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Rep. Brat: No Room For Political Strategy When Bill Funds Unconstitutional Act

December 12th, 2014 - 12:39 pm

I talked to Rep. Dave Brat by phone at 10:00 a.m. EST this morning to discuss last night’s House passage of the “cromnibus” bill supported by GOP leadership and President Obama.

Brat discussed why his “nay” vote was set in stone, his proposed amendment to the “cromnibus” banning funding of Obama’s executive amnesty (Brat gathered the support of 75 GOP reps, yet was not allowed to proceed by the Rules committee), and just what was happening on the floor in those final minutes, as it seemed many reps were still making up their minds.


Steinberg: Your vote, first and foremost, was against funding Obama’s executive action on amnesty. Why was that your overriding concern amongst all the concerns with this bill?

Brat: Because it rises to the Constitutional level. You can have serious policy disagreements that are utilitarian in nature, where you are calculating benefits and costs. But this one was intentionally illegal. The president clearly asserted that he didn’t have the authority. The GOP said on paper that his act was illegal.

Once that’s been established, I don’t see how I can go forward in principle and vote for something that’s illegal. You have to act immediately to defund, to get that illegal act halted as soon as possible.

Steinberg: So your biggest concern is that any of this strategic, political positioning that we are witnessing, that all must go out the window, and not be treated as legitimate act when it involves funding an illegal act.

Brat: That’s right. And, just to be consistent, there are other outstanding issues that rise to that level, other unconstitutional actions that need to be stopped as well. That doesn’t weaken this challenge, we just need to prioritize our strategy, basing it on those higher first principles.

Steinberg: Can you share with us the behind-the-scenes message from leadership used to persuade a “Yea” vote? I assume you didn’t get too much arm-twisting as you set your position in stone ahead of time, but what was leadership doing to win over GOP votes?

Were they only using fear of public backlash about a shutdown? Were you hearing any other arguments from leadership in favor of the bill?

Brat: The substantive argument on the GOP side was that a lot of this was not our own doing. We were forced into an omnibus situation because the Senate would not pick up any of the bills that the House has put forward, none of the appropriation bills. So when that’s the case, you’re left having to do this piecemeal approach which no one thinks is good process.

The test is, in moving forward, to see that the leadership goes toward regular order, and deals with this executive overreach. They promised they would do that, and I think they are going to do it.

Steinberg: Pete Sessions [chairman of Rules committee] guaranteed an amendment in January after the new congress takes the oath, an amendment halting the amnesty action to be added to a bill and voted on in January. We heard little about that prior to this morning, was that plan known of prior to last night’s vote?

Brat: He promised that to us on Wednesday night, the evening we brought our proposed amendment to Rules. He put it in strong language, he said: “This is not a pledge, it’s my promise that we will put the Mulvaney amendment on to the defense bill coming in January.”

Steinberg: Do you think that promise may have helped contribute to winning some “yea” votes?

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In Australia at the G20 summit yesterday, President Obama forcefully rejected the concept that the administration used deception to garner support for the passage of Obamacare. In recent days, a citizen journalist uncovered that Obamacare’s highly compensated chief architect Jonathan Gruber claimed deception was indeed used to hide the so-called “Cadillac tax”; other outlets subsequently identified at least six separate instances of Gruber stating that the law was designed to hide potentially unpalatable elements from the American voter.

Said Obama:

I would just advise every press outlet here: Pull up every clip and every story. I think it’s fair to say there was not a provision in the health care law that was not extensively debated and was fully transparent … It was a tough debate.

As noted by Politico (above link), Obama’s statement regarding deception neglects that he already has admitted his frequent claims that Americans would not lose preexisting plans under Obamacare to have been a mistake. Politifact went so far as to label Obama’s “if you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan” as its “Lie Of The Year”.

Ironically, Obama’s statement yesterday at the G20 meeting appears to be spectacularly ill-advised. For not only did he seemingly forget that he has already admitted to a provision of the health care law having not been “extensively debated” and “fully transparent,” it was Jonathan Gruber himself who originally advised the administration that Obamacare would cause millions of Americans to lose their plans.

Last week, Nancy Pelosi stated that she did not even “know who [Jonathan Gruber] is.” In a matter of minutes, several outlets uncovered that Pelosi once referred to Gruber by name in a press release crafted by her office, and further, that she quoted “Jonathan Gruber of MIT’s analysis” in a 2009 interview.

On April 8, 2010, Jonathan Gruber himself cited his “Gruber analysis” in a memo released by the Center for American Progress. His memo was written as a defense of the necessity of the “individual mandate,” the requirement that all Americans must purchase health insurance or pay a fine. He referred to the “Gruber microsimulation model,” his model that produced the results Pelosi touted in the 2009 interview.

