Live from D.C.: House GOP preps for visit from Obama

WASHINGTON — President Obama comes to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet with House Republicans. Or, as Rep. Tom Price put it to me Tuesday, “Four years and two months into his term in office, it’s nice that he comes and visits us for a second time.”

Clearly, there are some trust issues between the two sides.

“Trust is the coin of the political realm, and you can’t do anything without trust,” the Roswell Republican continued. But he did leave an opening for optimism.

“Anything the president does to begin to build a foundation of trust is important. … We’re hopeful this is a sincere effort. But time will tell. A single meeting does not trust build.”

Price’s comments on both the limits of what can be accomplished in one meeting and the promise of even having a meeting were echoed by another Georgia Republican congressman.

“There are no words [Wednesday] that can bring us closer to a solution,” said Rep. Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville. “What we need are deeds. … I’m certain we have …

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Live from D.C.: Is budget bipartisanship in the works?

WASHINGTON — Greetings from the nation’s capital, where I’m spending this week to meet with members of Georgia’s congressional delegation before attending the American Conservative Union’s annual CPAC conference. (I had some technical issues when I first arrived yesterday, but those have been resolved.)

I’m early into my schedule on Capitol Hill, where I’m spending most of Tuesday and Wednesday, but there’s a buzz about President Obama’s outreach to congressional Republicans — and whether it’s real.

Last week, of course, Obama dined with a dozen Republicans and called several more. This week, he’s meeting with both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the House and the Senate — not part of the routine for this president. All of these moves have come since the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration took effect March 1, after Obama and the GOP couldn’t agree on a substitute package.

Obama has talked a good game about bipartisanship before, but some folks on the …

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Don’t move backward on school choice

Gerard Robinson recalls the first time people called on legislators to put income limits on Georgia’s tax-credit scholarships. He was one of them.

“When the coalition in Georgia worked to create” the scholarships in 2008, Robinson told me Thursday, “I was actually in the minority asking and pushing for a means-tested voucher. … When it became law, I said fine, let’s make this work.”

Robinson certainly has tried to make the $51.5 million-a-year tax-credit scholarship work. He’s a board member for the Georgia GOAL Scholarship Program, the largest of Georgia’s student scholarship organizations (SSOs) which collect donations via the tax-credit program and award them to deserving students.

But he also brings a national perspective, having worked with Milwaukee’s voucher program and as a top education officer in Florida and Virginia. And he thinks Georgia shouldn’t move backward and impose income limits, the practice known as means-testing, as other states do.

“I believe the Georgia …

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Corporate welfare alive and well in the Obama administration

Who is happiest with President Obama’s nominees to head the EPA (Gina McCarthy) and the Energy Department (Ernest Moniz)? As Tim Carney explains, it’s neither environmentalists on the left nor free marketeers on the right, but the lobby groups that seek as many beneficial — for their corporate members — government subsidies and mandates as possible:

Although Obama regularly talks about ending “corporate welfare,” battling the “special interests” and creating a “level playing field,” he has steadfastly supported government favors for the ethanol industry — favors that increase costs for drivers, taxpayers, ranchers and grocery shoppers.

The Solar Energy Industries Association also applauded Obama’s nomination of McCarthy and Moniz. Solar companies profit from a production tax credit that Obama recently fought to extend, and a plethora of stimulus subsidies such as loan guarantees, tax credits and grants.

Check who’s investing big in solar energy, and you’ll notice a lot of …

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Pressuring the people to pressure the politicians about our national debt

First came the New Year’s tax increases of the “fiscal cliff.” Last week, the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration took effect. Still, Congress will spend much of March negotiating a deal to fund the federal government for the next six months — a deal that, in all likelihood, will mean borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars more.

Lurching from one crisis to the next, however real or contrived each one may be, has not put the country on a more solid, sustainable fiscal path. That’s where Maya MacGuineas comes in.

“We actually know for the most part what the parameters of a fix are,” MacGuineas, head of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told me during a stop in Atlanta two weeks ago. “You know that you’re going to have to look at all parts of the budget.

