As Obama Meets Castro, Rubio Urges Him Not To Cave On Embargo Vote At U.N. Too

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Cuban President Raul Castro adjust their jackets at the start of their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 29, 2015.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Cuban President Raul Castro adjust their jackets at the start of their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues, today urged President Barack Obama to vote against an anti-embargo resolution coming up in the United Nations and expressed that the Administration’s position would play a role in his consideration of State Department nominees in the coming months.

“Media reports that your Administration is considering abstaining from voting against the anti-embargo resolution are of even greater concern,” wrote Rubio. “Regardless of your beliefs, the U.S. embargo toward Cuba is codified in U.S. law and the reasons that it was imposed, including the Cuban government’s theft of billions of dollars of private property, remain unaddressed by Havana. Any disagreements over this law, which only regulates transactions by U.S. persons, should be debated in the United States Congress — not at the United Nations General Assembly.”

“I intend to watch closely the position your Administration takes when this resolution is debated at the United Nations and consider the Administration’s position as key to my advice and consent of involved State Department nominees in the coming months,” Rubio continued.

A PDF of the letter is available here, and the text is below:

September 29, 2015

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As you know, the United Nations General Assembly will vote in the coming weeks on a resolution presented by the Cuban regime calling for an end to the U.S. embargo towards Cuba. While the General Assembly’s vote is symbolic, with no binding jurisdiction over the United States Congress, it fails to take into account the plight of those within the island that seek freedom.  Much has transpired between the governments of Cuba and the United States in the last nine months. Your administration has made many concessions to the Cuban dictatorship, none of which have been reciprocated. To the contrary, Cuba’s rulers, including Raul Castro, whom you are meeting with today, have responded with a dramatic increase in political arrests and other violations of fundamental human rights.

The embargo is critical to denying hard currency to the Cuban regime’s monopolies, which history has proven are only used to further oppression and enrich those close to the ruling class. Article 18 of the country’s Communist Constitution requires that all foreign trade with the island must be funneled through the state. Until this changes, it is illogical to argue that lifting the embargo would somehow benefit the Cuban people. It is the Cuban dictatorship and its backward political and economic policies — not the embargo — that has kept Cuban society from fulfilling its true potential.  Throughout the years, the United States has eased many aspects of the trade embargo, as well as travel restrictions to the island, and each time the Cuban dictatorship has manipulated these unilateral policy changes to its benefit. It is well past time for the Cuban government to change its repressive policies, without any further rewards.

Media reports that your Administration is considering abstaining from voting against the anti-embargo resolution are of even greater concern. Regardless of your beliefs, the U.S. embargo toward Cuba is codified in U.S. law and the reasons that it was imposed, including the Cuban government’s theft of billions of dollars of private property, remain unaddressed by Havana. Any disagreements over this law, which only regulates transactions by U.S. persons, should be debated in the United States Congress — not at the United Nations General Assembly.

Furthermore, a failure by your Administration to defend U.S. law at the United Nations General Assembly would send a dangerous message to tyrants throughout the world that the President of the United States refuses to pursue policies changes through the U.S. democratic system and instead seeks to challenge his country’s own laws in international fora.

Last, but not least, an abstention by your administration would cripple the efforts of Cuba’s growing dissident movement, which is detained and harassed on a daily basis. It would be interpreted as the United States siding with the Cuban dictatorship over the island’s courageous democracy activists. Your Administration should instead use this opportunity to encourage the Cuban dictatorship to open its society by allowing freedom of expression, freedom of press, and multi-party elections. It should also demand that the Cuban dictatorship remove the real barriers that limit the Cuban people from economically flourishing. Then, and only then, would it merit the lifting of the embargo.

I intend to watch closely the position your Administration takes when this resolution is debated at the United Nations and consider the Administration’s position as key to my advice and consent of involved State Department nominees in the coming months.

