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McConnell to Oppose Confirmation of IRS Commissioner Nominee

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the nomination of John Koskien to lead the IRS:

"Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service admitted responsibility for an incredible abuse of power.

"In the midst of an election season, it targeted and harassed Americans for the supposed crime of thinking differently.

"An agency with access to some of the most personal information of every taxpaying American betrayed their trust. And in doing so, it showed the lengths to which this administration will go to stifle those who dissent from its policies.

"All of this was, and remains, an outrage.

"It's the kind of thing we might expect from a banana republic or a third-world dictatorship, not the world's leading democracy. And the worst part is, we still don't know everything that happened - or if it's still going on.

"That's because the bipartisan investigation into all this still hasn't concluded yet.

"It's unclear to me how seriously the White House is taking this investigation. In many ways it seems to have treated the scandal more as a public relations problem to get past than a serious problem to solve.

"And now - get this - they just expect the elected representatives of the people to roll over and rubber stamp a new presidential nominee to head the IRS. They want Congress to forget what happened too, and just move on.

"They expect us to just clear the way tomorrow and let them ram through the President's new pick to run the IRS.

"Look: The American people deserve answers about how and why this targeting happened. They deserve justice too. And I will not be supporting any nominee to lead this agency until the American people get the answers they deserve.

"But, of course, the Democrats in charge of the Senate changed the rules a few weeks back in order to ensure they could get their way on nominees, no matter what the American people think. It's the same kind of attitude we've seen on the NDAA bill too, where the Majority Leader prevented other members from offering amendments.

"They'll just do what they want - even if it means breaking the rules.

"So, if John Koskinen does find himself confirmed tomorrow, I want him to know a few things.

"First of all, he should understand that I don't hold any animus toward him personally.

"Under different circumstances, I might very well have been able to support him.

"We had a good conversation when we met recently to discuss his nomination.

"But he's also someone I'll be keeping a close watch on, as will the other members of my conference. As will the American people. Because big challenges lie ahead for the next IRS Commissioner, whoever he or she may be.

"We expect the next IRS Commissioner to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation into this scandal.

"We expect whoever is eventually confirmed to hold those who broke or bent the rules accountable.

"We expect the next Commissioner to fairly implement the laws that he or she is charged with executing.

"To his credit, Mr. Koskinen has assured me he agrees with me on a topic I feel strongly about - that the IRS should stay out of regulating political speech. He told me so himself. And I was pleased to hear it.

"And so were he to become Commissioner, I'd expect him to oppose the extremely misguided proposed IRS rule that aims to overturn more than 50 years of settled law and practice by unfairly targeting the speech of those who criticize the Administration while leaving its supporters untouched. This proposed rule, which redefines what 'social welfare' means in order to target certain groups that seek to educate the public, would end up penalizing federal, state, and local organizations for the supposed 'crime' of providing information - much of it non-partisan or bipartisan.

"The goal is clear: to make it easier to push through the back door what Congressional Democrats have been unable to pass through the front door - discriminatory policies that seek to silence those who dare oppose them.

"It's just the latest in a long and troubling pattern of Chicago-style tactics under this administration. And it's exactly the kind of political meddling that the next Commissioner needs to ensure never happens again.

"Let's not forget: the IRS should be a boring place, an impartial agency of tax collectors, not the Vanguard of the Left.

"The next Commissioner needs to see to it that the organization finally returns to its mission.

"And he or she needs to root out those who would have the IRS target Americans for the way they think.

"Lastly, as I've told Mr. Koskinen, I'm deeply concerned about the IRS' role in implementing Obamacare.

"The fact of the matter is, Obamacare represents a dramatic expansion of the use of the tax code to pick winners and losers. It gives the agency broad new responsibilities for enforcing Obamacare's most onerous mandates, and to hand out nearly a trillion dollars in taxpayer subsidies. And in order to do all this, it will need to know who has insurance, penalize those who don't, and determine who's eligible for subsidies and how much they ought to receive - something that the agency has a very troubled history in doing with other programs.

"And if they get any of that wrong, they'll need to come back and repossess subsidies after the fact too.

"In my view, the IRS doesn't have any business snooping even further into the lives of our constituents - especially at a time when it's already under a cloud of scandal. It's just one of the many reasons I opposed Obamacare in the first place, and why I continue to oppose it.

"So if Mr. Koskinen is to become Commissioner, then - at a minimum - I expect him to hold the agency to the highest standards when it comes to protecting the privacy of the people we represent.

"I expect him to provide regular, transparent updates to Congress on the status of implementation, and to let us know of any problems as soon as they arise.

"The last thing we need is for the IRS to compound the pain it and Obamacare have already inflicted upon the American people by allowing fraud and further mistreatment to happen under its watch.

"The IRS has done a lot to lose the trust of the American people. It will need to do a lot more to regain it.

"Following the advice I just laid out would put the IRS on a better path. And, if Mr. Koskinen ends up becoming the next Commissioner, that advice will form the criteria upon which his performance will be judged."

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Posted December 23, 2013

2012 Lie of the Year

It was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan to bring historic change to America's health insurance system.

