Sen. Orrin Hatch on Cuba: “We Need to Stay Enemies.”

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Sen. Orrin Hatch Responds to President’s Cuba Announcement

“The President’s decision to begin talks to normalize relations with Cuba is another example of his administration’s habit of appeasing our adversaries”

Washington, D.C., — Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Senior Republican in the United States Senate, issued the following statement following the President’s announcement that he would seek to normalize relations with Cuba:

“The President’s decision to begin talks to normalize relations with Cuba is another example of his administration’s habit of appeasing our adversaries. Time and again, President Obama has predicated his foreign policy on the notion that if we simply accommodate the demands of troublesome regimes, they will cease their disturbing behavior.

Even more disturbing, the President’s announcement constitutes a fundamental shift from our decades old policy, reaffirmed by both Republican and Democrat administrations, to isolate the Cuban regime due to its repression of the Cuban people.  It is beyond doubt that the Cuban regime continues to stifle democracy and violate fundamental human rights.  Like many of my colleagues, I remain committed to a Cuba policy that continues to place pressure on the Castro regime until the Cuban people are free.”

 

Ex-Nazis Awarded Millions of Dollars in American Social Security.

Adolph Hitler and Nazi marching in cartoon illustration by Willard Mullin


Grassley, Hatch Press Social Security Administration, Justice Department

on Benefits for Suspected Nazis

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Orrin Hatch are seeking details from the Social Security Administration and the Justice Department on Social Security benefits given to suspected ex-Nazis.  It’s unclear why the federal government allowed millions of dollars to flow to these individuals, including those who have left the country. Record-keeping discrepancies have exacerbated uncertainty and confusion over U.S. government practice and policy on allowing ex-Nazis to retain their Social Security benefits.

“We have introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to close the Social Security loophole in order to prevent this practice in the future and hope that it will become law soon,” Grassley and Hatch wrote in letters to each agency.  “However, there remain questions about DOJ’s actions and what will be done in current cases if the law is not passed before they are resolved.”

Grassley and Hatch asked for statistics in areas including the total number of Nazi suspects who received Social Security benefits after leaving the United States, how many suspected Nazis currently receive Social Security benefits and live outside the country, information on the potential outcome of certain identified cases, and details of interaction between the Social Security Administration and the Justice Department on the issue.

Hatch is the sponsor and Grassley is an original cosponsor of bipartisan, bicameral legislation to terminate Social Security benefits for Nazi persecutors who receive them because of a loophole in current law.  The practice appeared to be little-known in recent years until an Associated Press report exposed the practice, leading to scrutiny from Congress and public outcry.

Anti-Semitic Remarks Condemned by Senator.

HATCH CONDEMNS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION COMMENTS ON ISRAEL

Calls for immediate termination of officials responsible for reckless comments about important ally

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Sen. Orrin Hatch sent a letter to President Obama, condemning the comments made by senior administration officials regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and calling for the dismissal of those responsible.

According to an article in The Atlantic titled “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here,” Obama administration officials described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “recalcitrant,” “myopic,” “reactionary,” “obtuse,” “blustering,” “pompous,” and “Aspergery.” The article also recounts a senior official referring to Prime Minister Netanyahu as a “chickens***” and a “coward.”

“These comments are flagrantly offensive and wholly inaccurate,” writes Sen. Hatch. “Throughout his life and tenure in office, Prime Minister Netanyahu has conducted himself with honor, dignity, and the highest distinction. He has proven himself both a capable defender of the State of Israel and a willing partner for peace, as well as a true and loyal friend of the United States.

“[T]hese comments are deeply harmful to our vitally important relationship with Israel and its duly elected leader,” Hatch wrote. “No less than immediate dismissal can demonstrate that such remarks do not in any way represent the policy or attitude of your administration or of the United States government.”

 

The full text of Sen. Hatch’s letter is below:

October 31, 2014

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I write to you today out of concern arising from comments made by members of your Administration that appeared in Jeffrey Goldberg’s October 28, 2014 article in The Atlanticentitled, “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here.” The article quotes “Obama administration officials” describing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “recalcitrant,” “myopic,” “reactionary,” “obtuse,” “blustering,” “pompous,” and “Aspergery.” The last term, employed as a pejorative, presumably refers to Asperger Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder affecting an estimated 600,000 Americans. The article also recounts a senior official referring to Prime Minister Netanyahu as a “chickenshit” and a “coward.”

