Review Category : Poltics

Obama Signs Bipartisan Bill Changing Way Medicare Pays Doctors

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson(WASHINGTON) — President Obama ditched the Oval Office for the Rose Garden on a beautiful Thursday afternoon to sign into law a rare bipartisan achievement: a permanent change to how Medicare pays doctors, ending years of annual fights over looming cuts to reimbursements.

With his signature at the White House picnic table, Obama blocked a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments that was set to take effect this month and had many doctors threatening to leave the program and dump patients.

The law also provides financial incentives for physicians to bill Medicare patients for their overall care, not individual office visits. It also extends for two years the Children’s Health Insurance Program for low-income kids.

“Not only does this legislation permanently fix payments to doctors, but it also improves it,” Obama said. “What it starts doing is encouraging payments based on quality and not the number of tests that are provided or the number of procedures that are applied, but whether or not people actually start feeling better. It encourages us to continue to make the health care system smarter, without denying service.”

Obama said he’d be hosting a reception for lawmakers in the coming days to celebrate the bipartisan achievement.

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Five Things Hillary Clinton Accomplished in Iowa (And Five Questions That Still Remain)

ABC News(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Chipotle. Gas Stations. Commercial Flights.

Yes, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign announcement had moments of apparent spontaneity, but behind the veneer there was no doubt a clear plan.

With a newly outfitted image, Clinton traveled back to the Hawkeye State to make her first official appearance as a presidential candidate, all with the hopes of learning from her past mistakes and ingratiating herself with the state she so painfully lost back in 2008.

Overall, Clinton got generally good reviews, but her performance also raised some questions.

Here are five things Clinton accomplished during her two-and-a-half-day Iowa swing, as well as the unknown elements of her campaign that are still left to be determined.

What She Accomplished: She Reintroduced Herself to Iowans.

Clinton wanted to show Iowans that this time things would be different, and she did just that, at least at the outset. Instead of traveling around in the “Hill-o-copter,” as she did in 2008, this time Clinton came via a road trip in her van, dubbed Scooby. She held small, intimate meetings with what she calls “everyday Iowans,” instead of large rallies. And she listened to their concerns (often over coffee, or chai in her case), which she says will help shape her policy plans. Many of these events were clearly choreographed and staged — down to the “everyday Iowans” who were anything but, but even so, Clinton made the effort to make a fresh start.

This is scooby. Currently parked outside a small coffee shop. It is a Chevy. pic.twitter.com/F6kFhpyyup

— Tamara Keith (@tamarakeithNPR) April 14, 2015

Did She Convince Them? Clinton may have pressed a reset button in Iowa, but it’s unclear that will be enough to shake off pre-conceived notions. While many Iowans expressed appreciation for the effort Clinton was making, not all left completely convinced she had their vote. For many Iowa Democrats, like State Rep. Scott Ourth of Ackworth, it’s still a wait-and-see kind of game. “The field has yet to evolve,” Ourth told reporters, when asked whether he’d caucus for Clinton. “I’m eager to see how this pans out.”

What She Accomplished: She Relayed Her Message.

On the most basic of levels, Clinton made her campaign message known. During her first official event Tuesday, Clinton spelled out four central themes for her campaign: building the “economy of tomorrow, not yesterday,” strengthening families, fixing the dysfunctional political system, and protecting the country from threats at home and abroad. “I want to be the champion who goes to bat for Americans” in those areas, Clinton explained.

Clinton. Coffee shop. Iowa. (photo from @ABCLiz) pic.twitter.com/OaNe3iAa1n

— Dan Merica (@danmericaCNN) April 14, 2015

Where’s the Meat? Clinton gave big picture ideas, but said little to none in the way of details. Even Clinton’s website still does not have a section explaining her key policy issues, let alone details of specific policy plans. Clinton did hint that the nuts and bolts of her plans would be coming, but just not yet. “Before I roll out my policies,” she explained Wednesday, “I want to hear from people on the frontlines.”

What She Accomplished: She Dodged the Tough Questions.

Even as another New York Times story broke regarding Clinton’s use of personal email as secretary of state, she managed to steer clear of any of the controversies that have surrounded her over the past few months. Clinton avoided all questions on the subject of her emails, as well as other questions on topical issues, telling reporters, “We’ll have plenty of time to talk later.”

But How Much Longer Can That Last? As a presidential candidate, Clinton will eventually have to respond to the hard questions. Although she said she would chat with reporters at some point, it’s unclear when that will be and how long she’ll be able to keep this up.