"If you like your health careplan, you can keep it," President Barack Obama said -- many times -- of his landmark new law.

But the promise was impossible to keep.

So this fall, as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama's breezy assurances were wrong.

Boiling down the complicated health care law to a soundbite proved treacherous, even for its promoter-in-chief. Obama and his team made matters worse, suggesting they had been misunderstood all along. The stunning political uproar led to this: a rare presidential apology.

For all of these reasons, PolitiFact has named "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," the Lie of the Year for 2013. Readers in a separate online poll overwhelmingly agreed with the choice. (PolitiFact first announced its selection on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper.)

For four of the past five years, PolitiFact's Lie of the Year has revolved around the health care law, which has been subject to more erroneous attacks than any other piece of legislation PolitiFact has fact-checked.

Obama's ideas on health care were first offered as general outlines then grew into specific legislation over the course of his presidency. Yet Obama never adjusted his rhetoric to give people a more accurate sense of the law's real-world repercussions, even as fact-checkers flagged his statements as exaggerated at best.

Instead, he fought back against inaccurate attacks with his own oversimplifications, which he repeated even as it became clear his promise was too sweeping.

The debate about the health care law rages on, but friends and foes of Obamacare have found one slice of common ground: The president's "you can keep it" claim has been a real hit to his credibility.

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Posted December 18, 2013

McConnell: Democrats Broke The Senate Rules to Rubberstamp Liberal Ideologues Like Nina Pillard

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor outlining his opposition to the confirmation of Nina Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit:

"Yesterday, I talked about the Left's ends-justify-the-means quest for power - and the lengths to which they're willing to go to satisfy it.

"The Obama Administration and its allies have done just about everything to get what they want, one way or the other - even fundamentally altering the contours of our democracy when they couldn't get their way playing by the rules.

"We saw the culmination of that with the Majority Leader's power grab in the Senate last month.

"The real-world consequences of that power-grab are most sharply illustrated by the nominee before us.

"Professor Pillard may be a fine person, but she is not someone who should receive a lifetime position on the second highest court in the land. She will be confirmed, however, because of the Democrat Majority's power grab.

"A review of her legal views makes one thing clear: the nominee before us is a liberal ideologue - in other words, just the kind of person this administration was looking for to rubber stamp its most radical legislative and regulatory proposals on the D.C. Circuit Court.

"Take the so-called Hosanna Tabor case.

"Last year, the Supreme Court reinforced a core First Amendment principle when it ruled unanimously that churches, rather than the government, could select their own leaders. Every single justice sided with the church's argument in that case - every single one. It just makes sense. Freedom of religion is a bedrock foundation of our democracy.

"I think every member of this body would agree that the government doesn't have any business picking a group's religious leaders for them.

"But Professor Pillard seems to have a different view.

"Prior to the court's unanimous decision, she said the notion that 'the Constitution requires deference to church decisions about who qualifies as a minister' in the case before the court seemed 'like a real stretch.'

"And she went even further than that. The position of the church in the Hosanna Tabor case, she said, represented a 'substantial threat to the American rule of law.'

"A 'substantial threat to the American rule of law'! On a case the Supreme Court decided 9-0.

"I mean, even the court's most liberal justices as I mentioned, disagreed with Professor Pillard on this one.

"One of them characterized that kind of position as 'amazing.'

"In other words, Professor Pillard must think even the furthest-left Supreme Court justice isn't far left enough for her.

"We rightly expect justices on our nation's highest courts to evaluate cases before them with a judge's even-handed mindset - not the absolutism of an ideologue. But just listen to the kinds of things Pillard has said.

"Professor Pillard has expressed sympathy with the idea that the rights of our Constitution - the same Constitution she would be charged with upholding - have 'just about run out,' and that this necessitates a shift toward international law.

"Pillard has said that abortion, essentially without limits, is necessary to avoid 'conscription into maternity,' and that even common-sense laws many American men and women support serve to 'enforce&incubation.'

"She's referred to the types of ultrasound images that are now available to so many proud moms and dads-to-be as 'deceptive images' perpetuated by the 'anti-choice movement.' In other words, she appears to think proud moms and dads-to-be shouldn't believe their own eyes when they look at the images science has made increasingly available to us over the past few decades.

"It's an understatement to say these sorts of views are worrying for someone the President wants to be one of our nation's top judges.

"In short, Professor Pillard does not seem like a person with the mindset or temperament of a judge. She seems like a person with the attitude and disposition of a left-wing academic, someone who seems to come to conclusions based on how well they support her own theories.

"Judges are charged with fairly evaluating the law that is before them, not the law as they wish it would be.

"So I will be voting against the Pillard nomination.

"And it's important to keep this is mind as well: Nearly every single Democrat Senator voted to enable the Majority Leader's power grab last month.

"Those senators are responsible for its consequences. That includes the confirmation of Ms. Pillard, regardless of how they vote on her nomination.

"So I'd urge you to rethink the kind of nominees you bring to the floor moving forward - because they're now all yours."

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Posted December 17, 2013
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