Respectfully,

Marco Rubio

Rubio Saves Taxpayers Over $2.5 Billion In Obamacare Bailout Funds, Calls For Taking Option Off The Table For Good

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 U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding last night’s Obama Administration announcement confirming that his efforts against taxpayer-funded bailouts of health insurance companies under ObamaCare succeeded in saving taxpayers over $2.5 billion this past year:

“American taxpayers have prevailed for now over ObamaCare’s crony capitalist bailout program. Taxpayers should never have to bail out health insurance companies that lose money under ObamaCare, and now we need to take that option off the table for good by passing my legislation to repeal the risk corridor provision in ObamaCare once and for all.

“The risk corridor provision was passed within ObamCare under the broken promises of lower health insurance premiums and Americans being able to keep their health insurance plans. ObamaCare is a massively flawed law with a real impact that has destroyed health insurance in America, and it needs to be repealed and replaced.”

Rubio’s ObamaCare Taxpayer Bailout Prevention Act is endorsed by the following policy advocacy groups: American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Club for Growth, Freedom Works, Heritage Action, HSA Coalition, National Taxpayers Union, Tea Party Express and the 2017 Project.

BACKGROUND: HOW RUBIO SAVED TAXPAYERS OVER $2.5 BILLION IN OBAMACARE BAILOUT FUNDS FOR HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES

·       Under ObamaCare, health insurance companies that lose money can seek taxpayer funds to cover their losses.

o   Palm Beach Post: “If an insurance company’s medical claims exceed anticipated costs, a federal ‘risk-corridor’ program reimburses a share of those costs. It’s a lesser-known piece of Obamacare intended to cushion risks for insurers between now and 2016 as companies adapt to sweeping healthcare changes.” (“Florida Blue chief: GOP attacks on insurance ‘bailout’ unfair,” Palm Beach Post, 8/14/2014)

 

·       Last night, the Obama Administration announced it will disburse just $362 million to health insurance companies to help cover losses under ObamaCare – well short of the $2.9 billion requested by health insurance companies that incurred a loss by participating in Obamacare

 

o   Politico Pro: “Insurers will be paid $362 million from Obamacare’s risk corridors program for 2014 – or just 12.6 percent of the $2.9 billion in payments they requested. HHS officials, who announced the figures Thursday evening, maintained that insurers will eventually receive the requested payments during the next two years of the temporary program.” (Risk corridor payments far below insurers’ requests,” Politico Pro, 10/1/2015)

 

·       Health insurance companies immediately criticized the shortfall in bailout funding.

 

o   Politico Pro: “Insurers are criticizing today’s announcement by the Obama administration that they’ll receive just $362 million out of $2.9 billion in requested risk corridors payments for 2014… The health law requires that insurers will eventually receive their requested payments. But it’s unclear where the funds will come from to fully pay for it. A budget deal reached last year requires the program to be budget neutral. The risk corridor program was designed to protect insurers entering the Obamacare exchanges.” (“Insurers criticize HHS decision to pay out a fraction of requested risk corridor payments”, Politico Pro, 10/1/2015)

·       The Obama Administration was unable to pay the remaining $2.5 billion because of a provision which U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) fought to include in the December 2014 omnibus spending bill passed by Congress, which forced the risk corridor program to be revenue neutral – in other words, not funded by taxpayers.

 

o   Rubio: “For over a year, I’ve fought to protect Americans from having to fund massive bailouts to protect the profits of the insurance companies that helped write Obamacare. While there is much in this massive spending measure that is simply bad for America, at least the provisions protecting against a taxpayer-funded bailout of insurance companies are a step in the right direction. While the Obama administration can still administer the risk-corridor program, for one year at least, they won’t be able to use taxpayer funds to bail out insurance companies. When Congress returns next year, I will fight to permanently repeal the risk corridor provisions to protect taxpayers after the current legislation expires.” (“Rubio Comments On Obamacare Bailout Provisions,” Press Release, 12/10/2014)

·       In October 2014, Rubio had directly urged House Speaker John Boehner to use the budget process to prevent a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies under ObamaCare.