Wrote Gruber:

What would happen if we repealed the mandate?

Some critics have suggested repealing the mandate embedded in the PPACA, while retaining most of its more “popular” provisions. But such a policy would be disastrous for both the cost of insurance and the number of people covered.

I have developed the Gruber microsimulation model to estimate how health reforms would affect insurance markets; this is a very similar model to the one the Congressional Budget Office used to score the PPACA, and my model derives very similar to CBO. I can use this model to consider what would happen if Congress removed the mandate while keeping all other aspects of the law intact. I find that:

▪ Total insurance coverage would rise by fewer than 10 million persons rather than the 32 million persons estimated by CBO. The number of uninsured would be reduced by less than 20 percent rather than by about two-thirds.

▪ Employer-sponsored insurance, which is projected to erode by about 5 million persons under reform, would instead erode by over 20 million persons.

▪ The fully implemented cost of the legislation in 2019 would fall by only about 20 percent—we would spend 80 percent as much to cover fewer than one-third as many people.

Those who do not obtain coverage would be the healthiest individuals, causing enormous adverse selection in insurance markets. The average individual premium in the exchange would rise by about 40 percent without the mandate.

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I caught up with Dave Brat on the phone for an exclusive interview at 10:45 a.m. EST this morning. Unlike all the other Congressional rookies, Brat needs to hit the ground running since Eric Cantor chose not to complete his term.


Steinberg: “Unlike any of last night’s rookie victors that I am aware of, you are taking office immediately. You’re being sworn in November 12, since Eric Cantor chose to not finish his term, and Virginia held an additional special election last night to give your district a representative for the next two months. Do you have any specific plans for this extra session you have as a representative?”

Brat: “First of all, we will be getting staffed up and getting the mechanics of the office in order, and Part Two will be handling all the bills on the way already. But Part Three is the main element, which I pledged to the Seventh District, and that’s to immediately start discussing the meat of these economy-related bills that are coming before us, having the hard economic discussions on the debt, deficits, the unfunded liabilities, taking on Obamacare, and securing the border.”

Steinberg: “On that, your district knows, viewers of your debate with Jack Trammell know, but most of America probably isn’t aware this morning that Dave Brat is the only Ph.D. economist in Congress. Democrat or Republican, House or Senate.

You were talking free market theory on the campaign trail! Did it register, did they respond well? Because this is a real litmus test – generally stump speeches avoid the nuts and bolts, the headier, high-level discussions on meney, thinking they’ll lose the audience.”

Brat: “I am very lucky here in the Seventh, and this isn’t a talking point, we have Patrick Henry from down in Richmond, and James Madison from up in the northwest of the district. The Seventh District is steeped in liberty. And they understand here that liberty is interconnected with economic liberty. It’s not a coincidence that Adam Smith, the founder of free market economics, wrote his book in 1776 as well.

I gave stump speeches that included extensive sections which were like reading the speech’s footnotes on economic topics. The press made a bit of fun of me – but the people loved them. They loved chatting back and forth. This wasn’t just me being an educator, we were all sharing economic ideas, constituent and representative. Because that’s this job.

We all know the free market system made this the greatest nation on the face of the Earth, yet right now we are moving away from that logic. Obamacare controls one-fifth of our economy. It’s a top-down, mandated, government control system. Before it was enacted, when it was theoretical, we could’ve learned the easy way! We could have listened to the free market economists, they told us exactly what was coming. Instead we passed it, waited to see, and now the bills are in the mailbox and the costs are shocking people.

When they see $5000 deductibles, the premiums rising about 30% at a minimum, the silver plan, the low plan, no one can afford it. But somehow the government can afford it? None of it is rational.”

Steinberg: “The takeaway here is that you are objectively not a conventional candidate to be bringing free market economics straight to the stump, yet you got a tremendous response, perhaps an unexpected response in D.C.

Now it looks like we saw something similar with Ed Gillespie last night. The polling simply didn’t match the ground in Virginia. You did some appearances with Gillespie – do you have any insight into how the Virginia grassroots and the Virginia GOP’s GOTV is outperforming the predictions? There seems to be an exceptionally efficient level of organization there right now.”

Brat: “Yes, absolutely, but it’s not just Virginia. It’s clear there was a national wave. Ed Gillespie did very well, I hope he manages to cross that line, I hope there’s a recount that gets him over the finish line, but I think it’s everything. It’s all resonating.”

