
The Republican presidential front-runner was actually saying that he isn’t concerned about the very poor because they are already protected by a safety net.
In an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on Wednesday morning, Romney said: “I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor — we have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich — they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 to 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”
O’Brien jumped in, saying: “I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, ‘That sounds odd.’”
Romney kept his cool. “Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad,” he replied. “I said, I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, then I will repair it.”
He added that the middle class “are the people that have been most badly hurt during the Obama years.”
The New York Daily News was one of the sources taking Romney to task for the comment, stating that the candidate “was back to putting his foot in his mouth. The interview was just the latest in a string of tone-deaf comments Romney has made along the campaign trail as he struggles to shed his rich CEO image.”
The San Francisco Chronicle said the remark is “likely to become fodder for his critics.”
The Atlantic observed: “Democrats are squealing in delight that the fabulously rich GOP front-runner has ostensibly admitted, eyes facing a live camera, that he doesn’t care about the poor.”
But it did point out: “The line is tailor-made to be taken out of context, but if you read closely, Romney is absolutely not saying he has no regard for the very poor. He’s saying he believes that the safety net we have is sufficient to protect them.”
Republican candidates for president this year have taken sleazy politics to the lowest point I can recall in 50 years of watching such things.
No one has clean hands, but the dirtiest hands today belong to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum…and, of course, the lamestream media.
The latest indignity visited upon Lady Truth is the allegation Romney dissed the “poor.” The text of the interview shows clearly that was not his complete statement, or his intent…or where his heart is.
Surely Gingrich and Santorum, smart men, know this; yet, today, they are out with outrageous statements about Romney’s comment.
We might expect such egregious excess from the Democratic National Committee (and sure enough, it is out with a television commercial).
It is disappointing to see Gingrich, who earned considerable respect during his early years as House Speaker, degrade himself in the way he has in this campaign, slinging mud that would make Boss Tweed proud.
Santorum, a usually-circumspect politician, couldn’t resist the temptation to join in.
The two have not covered themselves in glory in recent weeks.
Oklahoma’s economy showed growth for a 23rd consecutive month in January as all but one revenue stream improved over the same month of the prior year, State Treasurer Ken Miller said today as he released the state’s monthly gross receipts report.
“Unfortunately, the one source of revenue on the decline – the gross production tax – is a key driver of Oklahoma’s economy and could moderate growth going forward until natural gas supply is reduced and prices rebound,” Miller said.
January receipts from all sources grew by 8.5 percent from the prior year and collections for the past 12 months are up by 9.6 percent. Gross production collections in January fell by 7.4 percent from the prior year.
“Collections from the past 12 months are almost $1.4 billion higher than when we hit bottom in February 2010. We have recovered 73 percent of the revenue lost from the peak of the expansion cycle in December 2008,” he said.
Miller said low natural gas prices follow simple supply-and-demand principles.
“The reduction in gross production tax collections follows a trend from the past few months caused primarily by record supply. The warmest winter in some 100 years is exacerbating the supply glut and as demand drops so do prices,” Miller said. “Most forecasts show prices will remain low for quite some time.”
Miller said he anticipates natural gas prices will impact revenue estimates when the State Board of Equalization meets later this month.
“The December estimate was based on gas at $4 per thousand cubic feet,” he said. “Prices are in the $2.50 range this week with little improvement anticipated in 2013.”
Miller said January’s economic growth comes primarily from income tax and sales tax collections.
“We see the impact from the last part of the Christmas shopping season with sales tax collections more than 10 percent higher than last January,” he said. Miller explained that January sales tax remittances represent taxable purchases made between mid-December and mid-January.
Starting in January, the state’s top personal income tax rate was reduced to 5.25 percent from 5.5 percent. Even so, collections for the month are 7.5 percent higher than in January of last year.
More concerns on the horizon
In addition to natural gas price concerns, Miller said local and international developments could impact the state economy in the coming months.
“Wednesday’s announcement from American Airlines that it plans to eliminate one-third of its Tulsa workforce, or 2,100 jobs, is a significant concern,” he said. “With the Tulsa Metro Chamber estimating a $300 million negative impact on the regional economy, these reductions are troubling not just for the direct effect on the workers and their families, but also the spillover effects on the aggregate economy.”