These comments are flagrantly offensive and wholly inaccurate. Throughout his life and tenure in office, Prime Minister Netanyahu has conducted himself with honor, dignity, and the highest distinction. He has proven himself both a capable defender of the State of Israel and a willing partner for peace, as well as a true and loyal friend of the United States.

Beyond their offensiveness and inaccuracy, these comments are deeply harmful to our vitally important relationship with Israel and its duly elected leader. As a nation, the United States has long shared a unique bond with Israel that each of your predecessors since President Truman has sought to preserve and strengthen. The American people expect you to follow in this important tradition of friendship with Israel—a critical legacy that has been endangered by these despicable remarks.

I applaud Secretary of State Kerry for condemning these remarks for what they are: unacceptable. On behalf of my fellow Americans, I ask that you order a complete and thorough investigation to determine the identity of these senior members of your administration and, once identified, terminate these officials’ service. No less than immediate dismissal can demonstrate that such remarks do not in any way represent the policy or attitude of your administration or of the United States government. At this time of enormous challenges in the Middle East, we cannot afford any attenuation in America’s relationship with our most reliable partner and friend in the region.

Thank you for your prompt consideration. I look forward to the speedy resolution of this matter.

Sincerely,

Orrin G. Hatch
United States Senator

IRS Defrauded of $5 Billion Through Fake Refunds!

broke

GAO: Action Needed to Combat $5 Billion Tax Refund Fraud

New Report Calls on IRS to Implement Stronger Safeguards to Protect Private Taxpayer Information

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) must take bold and innovative action to combat more than $5 billion in fraudulent identity theft tax refunds, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, requested by leaders on the Senate Finance and Aging Committees as well as the House Ways and Means Committee, said the IRS should take additional steps to strengthen its pre-refund and anti-fraud efforts to effectively stop tax refund fraud before it even starts.

“The American people should be able to trust the IRS to protect their identities, preserve their privacy, and ensure their hard-earned money isn’t being carelessly flushed down the drain.  Sadly, that’s not the case,” said Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).“As the GAO made clear today, there is more that can be done to improve the agency’s anti-fraud capabilities. Moving forward, I hope the IRS will take a serious look at these recommendations and work with Congress to implement smart safeguards that not only better serve the victims of identity theft refund fraud but, ultimately, stop it before it even starts.”

“By the time IRS matches all of the payroll information it collects with the tax returns it receives, billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds have already been sent out the door.  This is a serious and unacceptable issue that must be addressed now,” said Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). “This GAO report is an important step forward as it makes a number of important recommendations for verifying that taxpayers are getting the refunds they deserve and that the fraudsters don’t get them instead.   I’m working closely with my colleagues here in the Congress and with the IRS to fight this serious and growing problem that hurts both citizens and the integrity of our tax administration.”

“This problem isn’t going away, unless we go hard after these criminals while also doing what we can to prevent this crime,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), chairman of the Aging Committee and a proponent of various initiatives to curb ID theft and tax fraud. “Too many Americans already have paid a high price, especially those unfortunate enough to have fallen victim to identity theft.  Many of them sometimes end up waiting years just to get their own tax refund.  The time has come for Congress to act.”

“Despite efforts to prevent tax refunds from being paid to con artists who have stolen the identities of taxpayers, the IRS paid $5.2 billion in refunds based on fraudulent tax returns in 2013,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee. “These fraudulent tax refund payments waste taxpayer dollars and jeopardize the legitimate refunds of taxpayers.  The IRS must do more to prevent fraudulent tax refunds from being paid to fraudsters rather than to their rightful claimant.”

“The IRS is not doing enough to protect Americans from the terrible crime of identity theft and fraud,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI).  “In one case, the IRS received over 2,000 returns from a single address – paying out over $3.3 million in refunds.  That is not just a simple error, that is clear mismanagement.  IRS must ensure that all is being done to stop detect fraudulent payments, protect hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and stop the crime of tax fraud.”

Identity theft (IDT) refund fraud occurs when a fraudster files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number and other personal information and receives a tax refund from the IRS.  The IRS estimates that in 2013, it paid $5.2 billion in fraudulent IDT refunds.