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At what point does a political hack choose to sacrifice one’s grasp of right and wrong for the job, or for the cause? Time and again, this election season has shown Washington’s careerists to be capable of just about any negation of ethics towards the goals of a campaign, and we’ve certainly seen that from this State Department before, most notably when Hillary Clinton lied about the Benghazi attack to a victim’s family, alongside his body.

But a baby was just thrown “10 to 20 meters” through the air and landed on her head.

The following quote is what the Obama administration, via Jen Psaki, came up with. Bear in mind that the deceased child — called “a pure girl with a holy soul” by her stricken grandfather, and what words could better describe a three-month old – is an American citizen:

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attack in Jerusalem. We express our deepest condolences to the family of the baby, reportedly an American citizen, who was killed in this despicable attack, and extend our prayers for a full recovery to those injured. We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this incident.

The moral sacrifice made by the administration here is the placement of the administration’s worldview ahead of the protection of the grieving family, the nation of Israel, the citizens of the United States, and those members of humanity able to delineate the ramifications of what just occurred. Would you, as a member of a grieving family – and grieving over a baby! – appreciate being told to “remain calm,” being told your place in this event is as one of several “sides”?

The people at State, presumably not psychopaths, know how the family might receive this. They considered the family’s reaction, and weighed that when constructing this quote. And, being political hacks who have objectively jettisoned their compass, the family’s emotions lost.

Be aware that yesterday, someone at State considered employing the word “murdered,” but instead used “killed.” And be aware that the Obama administration’s detestable, amoral foreign policy trumped all else, and resulted in that enraging closing sentence.

The first question is “how.” Average American citizens – including, yes, the majority of the left – would have been damned pleased to hear the word “murdered.” Few Americans subscribe to an ideology that equivocates on the murder of a baby girl. But few in this administration are comfortable revealing their own humanity in situations like this. They pass along “reset buttons” and praise “smart diplomacy,” and you can be quite sure they do this to protect their relationship with those regimes and cultures that might not find this act to represent “murder.”

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While these outlets are by no means dead and sold for parts, the networks and print referred to by conservatives as “the MSM” have been bleeding audience share for almost two decades. However, they haven’t been marginalized to a size commensurate with America’s poor opinion of them, and for a while I’ve felt this is a fault of certain “content providers” who should, by now, have a better grasp of these outlets’ practices, intentions, and greatly diminished influence.

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(Even Gob gets it.)

Conservatives, or their handlers, should also better understand the tools now available, and the changing cost-benefit analysis those tools have nudged. For example: a camera, Twitter, and a colleague with a steady hand on retainer sure beats having that “crisis management” PR firm on retainer.

Yesterday, John Hinderaker of Powerline wrote of his recent experience considering whether or not to appear with Bill Maher:

Bill will head up a panel that includes two conservatives, one old and one young, and two demographically similar liberals. The producer told me that they have already lined up my old friend Ana Marie Cox as the senior liberal, and they very much wanted me to participate as the senior conservative. The event will not be televised live, but it will be filmed. The producer told me that Maher will use clips from the program on his television show and will post them on YouTube.

I had misgivings — the last thing I want to do is act as a foil for the likes of Bill Maher — but she argued persuasively that it would be helpful for me to take part, and that we conservatives would get an even break. I said I would think about it overnight and call her back in the morning.

Think rationally about why New Media — such as PJM and Powerline — even exist, and why studies have confirmed what Twitter users generally observe, which is that conservatives dominate liberals in trending topics on that medium: there is an audience that understands conservatives simply do not get a fair shake in the MSM, stretching back to the New York Times of the early 20th century, pre-television.

So our new products filled the vacancy, and further, that’s where all the market share the MSM bled has gone. People didn’t tune out altogether — instead, they tuned in to Fox News and Roger L. Simon and John Hinderaker.

The truth regarding the media landscape is self-evident. So why would a conservative ever agree to have his or her message strained through an MSM colander? Rationally, what are the pros of appearing taped on an outlet or with a specific host known to distort conservatism in general and individual messages in particular? Through a Maher producer’s eyes, what are the pros for them in extending you an invitation?

Here’s what Hinderaker did:

I decided to participate in the event and do my best to support John’s candidacy, but on one condition: that I be given a copy of the video promptly after the event so that I, too, can post clips on Power Line and on YouTube. After all, if you have an hour or two of video to work with, and you want a 15 second clip that will make you look good or the other guy look dumb, you will surely find it. If I had a copy of the video, not only could I post useful footage, but I could also–to some degree–keep Maher honest. I also intended to promote the event and try to get Power Line readers and others to attend so that the crowd reaction would be balanced.