Hillary Clinton, in Iowa, leaving coffee shop, entering Scooby. (As captured on my periscope)

A video posted by Liz Kreutz (@kreutzel) on Apr 14, 2015 at 3:05pm PDT

What She Accomplished: She Heard From ‘Everyday’ People.

Instead of a big rally in a large venue, Clinton visited local shops and diners, and held roundtables and coffee chats, often in very small spaces, to learn about the day-to-day concerns of local business owners and students.

But Can She Keep It Up?
When it comes to the Clintons, there’s no such thing as small. Even Hillary Clinton’s roundtables of just a few people in Iowa had swarms of press watching — in many cases more reporters that “civilians.” Logistically speaking, it’s a challenge either way. But the lingering questions is how long can a candidate call for intimacy when hundreds of media are following her every move?

. @HillaryClinton sits down for an intimate roundtable discussion pic.twitter.com/6rr9AtdtGk

— Amy Chozick (@amychozick) April 14, 2015

What She Accomplished: She Managed Some Surprises…

In a day and age of constant Twitter and Facebook postings, Clinton managed to keep some guessing. Of course the road trip wasn’t as “spur of the moment” as her team insists — in fact, it was a retread of one she took while running for Senate, right down to the “Scooby” name of the van — but regardless, Clinton did inject a little spontaneity and buzziness into her campaign launch.

Bye for now, Iowa, & thank you! I loved talking to so many of you about what’s on your mind & your ideas for the future. See you soon! -H

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 16, 2015

But Did It Make a Difference? Not all were enamored by Clinton’s allegedly impromptu schtick. For some it was just too much.

“It was…contrived or overthought,” said Josh Skipworth, an Iowa Democrat who supported Obama in 2008. Even so, he added, she’s done a “good job.”

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White House Fence to Get Spikes

Commission on Fine Arts(WASHINGTON) — The Commission on Fine Arts on Thursday approved temporary alterations to the White House perimeter fence aimed at helping to deter jumpers and intruders until a more permanent solution can be vetted and installed.

The new “no climb” features, to be installed this summer, incorporate “metal spikes to deter climbing,” CFA secretary Tom Luebke told ABC News.

CFA continues to solicit proposals for an entirely new permanent fence, which will go through the concept design review process this fall, according to the National Park Service.

On Thursday, the NPS and U.S. Secret Service presented some ideas to the CFA for discussion behind closed doors, but no vote was taken.

The Commission has already ruled out a moat, electrified fence and a solid wall, Luebke said.

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Leon Panetta Returns to Pentagon for Official Portrait

Alex Wong/Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) — Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta returned to the Pentagon Thursday for the unveiling of his official portrait. And he brought along his dog Bravo, who is also included in the portrait.

Speaking to an audience in the Pentagon Courtyard, Panetta explained he had included Bravo in the portrait because he too had enjoyed his time at the Pentagon.

“Bravo truly loved the Pentagon, particularly the parade field, and he left his mark there,” he joked.

But Panetta said the most important reason to include Bravo was because of the smile it will bring to people’s faces “in a town that doesn’t have a lot of smiles.”

He said that smile will serve as a reminder that with all of the global flashpoints and concerns, the U.S. still has the world’s strongest military. He also said Bravo has been his loyal friend and his presence in the portrait will be a reminder of the loyalty those in the military have to each other and to their country.

Panetta said his proudest moment as defense secretary was being “able to open up opportunities for everyone to be able to serve their nation.” It was Panetta who lifted the restrictions on women serving in combat units, a process that is to be completed in January.

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White House: ‘Useful Lessons’ to Be Learned from Gyrocopter Incident

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The White House believes there are some “useful lessons” to be learned after a 61-year-old Postal Service worker from Florida managed to land a small helicopter on the West Front lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday.

“I’m confident that there will be, you know, a careful look at this incident. And while we certainly are pleased that no one was harmed in this incident, it may provide an opportunity for law enforcement agencies, including the Secret Service, to review their procedures and to get some useful lessons from it,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday at the daily briefing.

The Postal Service worker, identified as Doug Hughes, was arrested shortly after he landed the gyrocopter. Law enforcement sources said he wanted to draw attention to the issue of campaign finance reform.

“The Secret Service takes very seriously the responsibility that they have to protect the president, to protect the White House, to protect those of us who work at the White House, to protect the airspace above the White House,” Earnest said. “They obviously are dealing with a very dynamic, challenging security environment. Not only is there all kinds of new technology that they have to be prepared for, but there are also threats that emanate from a lot of different places.”