 

o   Rubio: “As you know, the current CR will expire on December 11, 2014… Though Congress will determine the expiration date of the next CR later this year, it is likely the next CR will extend to a date in 2015 when risk corridor payments are reconciled… The President intends to ignore Congress’s explicit and exclusive authority by spending money on the risk corridor program without an appropriation from Congress. The American people expect us, as Members of Congress, to fulfill our Oath of Office and defend the Constitution. Therefore, we must act to protect Congress’ power of the purse and prohibit the Obama administration from dispersing unlawful risk corridor payments providing for an Obamacare taxpayer bailout.” (“Rubio, Colleagues To Boehner: We Must Protect Congressional Authority, Prohibit Obamacare Bailout,” Press Release, 10/8/2014)

·       Rubio was the first to identify the likelihood of a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies under ObamaCare in November 2013, when he introduced legislation to repeal it. (“Rubio Introduces Bill Preventing Taxpayer-Funded Bailouts Of Insurance Companies Under ObamaCare,” Press Release, 11/19/2014)

 

o   He later introduced additional legislation in April 2014 specifying that ObamaCare’s risk corridor program must remain budget neutral, thus preventing taxpayer dollars from being used to bail out health insurance companies. (“Rubio Introduces Legislation To Hold Administration Accountable, Protect Taxpayers From ObamaCare Bailout,” Press Release, 4/1/2014)

 

o   In February 2014, Rubio testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the danger of taxpayers having to bail out health insurance companies under ObamaCare.

 

§  Video & Transcript.

 

o   In the current Congress, Rubio’s first bill introduced would eliminate taxpayer-funded bailouts of ObamaCare for good. (“Rubio Introduces Bill Preventing Taxpayer-Funded Bailouts Of Insurance Companies Under ObamaCare,” Press Release, 1/8/2015)

Rubio’s Accreditation Reform Proposal “An Excellent Start,” Says WSJ Editorial Board

Marco Rubio

Trust Busting Higher Education

Wall Street Journal

October 4, 2015

http://www.wsj.com/articles/trust-busting-higher-education-1443997741

Feigning outrage that college is too expensive is a bipartisan pastime, so it’s refreshing to see [Senator Marco Rubio] taking the cost-drivers seriously. Senator Marco Rubio is highlighting an obscure network of higher-ed busybodies known as accreditation agencies, and more politicians should study up on how to reform this racket.

“Our higher education system is controlled by what amounts to a cartel of existing colleges and universities, which use their power over the accreditation process to block innovative, low-cost competitors from entering the market,” Sen. Rubio said in a speech this summer. Last week he introduced a bill with Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) that would test a voluntary certification process for vocational and nontraditional education.

Six regional accrediting groups deputized by the Education Department determine whether a college is eligible to receive federal aid dollars, and a coterie of outfits bless specific programs like, say, engineering. The regional agencies appeared in the 19th century to distinguish rigorous institutions from diploma mills, but since the 1960s have morphed into wardens of billions in handouts and subsidized student loans.

What do students get? Higher tuition, as colleges plow time and money into the process and pass on the costs. Stanford University said it spent $850,000 in 12 months of a multiyear process, and Duke University reported blowing $1.5 million over two years. Accreditors recommend changes—trimming faculty course loads, hiring more Ph.D.s—that drive up expenses without improving educational outcomes.

Most pernicious is that the cartel stifles innovation. Students can’t use federal aid at colleges that aren’t accredited, yet a school usually must serve students for years before winning approval. Accreditation amounts to monopoly enforcement, which is why in 2013 the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools swatted down an online program at Tiffin University.

Sen. Rubio’s legislation would allow the Education Department to add accreditors for innovations like boot camps where students learn to write code. The outfits (probably industry groups) could only bless programs at or above the 60th percentile in a basket of metrics— such as graduation rates, loan repayment stats, employment figures.

The bill also lays out avenues for nascent offerings, and puts authorizers on the hook for 25% of federal student-loans in default. Students would use Pell grant money for tuition, which means the proposal is geared toward low-income students.