Oklahoma could also be affected by developments in the European Union, Miller said.
“We continue to watch developments relating to restructuring of the debt in Greece and Italy,” he said. “As part of the world economy, Oklahoma would not be immune to negative developments in Europe.”
The revenue report for January shows gross collections at $995.85 million, up $78.08 million or 8.5 percent from January 2011.
Gross income tax collections, a combination of personal and corporate income taxes, generated $375.97 million, an increase of $34.56 million or 10.1 percent from the previous January.
Personal income tax collections for the month are $337.96 million, up $23.51 million or 7.5 percent from the prior year. Corporate collections are $38.01 million, an increase of $11.05 million or 41 percent.
Sales tax collections, including remittances on behalf of cities and counties, total $361.99 million in January. That is $33.65 million or 10.2 percent above January 2011.
Gross production taxes on oil and natural gas generated $68.77 million in January, a decrease of $5.48 million or 7.4 percent from last January. Compared to December reports, gross production collections are down by $2.64 million or 3.7 percent.
Motor vehicle taxes produced $55.32 million, up by $1.16 million or 2.1 percent from the prior year.
Other collections, consisting of about 60 different sources including taxes on fuel, tobacco, horse race gambling and alcoholic beverages, produced $133.8 million during the month. That is $14.18 million or 11.9 percent more than last January.
Between February 2011 and January 2012, gross revenue totals $10.760 billion. That is $938.7 million or 9.6 percent higher than collections for the previous 12-month period.
Gross income taxes generated $3.743 billion for the year, reflecting an increase of $456.93 million or 13.9 percent from the prior 12 months.
Personal income tax collections total $3.217 billion, up by $286.69 million or 9.8 percent from the February 2010 to January 2011 period. Corporate collections are $526.82 million for the period, an increase of $170.25 million or 47.7 percent over the previous period.
Sales taxes for the period generated $3.874 billion, an increase of $268.73 million or 7.5 percent from the prior 12-months.
Oil and gas gross production tax collections brought in $1.032 billion during the 12 months, up by $90.04 million or 9.6 percent from the previous period.
Motor vehicle collections total $664.21 million for the period. This is an increase of $42.99 million or 6.9 percent from the trailing 12 months.
Other sources generated $1.446 billion, up $80 million or 5.9 percent from the previous 12 months.
WASHINGTON ~ Businessman and political novice Wayne Herriman has loaned his congressional campaign $195,000 in a move that could add a dramatic and unexpected twist to the Democratic primary race in the state’s 2nd District.
“I want people to know I am committed to this race,” Herriman said Wednesday when asked about the amount of the loans.
In a brief telephone interview, he volunteered that the money came from personal funds.
Herriman, who is not well-known even to those who follow Oklahoma politics, said he needed to conclude the interview and suggested that a reporter could send additional questions via email.
A tough electoral map, a lack of momentum and the scarcity of free media opportunities will likely have Newt Gingrich struggling through February in order to hold on until Super Tuesday in early March.
The former House speaker left Florida badly bruised and short on cash. The next voting states are mostly favorable territory for rival Mitt Romney, and Gingrich will need to prove to donors as well as voters that he is still a viable candidate.
Another September 11th-related funding clash is poised to erupt in Congress, as one fiscal hawk senator blocks a bill that would see $20 million in taxpayer funds go to the creation of the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who proudly wears the moniker of “Dr. No” due to his opposition to deficit spending, has refused to sanction the legislation in the wake of trillion dollar deficits that are now projected to continue through the current fiscal year and possibly beyond.
“Dr. Coburn believes we can best honor the heroism and sacrifices of 9/11 by making hard choices and reducing spending on less vital priorities rather than borrowing money,” Coburn spokesman John Hart tells Fox. “This funding dispute could be solved in minutes if the sponsors would look at the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and duplication in the federal government that has been identified by the Government Accountability Office and others. Finding $20 million in savings is the least we can do to demonstrate that Congress also understands the value of service and sacrifice.”
The museum, largely funded by private donations, is designed to honor victims of and educate the public on the terrorists attacks of both September 11, 2001, as well as the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Hart said the senator would ideally like to see private funds solely cover the cost of the project, much as happened with the Oklahoma City bombing memorial.