The next morning, I called the producer and conveyed that offer. It got a rather icy reaction. The producer said that giving me a copy of the video could be a problem; she would look into it and get back to me by the end of the day. The day came and went with no call from her, as did the day after. Finally, at 5:19 on Friday, I received this email:


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Fox News is reporting that President Obama, according to a White House aide, intends to arm the, eh, “moderate” Syrian rebels so as to use them as ground troops should the U.S. conduct airstrikes within Syria:

One year to the day since addressing the American people about possible strikes against the Assad regime in Syria over its chemical weapons attack, President Obama is coming back to the American people with a drastically different — and strategically complex — plan to combat a drastically different enemy.

The president, when he speaks from the White House Wednesday night, is expected to on one hand seek Congress’ support in arming and aiding the moderate Syrian opposition. But he is also keeping the door open for possible airstrikes in Syria, something that might require tacit cooperation from the Assad regime.

The target this time is not the Assad government, but the Islamic State, which has in the year since Obama’s last address evolved into Assad’s most formidable enemy — as well as a threat to the Iraq government and the West.

The result could be Obama’s trickiest task yet in the Middle East.

The circular reasoning and preposterous on-the-ground situation stem directly from Obama’s months of dawdling with Assad last year, his “Red Line” period, during which he had a moment to crush Assad with the aide of a burgeoning, legitimately moderate force. Yet by the time he was ready — strike that — forced to act to save his reputation, the moderates had been all but left out of the equation, as what would balloon into ISIS was taking shape. Had Obama armed the Assad opposition at that point, he would have been arming ISIS.

The lesson to be learned here: Obama fundamentally misunderstands the Middle East. He fundamentally misunderstands Islam, jihadism, and the motivations of every single actor in the Middle East, including Israel. As such, if there is a military action to be taken in the Middle East that is in the best interests of the United States — or the collective consciousness of the world that rejects evil, rejects the atrocities of both Assad and ISIS — then the United States is going to have to do the job itself, or at least lead the force.

That’s right: the U.S. needs to take the lead, and you’re with us or against us. Right, John Kerry? Eh … :

The effort to defeat the Islamic State taking hold in Syria and Iraq could involve “nearly every country on earth,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Wednesday. He was speaking in Iraq, one of the stops on his coalition-building trip:

“Nearly every country on earth could have an ability and an interest to join in this effort, whether by providing military assistance, by helping to track and stop the flow of foreign fighters, helping to track and stop the flow of money — all of these are things that sustain ISIL’s terrorism and all of them are things that are subject to impact by other countries in the world,” Kerry told a news conference after meeting with the new Iraqi leaders.

Obama intends to literally repeat his tentative, morally subjective policy from last year with a fresh enemy. What does it take to convince these men that the rest of the world’s actors tend to operate with their own agenda, and that their agenda invariably involves gaining ground on the United States?

Arming the Syrian opposition so as to reduce the footprint of the United States in the conflict is not ethical. It’s a policy that traces directly to a leftist world view of the United States as the world’s bully. Yet the smaller we get, the more tentative, the harder it gets to distinguish who we can trust elsewhere.

You don’t need every country in the world to crush ISIS, Mr. Kerry. You need moral clarity.

The commentariat has thoroughly exhausted every analogy for measuring the State Department’s astounding inability to measure the sound of their comments. I’ll just post this here as the latest example:


Does she believe she’s doing a wonderful job? Is she getting commendations from her colleagues behind the scenes? References to the State Department’s self-parodizing seem redundant at this point.

Take a break sometime this evening to watch this, then let us know in the comments if Coach Dave Belisle from Cumberland, Rhode Island didn’t just make your day.

This is why I watch sports. Or anything, really:

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Brad Thor, bestselling author of 13 military thrillers and an unabashed conservative, is currently touring the country to promote his latest: Act of War. I caught up with him to discuss the inspiration for the book — in promotional material, he mentioned his desire to explore the Marcus Luttrell tragedy — and to have him share his thoughts from the tip of the spear of the culture war. 


Steinberg: You’re not overtly political in the book, you don’t refer to liberals or conservatives, the words “Democrat” and “Republican” don’t appear in the book, but you certainly come away with a strong message about which orientation has their facts right in terms of national security. Do you have a prime motivation of shaping the culture, or are you focused on writing excellent military thrillers?

Thor: Yes, it’s important that we start from the beginning, which is first and foremost that I am an entertainer, David. I would never open a deli that says no blacks, no Jews, no gays, no libertarians, no Republicans. I would never hang a sign on my business — I’m a small-business owner — that says this group is not invited. That’s number one.