“You know that a key challenge here is reforming our entitlement programs, as aging and health care are driving the debt, and that … we can reform entitlement programs in ways that are true to …

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Obama’s agenda for next two years: Total control as a lame duck

If you didn’t catch the Washington Post’s story over the weekend about how President Obama intends to spend much more time this year and next year campaigning for Democrats to retake the House, give it a read. Here’s the gist of it:

Obama, fresh off his November reelection, began almost at once executing plans to win back the House in 2014, which he and his advisers believe will be crucial to the outcome of his second term and to his legacy as president. He is doing so by trying to articulate for the American electorate his own feelings — an exasperation with an opposition party that blocks even the most politically popular elements of his agenda.

Obama has committed to raising money for fellow Democrats, agreed to help recruit viable candidates, and launched a political nonprofit group dedicated to furthering his agenda and that of his congressional allies. The goal is to flip the Republican-held House back to Democratic control, allowing Obama to push forward with a …

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Olens takes on another federal overreach: Dodd-Frank

In Washington, Congress passes and the president signs a vast expansion of federal power over a large and critical industry.

In corporate boardrooms, business executives believe that law usurps their rights. In state capitals, attorneys general believe it infringes on states’ sovereignty and puts them at great financial risk. The two groups come together and sue to overturn the law.

A recap of the Obamacare lawsuit decided by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer? Yes, but it’s also the lead-up to another legal battle stemming from Democrats’ dominance of Washington in 2009 and 2010.

Last month, Georgia joined a lawsuit seeking to overturn major portions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law of 2010. The law’s stated intent was to avoid failures of “too big to fail” banks and subsequent market panics, of the kind we saw in autumn 2008.

There are good arguments that the law’s authors got the policy wrong, and enshrined “too big to fail” in federal law rather than preventing it. …

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How the present fiscal ‘crisis’ rolls right into the next one

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had any pieces of sky falling on my head today.

The automatic spending cuts known as sequestration take effect beginning today. It’s a little early to gauge whether doom is truly upon us, but the way Americans sense the cuts have affected them — or not — will help determine how the next serial “crisis” is teed up.

We already know what that crisis will be: the debate over a new continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government. Because congressional Democrats have given up on the budgeting process, which would force them to commit in black-letter documents to the kind of tax-and-spend plans they desire for the coming years, the government ends up being funded for a few months at a time. The latest CR expires later this month, so it would seem the debate will now shift to that fight.

It would seem so, except that that fight is the one the White House has been waging for a couple of weeks now.

The intent of the scare stories about …

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Numbers for Medicaid expansion don’t add up

Obamacare supporters want to talk numbers when it comes to expanding Medicaid in Georgia. OK, let’s talk numbers:

When they returned last month, Georgia’s legislators already faced a $774 million hole for Medicaid through June 2014. That was before any expansion, and even after assuming renewal of the “bed tax” that brings in some $700 million a year for the program.

Medicaid is already the fastest-growing part of Georgia’s budget. Including PeachCare for kids, it will consume $1 of every $7 in state funds in fiscal 2014, up from $1 per $9 a decade ago.

That increased ratio means almost $616 million will go to Medicaid next year instead of transportation, tax cuts, whatever. State lawmakers can do precious little to arrest the trend.

Still, Obamacare supporters want Medicaid to grow faster.

Pressure is mounting on Nathan Deal to follow the path taken by some other Republican governors — Florida’s Rick Scott and New Jersey’s Chris Christie joined the list in the past eight days …

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Obama has the authority to ensure sequester cuts don’t bite

Facts 1, Democratic Scare Stories of All the Carnage to Result From Cutting $85 Billion Out of a $4 Trillion in Spending 0. From the Wall Street Journal:

[I]f any of these cataclysms [mentioned by President Obama and congressional Democrats] do come to pass, then they will be mostly Mr. Obama’s own creation. The truth is that the sequester already gives the White House the legal flexibility to avoid doom, if a 5% cut to programs that have increased more than 17% on average over the Obama Presidency counts as doom.

According to Mr. Obama and his budget office, the sequester cuts are indiscriminate and spell out specific percentages that will be subtracted from federal “projects, programs and activities,” or PPAs. Except for the exemptions in the 2011 budget deal, the White House says it must now cut across the board regardless of how important a given PPA is. Food inspectors, say, will be treated the same as subsidies for millionaire farmers.

Not so fast. Programs, projects and …

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