Earnest did not have any reaction from the president to share. President Obama was in the air aboard Air Force One when the small aircraft landed on the Capitol lawn.

“I wasn’t on the trip, so I didn’t see his initial reaction. It might have been, ‘What’s a gyrocopter?’ I know that was my reaction,” Earnest joked.

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Obama Argues Against Repeal of the ‘Death Tax’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — At a town hall meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, Wednesday, President Obama argued against a push by congressional Republicans to repeal the estate tax.

Republicans say the so-called “death tax” prevents small business owners and family farmers from passing on their businesses to their heirs, but Obama argues the estate tax only affects about 5,000 families and eliminating it would cost $270 billion.

Obama told those in attendance that the Republicans’ tax plan “would give the average millionaire and billionaire a $50,000 tax cut.”

“That’s about what the average middle-class worker makes in an entire year,” Obama added.

The president said the GOP plan “would cut taxes for the top 1/10th of one percent and let taxes go up on 25 million working families and students.”

The GOP-backed legislation is expected to pass the House this week. President Obama has threatened to veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

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The Secret Lives of the Globetrotting White House Press Corps

Official White House Photo by Pete SouzaREPORTER’S NOTEBOOK By ABC’s MARY BRUCE and HANK DISSELKAMP

(WASHINGTON) — Covering the White House is an amazing honor and privilege and, sometimes — as a recent trip to Panama for the Summit of the Americas proved — a mad, harried scramble.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s actually like to be part of the traveling press corps on a major international trip with President Obama:

Wake Up and Dust Someone

It’s 9:30 a.m. and the press pool, the small team of reporters and photographers who follow the president’s every move, is covered in thick dust.

Marine One, the president’s helicopter, had just made an unexpected landing on an athletic field near the Panama Canal.

Reporters, me included, were so busy looking up at the skies as Marine One flew overhead, that none of us noticed the dustbowl beneath out feet.

Before we had a chance to think twice, we were sandblasted, caught in a massive dust storm. My shoes had turned to sandboxes and I could feel the grit in my teeth. But there was no time to waste (or bemoan the fact that we were still at least 14 hours away from our next shower).

Seconds later we were in the motorcade, picking grass out of our hair as we race toward the Panama Canal for the president’s surprise visit to the engineering marvel, one of the rare moments when the president gets to play tourist.

And this was just the start of the day. From the Canal we zoomed to a nearby hotel, bouncing over bumpy roads, so the president could attend a full day of meetings.

‘We’re Running!’

“We’re running!” is a phrase heard often from our wranglers, the tireless White House press aides who corral and advocate for the press pool. They guided us as we raced up and down stairs, our camerawoman hauling 45 pounds of gear, and zipped into elevators on our way to capture a few minutes or sometimes just seconds of the president’s meetings.

The pool is usually brought in at the top or bottom of these gatherings to capture brief remarks from the president and foreign leaders or sometimes just a handshake between them. Being in the right place and the right time is critical.

Mary Bruce/ABC NewsA Door Slams Shut

While being with the White House definitely has its perks, those advantages are often challenged on foreign soil. The wranglers have to vie with the foreign press and local representatives to make sure we get access to the president’s events.

Sounds easy enough, but it can lead to some dramatic skirmishes.

In Panama, we found ourselves elbowing our way through aggressive media scrums to get to the front of the pack and capture those images that would later grace broadcasts and front pages around the world.

At one point, we got into a heated clash with Panamanian authorities. We had just sprinted from the press vans, which are located toward the back of the president’s lengthy motorcade, up to the side door of a hotel where the president was set to deliver remarks on civil society, only to find the door slammed in our face, literally.

Mary Bruce/ABC NewsOur wranglers and the advance press aides shouted to colleagues inside, but to no avail. The local authorities were not convinced.

Meanwhile, the president was taking the stage inside.

After a few quick phone calls, we were ultimately let in, though we still got some dirty glances from the local officials as we ran past to capture the last few minutes of Obama’s speech.

Expect the Unexpected

The day is choreographed to a T. But sometimes the president has other plans in mind.

It was 10:30 p.m. and the president was attending a formal dinner for summit leaders and, although we were an hour and half behind schedule, he was still expected to stay for hours.

The pool was just settling in for what was expected to be a long hold. While a lot of the day is a mad dash, there is also a ton of waiting around.

Hungry reporters were just lining up to hit the buffet — media outlets pay for all of the press amenities provided on these trips — when we were told to race back to the vans.

Mary Bruce/ABC NewsThe president had decided not to stay, after all.