Keep reading here.

Rand Paul Wins Republican Liberty Caucus Straw Poll

Rand Paul was the most preferred presidential candidate of the Republican contenders as voted by nearly 800 activists attending the Republican Liberty Caucus National Convention, held in New Hampshire, home of the first in the nation presidential primary.

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The straw poll was conducted using an alternative voting method called “approval voting,” which allows voters to approve of one or more of the current Republican presidential candidates. This method of voting allows voters to indicate the candidate or candidates that they would support if the election were held today. As a preference poll this may produce results where more than one candidate receives over 50% approval.

Rand Paul was the preference of  57.1% of the convention’s attendees.  Ted Cruz came in second with a 51.2% preferred rating.  No other candidate received more than 17.9%.

While this does not represent the RLC’s final endorsement, it does indicate a strong preference of the
attendees for these candidates.  The RLC’s official endorsement process requires two-thirds of its state chapters to approve a candidate. The RLC officially endorsed Ron Paul for President in 2012.

“The large turnout for this event and the enthusiastic participation of attendees in this poll shows the rising tide of Liberty in the Republican Party,” said Matt Nye, National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.  “Liberty Republicans have clearly identified these two candidates as the best in a crowded field. They are an inspiration to Republicans around the country and we look forward to a great crop of candidates at
every level, ready to go to Washington and restore limited government and a respect for individual liberty.”

National frontrunner Donald Trump received 6.9% approval in the poll.  Ben Carson received 17.9% and Carly Fiorina received 10.1%.

“New Hampshire is the jumping off point for the nomination campaign and with this choice the people have clearly chosen liberty,” said Aaron Day, Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire.  “We look forward to seeing a lot more of both Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in the next few months and I’m confident that our state candidates will do well with one of them at the top of the ticket.”

The full results of the poll are:

Rank

Candidate

Votes

Percent

1

Rand Paul

445

57.1%

2

Ted Cruz

399

51.2%

3

Ben Carson

139

17.9%

4

Carly Fiorina

79

10.1%

5

Marco Rubio

75

9.6%

6

Donald Trump

54

6.9%

7

Bobby Jindal

51

6.6%

8

Rick Santorum

27

3.5%

9

Mike Huckabee

25

3.2%

10

John Kasich

17

2.2%

11

Chris Christie

14

1.8%

12

Gil Fulbright

12

1.5%

13

Jeb Bush

9

1.2%

14

George Pataki

6

0.8%

15

Lindsey Graham

4

0.5%

16

Vermin Supreme

3

0.4%

16

Jim Gilmore

3

0.4%

17

Mark Everson

2

0.3%

Andrew Jennings of the Center for Election Science, a non-profit group which conducted the poll,  observed that “Approval voting is a better way to run elections because it doesn’t force voters to abandon their ideal candidate to vote for a compromise—they can vote for both.  In a general election it would prevent spoilers and let all candidates see their true level of support.  In crowded elections like the current
Republican primary, it would stop the vote splitting which is distorting the race and would allow us to see how the voters really feel about each candidate.”

Unlike a “first past the post” traditional straw poll where participants vote for only ONE candidate, using an alternative “approval voting” system we allowed activists to more clearly express the preference and favorites for the Republican nomination.

Both the Paul and Cruz camps actively encouraged local supporters to participate in the straw poll.  This gave them an opportunity to both test and show their organizational strength and level of committed activist willing to come out and vote.

Rubio Celebrates Signing Of U.S. Commission On International Religious Freedom Reauthorization Act Into Law

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, celebrated Friday’s signing of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Reauthorization Act into law.

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The legislation was introduced by Rubio and Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD) prior to being passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by voice vote, and passed unanimously by the full Senate last  month. Rubio introduced his own version of the bill earlier this year, which was supported by stakeholders in a letter last month.