GAO and the IRS both agree that this large problem is an evolving threat as fraudsters are adapting to additional controls the IRS has implemented to combat IDT refund fraud.  Fraudsters are able to take advantage of the IRS’ “look-back” compliance efforts, in which the IRS issues tax-refunds before completing all compliance checks.

GAO recommends that the IRS take additional actions to enhance its pre-refund anti-fraud efforts, as preventing fraud is more effective than “claw-back” recovery efforts.

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Orrin Hatch Declares United States Senate to be “Dysfunctional”.

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By Orrin Hatch.

Americans hold the Senate in low esteem, but the situation is even worse than most understand. The Senate is dysfunctional today because its current leadership has acted to destroy the institution itself.

Job-approval ratings for Congress have been in the teens or single digits for more than three years. A poll last year found that Congress is less popular than head lice, root canals and traffic jams. The “good” news is that Congress is slightly more popular than playground bullies, telemarketers and North Korea.

Polls like these reflect concern over factors included in The Washington Times’ Futility Index, such as the time Congress spends in session or the number of votes taken and bills passed. By this measure, the Senate’s two least productive sessions since the 1940s occurred in just the past few years. We are simply not getting much done these days.

The House has passed 338 bills in the past year-and-a-half, some on subjects of great importance, that have become dead on arrival in the Senate. Far more serious, though, are changes the current leadership is making to the Senate’s design and structure that would prevent it from ever functioning as it should.

During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, James Madison identified the basic axiom that form follows function and wisely concluded that the Senate’s structure should be determined by “the ends to be served by it.”

The Senate was designed to play a particular role in a carefully designed system of government that is based on two related ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence: First, government exists to secure the unalienable rights of individuals; and second, government must be limited or it will, in fact, destroy these individual rights. Those limits include dividing power between the federal and state governments, separating federal power into three branches, and splitting the legislative branch into two very different houses.

The Constitution lets the House and Senate set their own rules, and throughout the nation’s history these forms have developed consistent with each body’s function. The House’s function is action, and its form has been majority rule. The Senate’s function is deliberation and its form has given all senators, even those in the minority, a significant role.

Throughout its history, all senators have had two essential opportunities to participate: the right to offer amendments to legislation and the right to unlimited debate. The current Senate majority has attacked both of these rights relentlessly.

The Senate majority leader must be recognized first by the presiding officer and can use that priority recognition to fill up available opportunities to amend a bill. When he was in the minority, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, condemned this procedural maneuver as “a very bad practice” that “runs against the basic nature of the Senate.” Now in the majority, however, he has used this very bad practice to block amendments more than twice as often as the previous six majority leaders combined.

Last fall, Mr. Reid used another procedural maneuver to abolish the minority’s right to debate nominations. The Senate had confirmed 98 percent of President Obama’s nominees, and filibusters were not only rare, but on the decline. Now, for the first time in more than 200 years, minority senators have no meaningful role in the confirmation process.

By concentrating power in the majority at the expense of the minority, these distortions of Senate practice change, in Mr. Reid’s words, “the basic nature of the Senate.” Because the different designs of the Senate and House together help limit government power, eliminating those differences undermines the critical limits essential to preserving individual liberty.

We may soon experience the early results of abandoning such limits. Democrats abolished nomination filibusters last fall specifically to put three individuals on one particular court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit had been evenly balanced between Republican and Democratic appointees and its low caseload required no more judges. The majority abolished nomination filibusters so that three additional Obama appointees could be added to the court.

Late last month, a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel struck down an Internal Revenue Service rule subsidizing Obamacare premiums on the federal health care exchange. The court correctly reasoned that the plain text of the so-called Affordable Care Act grants subsidies only on “exchange[s] established by the State[s],” and that by ignoring this requirement, the Obama administration overstepped its lawful authority. The Obama administration is appealing that decision to the full D.C. Circuit, which is now stacked 7-4 with compliant judges more likely to approve regulations that are contrary to the text of a law.

Such an unlawful result will be possible only because the current Senate majority sacrificed the basic nature of the Senate by eliminating the minority’s right to debate judicial nominations.

Are Biosimilar Drugs Safe?

biosimilar

Biosimilars also known as follow-on biologics are biologic medical products whose active drug substance is made by a living organism or derived from a living organism by means of recombinant DNA or controlled gene expression methods.