Dishes clashed and clanged as we dropped everything, grabbed our gear and ran.

Just as we reach the vans, “kaboom,” a loud blast is heard. It’s impossible not to think about security concerns when traveling with the president. We instinctively look toward the Secret Service agent assigned to travel with us and he isn’t flinching. The boom was just fireworks erupting overhead.

Moments later we are rolling once again, but this time back to our hotel and, finally, to those much-needed showers.

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Aaron Schock Donor Files Lawsuit Accusing Former Congressman of Racketeering and Fraud

Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images(CHICAGO) — A Chicago man who says he donated $500 to then-Congressman Aaron Schock filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing the former Rep. of racketeering and fraud.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Howard Foster filed the lawsuit Wednesday, just two weeks after Schock, a Republican, resigned his post. Schock is currently under federal investigation regarding his campaign and congressional expenditures. The lawsuit, the paper says, claims that Foster was misled into giving his money to the former Congressman.

“Like all Schock donors,” the suit says, Foster “gave money to the rising young Republican congressman because he believed Mr. Schock was ethical, a breath of fresh air in Illinois politics, and had a bright future in Congress.” Instead, it continues, “the opposite was true, and while Schock may have been a new, young face in Congress, he willingly followed well-tread paths of political sleaze for personal gain.”

It’s not clear how realistic the lawsuit is, as the Tribune notes that political donations are considered gifts, making them the property of the recipient.

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Chris Christie Calls Normalizing Relations with Cuba a ‘National Disgrace’

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images(LONDONBERRY, N.H.) — A day after the Obama administration recommended that the U.S. government reverse its long-standing policy designating Cuba a state sponsor of international terrorism, Chris Christie called the move a “national disgrace.”

In an appearance Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Londonberry, New Hampshire, Christie took aim at President Obama’s diplomatic warming with the Communist nation.

“It is a national disgrace that the president is engaged in those conversations and even considering taking that country off the terrorist watch-list,” Christie said.

“If Cuba wants normalized relations with the United States, start acting like a normal country,” he said.

Obama Tuesday recommended reversing the longstanding U.S. policy of keeping Cuba on a list of state sponsors of terrorism. The administration released a statement declaring Obama’s “intention to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation” days after his return from the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

Christie also said he would make his final decision on a run for president in “late spring, early summer.”

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Why the IRS Won’t Refund Victims of Tax Preparer Fraud

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — If you’re a victim of tax preparer fraud, don’t rely on compensation from the Internal Revenue Service. The agency is not prohibited from issuing refunds to such victims, but it has no procedures to do so, according to warnings from National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.

But it’s a different matter when it comes to victims of tax identity theft. When someone uses your personal information, such as a Social Security number, to steal your tax refund, you could get a refund from the IRS.

Olson, who heads the U.S. government Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, argues there’s little difference between that crime and that of tax preparer fraud.

About 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns, according to the IRS.

“The IRS has known about this problem and its severe impact on victims for many years,” since at least 2000, Olson wrote in a report presented to Congress Wednesday. She presented her 2014 annual report to Congress in a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Government Operations.

The IRS commissioner decided in March 2014 that the IRS will issue refunds to victims of tax preparer fraud who provide a copy of a police report.

“It has now been over a year since the Commissioner made this decision, and the IRS still has no procedures in place to implement this policy,” Olson writes. “The IRS has not even circulated draft procedures for TAS (Taxpayer Advocate Service) to review and comment upon.”

A spokeswoman for the IRS said commissioner John Koskinen has long advocated for better mechanisms for enforcement and taxpayer solutions. When the IRS named tax preparer fraud as one of its annual “dirty dozen” tax scams, it said the IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice to end scams and prosecute criminals.

“The IRS has been taking steps to help taxpayers know where and how to get the help they need,” Koskinen said two weeks ago during a speech at the National Press Club. “We’ve also been working with the national tax groups, including some of those here in the room, on raising taxpayer awareness about the different types of tax professionals available to help.”

The IRS launched a new directory of tax return preparers on IRS.gov earlier this year, allowing taxpayers to find tax professionals with credentials and qualifications in their local area.

Suraj Patel, New York University Stern School of Business adjunct professor, said the problem of enforcement and refunding victims of tax preparer fraud is a symptom of a much larger problem.

“No politician ever gets votes by advocating for a higher IRS budget, so years of cuts have really led to a situation where the agency can’t possibly adequately handle the helpline or do proper enforcement,” Patel said. “On the other hand, it also goes to show how complicated and burdensome the annual filing of taxes has become. It’s a huge externality on the economy.”

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