“Religious freedom is under assault globally,” Rubio said. “Attacks on houses of worship, imprisonment and even death are daily realities for people of faith around the world. This is especially true for religious minorities in the Middle East who are facing a genocidal onslaught.

“The Commission has been a steadfast champion of this ‘first freedom’ and a reliable voice for the oppressed and marginalized,” Rubio added. “I welcome this 4-year authorization which would allow them to focus, without distraction, on their critical mandate at precisely the time its most needed.”

The deficit neutral, bipartisan bill provides $3.5 million in annual funding, requires a strategic planning process to reinforce bipartisanship among commissioners and strengthens ongoing congressional oversight while preserving the commission’s independence.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan commission dedicated to defending the freedom of religion worldwide. This legislation charges the commission with independently assessing and describing threats to religious freedom around the world and to help ensure that U.S. efforts to advance religious freedom abroad are timely, appropriate to the circumstances, and effective. The commission provides policy recommendations in an annual report to the president, the secretary of state, and the Congress. This legislation also requires the commission to submit a written strategic plan to Congress within six months that includes: a description of prioritized actions for a period of time specified by the commissioners; any changes in the content and timing of the annual report; any needed personnel changes; a budget for implementing its plan; and any other unresolved issues.

Rubio: Looking To The Future As St. Augustine celebrates 450 years

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Nearly 450 years ago, Spanish settlers fulfilled their dreams of building a new world by founding the city of St. Augustine.

This city’s past can teach us a great deal about who we are today, both as Floridians and as Americans. But just as the theme of this celebration calls us to “find ourselves in our past,” we should also seize this opportunity to look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the future.

St. Augustine’s 450 years have been filled with leaders who saw the potential the future offered. The Spanish settlers who first founded the city took on the unknown in the New World to found what would become America’s oldest city. In the 1880s, Henry Flagler looked forward and transformed St. Augustine into a destination unlike any other, leading to an economic boom that would elevate the city to a level its settlers wouldn’t have thought possible. And in the 1960s, as the nation faced changes that many thought would tear us apart, civil rights leaders chose St. Augustine as the rally point for their cause.

Now it is our generation’s turn to look ahead to the future. In this new century, we have the chance to expand the American Dream to reach more people than ever before. Like the Spanish settlers 450 years ago, like Henry Flagler in the 1880s and like the civil rights leaders in the 1960s, we are now facing an opportunity to take America forward and fulfill our potential to be greater than we’ve ever been.

Keep reading here.

Concord Coalition Releases Eight Key Questions About Social Security for Its 80th Birthday

As Social Security approaches its 80th anniversary,  this is a good time to note the program’s accomplishments while taking a hard look at its future — including the need to put Social Security on a sustainable, long-term path.

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With that in mind, The Concord Coalition is releasing a paper today that discusses eight key questions about Social Security that elected officials, the media and American public should focus on.

“Today a majority of seniors receive over half of their retirement income from Social Security,” the paper notes. “It provides 90 percent or more of retirement income for almost one-third of retired beneficiaries.”

But there are major challenges: “Social Security has been running annual cash deficits since 2010. Absent congressional action, Social Security disability benefits will be cut across the board by 19 percent in 2016 and retirement benefits will be cut by 23 percent in 2035. Meanwhile, the expanding gap between Social Security’s dedicated revenues and benefit payments will contribute to future federal budget deficits.”

Concord emphasizes that it will be easier — and more fair to younger Americans — to enact Social Security reforms sooner rather than later. On an encouraging note, the paper points out that various bipartisan groups have offered an array of thoughtful proposals for elected officials to consider.

The eight specific questions addressed in Concord’s paper:

1. Is Social Security on sound footing for the next 80 years?

2. What are the budgetary consequences of doing nothing?

3. What is the most immediate concern?

4. What’s driving the problem?

5. Did Congress “steal” from the trust fund?

6. Why take action now?

7. What reforms could solve the problem?

8. Is bipartisan cooperation possible?

The full paper, “Social Security: Eight Questions for Its 80th Birthday,” can be found here.