Biosimilars (or follow-on biologics) are terms used to describe officially approved subsequent versions of innovator biopharmaceutical products made by a different sponsor following patent and exclusivity expiry on the innovator product.[1] Biosimilars are also referred to as subsequent entry biologics (SEBs) in Canada.[2]Reference to the innovator product is an integral component of the approval.

Unlike the more common small-molecule drugs, biologics generally exhibit high molecular complexity, and may be quite sensitive to changes in manufacturing processes. Follow-on manufacturers do not have access to the originator’s molecular clone and original cell bank, nor to the exact fermentation and purification process, nor to the active drug substance. They do have access to the commercialized innovator product. Differences in impurities and/or breakdown products can have serious health implications.  (From Wikipedia.)

Hatch, Alexander Call on Burwell to Immediately Release Guidance on Biosimilar Drugs

Say patients, health care professionals, and congress must see FDA’s draft policy on naming, other key issues before first biosimilar is approved

U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) have led colleagues in calling on the Obama administration to release guidance documents on biosimilar drug approvals. The senators were joined by three Republican members on the Senate health committee, Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Pat Roberts (R- Kan.).

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, the senators write: “We write today with concerns about the implementation of the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA), bipartisan legislation enacted in 2010 to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with a framework to review and approve biosimilars. The FDA has not yet issued guidance on some of the key scientific policy questions related to biosimilars, such as naming, labeling, indication extrapolation, and interchangeability.”

Last week, FDA accepted the first biosimilar application for review, but outside of meetings with individual companies seeking to file applications, has not released any guidance. “These meetings should not be the only or primary means by which BPCIA implementation policies are developed,” the senators write. “Does the FDA intend to approve the first biosimilar before policies on these key scientific questions are publicly released?”

“The public needs to have time to comment and FDA time to revise the policies set forth in this draft guidance if necessary. …It is our understanding that FDA has forwarded the naming guidance to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and this guidance is awaiting HHS’ clearance so it can be released for stakeholder comment.  In order to ensure the success of the biosimilar pathway, it is imperative that the scientific experts at FDA maintain the autonomy to implement the pathway as intended in a manner that puts the safety of patients first.”

The senators urged the immediate release of guidance for review by patients, healthcare professionals, policy makers, and others, saying, “Their participation is necessary before settling on final policies.”

 

“The Time for Courage is Now”: America’s Slide into Bankruptcy.

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, today issued the following statement on CBO’s new report entitled, “The 2014 Long-Term Budget Outlook,” which details how spending for Social Security and health care entitlements will cause deficits to rise over time.

“Today’s CBO report is a stark reminder of the urgent need for entitlement reform, because as CBO says, our current spending path is unsustainable,” Hatch said.  “It is my hope our friends on the other side of the aisle will abandon their misguided political opposition and heed this dire warning to work together to reform and strengthen the entitlement programs for our seniors and future generations. The time for courage is now.”

Findings of the CBO report include:

High and Unsustainable Debt:  Federal debt held by the public is on a course to exceed 100 percent of the size of our economy (the “gross domestic product,” or GDP) and on an unsustainable long-term trajectory.

Large Increase in Spending: Federal spending, under current law, is set to increase to 26 percent of the size of our economy by 2029, compared to 21 percent in 2015 and an average of 20.5 percent over the past 40 years.

Runaway Entitlements Drive Spending Growth: Federal spending for Social Security and the government’s major health care programs—Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act—will “…rise sharply, to a total of 14 percent of the size of our economy by 2039, twice the 7 percent average seen over the past 40 years.”

Runaway Entitlements Will Increasingly Choke Off Discretionary Spending:  CBO’s data show the dire consequences of that runaway entitlement spending.  According to CBO: “…total spending on everything other than Social Security, the major health care programs, and net interest payments would decline to 7 percent of GDP by 2039—well below the 11 percent average of the past 40 years and a smaller share of the economy than at any time since the late 1930s.”  This means that runaway entitlements are choking off the federal government’s financial ability to fund infrastructure, education, defense, and a host of other “discretionary” spending programs.

Revenues Scheduled to Rise Above Historic Norms: Federal revenues would increase to 19½ percent of GDP [under current law], compared to an average of 17½ percent over the past four decades.

We Have a Spending Problem, Not a Revenue Problem: CBO’s message is clear:  Continuing on our current path, driven by unsustainable, runaway entitlements, federal spending rises sharply to outpace revenues, which themselves will rise well above the historic norm, driving our deficits and debt ever upward.