Number two, do I have a particular view of the world, of what I think is successful and what history has proven successful? Yes, I do. I write political thrillers, so politics are part of the thrillers, and it just so happens that certain political parties have certain ideals. I’m not going to hide it — I’m a conservative through and through.

I’m in the business of making money, not necessarily statements, with the books. Can you find a particular point of view in certain characters in the books? Absolutely. Now those particular opinions matter in D.C., and those opinions are prevalent in the military and other spots in the intelligence world. The same problems we have battling liberal ideology in social media and the popular culture, that battle exists in the intelligence world, it exists in the military world. That is the great clash of ideas — what ideas are going to advance our republic. Is it liberalism, is it conservatism, is it something else?

I would be derelict in my duty of writing authentic political thrillers if I didn’t put those ideas on the field of battle, and allow everyone to sit back with me and watch how they play out.

Steinberg: The big reveals, the big plot turns in the book, you are pulling them precisely from present day news. Now, it’s not the Law and Order example, where they draw from some event that occured that isn’t necessarily political, and just go from there. What I see in Act of War is, you’re taking the news of the day, the policies of the current administration, and then you try to nail exactly how those policies are affecting national security personnel.

Thor: My job as a thriller writer is to beat the headlines.

I want you to read one of my books, and first and foremost be entertained, say “wow, that was a great thriller.” But I want you to close the book a little bit better informed, maybe with some questions of your own.

One of the nicest emails I get from readers is when someone says “wow, I read your thrillers with my laptop open” — I like to call my style “faction,” David — the nicest emails are when people say “I like to read your thrillers with my laptop open because I don’t know where the facts end and the fiction begins.”

Yes, it’s not Law and Order. I’m not taking a case that already happened. What I’m doing is looking at the state of affairs. I wrote this book over the last year, so I was sitting at my laptop back then, thinking: “Where are we going to be a year from now? How do I make this book as current as possible when it comes out? How do I write a book 12 months before it comes out and make sure that its current?”

So there’s a lot of trying to peer over the horizon and read the tea leaves. You know, I nailed the whole NSA thing before Snowden in my book Blacklist.

In my book The First Commandment, on page one, it’s not four high-value Guantanamo detainees we swapped, its not six, it’s five, exactly five, on page one of the First Commandment. (Ed. note: I checked up on this. Whoa.)

So I pride myself on being able to beat the headlines, and I do that by just being a voracious consumer of the culture, the news, I watch Washington. I’m saying to myself “history doesn’t repeat, but it rhymes,” and history is a good guide of where we’re headed because people ignore it.

Steinberg: If PJM readers aren’t familiar with your background: you’ve done precisely this in a more clandestine manner before, correct? You’ve worked with the Department of Homeland Security.

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Yesterday morning, I reached out to the Brat team to see if they would be making any statement on the situation in Israel today. I forwarded along a link — then hosted at the top of the Drudge Report – to yesterday’s statements by Philip Gordon, the White House’s coordinator for the Middle East, in which Gordon criticized the Israeli government for not currently negotiating with Mahmoud Abbas. (PJ Media’s Ron Radosh criticized Gordon here, and The Times of Israel editor David Horovitz did so here.) I had heard from some — very few, but some — conservatives who were concerned about the loss of Eric Cantor regarding the only issue they trusted Cantor on, and I thought asking for a response to the statements by Philip Gordon might yield a good barometer of Brat’s Middle East intentions.

Moments ago, Brat’s team emailed back with his comments:

Statement of Dave Brat regarding the recent speech at the Israel Conference on Peace in Tel Aviv given by Philip Gordon, the White House coordinator for the Middle East:

“I am deeply troubled by the remarks from the Obama Administration, both for the incompetence in Middle East affairs that the remarks demonstrate and for the narcissism inherent in suggesting that the Obama administration knows how to protect Israeli citizens better than Israel does.

“The White House just rebuked Israel for supposedly ‘not taking advantage’ of the opportunity to negotiate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas just weeks after Abbas welcomed Hamas — the terrorist organization now attempting to murder Jewish civilians with missile strikes on their cities — back into his ‘unity government.’

“The White House has criticized Israel’s government for not offering concessions to the very terrorists who have driven Israeli citizens into bomb shelters and who choose to operate from residential areas, using innocent bystanders as human shields.

“Most Americans recognize Israel’s right to defend itself from the terrorist regime sworn to its destruction. Unlike the administration, we reject the idea that terrorist missiles are somehow the fault of Israel’s government and that all would be well if only Israel sacrificed even more of its security.”