Inside the Beltway: Mucho mucho

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“The Obama administration spent between $2.52 million and $2.77 million for hotel rooms and rental cars during the president’s 2012 trip to Mexico for a G-20 summit,” proclaims Britain’s Daily Mail. “Government travel documents available online show that the State Department contracted with a travel agency to spend between $1,889,383 and $2,078,327 on hotel rooms alone, for the President, the Secret Service, and the rest of the State Department and White House staff and VIPs.”

A timely reveal from the British news organization, which released the numbers Thursday, the very day President Obama departed for a two-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica.

EARLIEST OF EARLYBIRDS

“Road to the White House 2016.”

A new series showcasing potential presidential candidate beginning on C-SPAN, as of Friday.

A GROWING CHORUS

“Small” voices get loud in the courtroom: A group of small-business owners and individuals in six states have filed a suit against the federal government over an Internal Revenue Service regulation imposed under “Obamacare,” which will force them to pay hefty fines, cut back employee hours, or otherwise burden their enterprise.

The health care reform law authorizes health insurance subsidies to qualifying individuals in states that created their own health care exchanges. Those subsidies trigger the employer mandate — a $2,000 per employee penalty — and expose more people to the individual mandate, a source explains. “But last spring, without authorization from Congress, the IRS vastly expanded those subsidies to cover states that refused to set up such exchanges,” the concerned group says.

“The IRS rule we are challenging is at war with the act’s plain language and completely rewrites the deal that Congress made with the states on running these insurance exchanges,” notes attorney Michael Carvin, who represents the plaintiffs.

“Agencies are bound by the laws enacted by Congress,” observes Sam Kazman, general counsel of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is coordinating the lawsuit. “Obamacare is already an incredibly massive program. For the IRS to expand it even more, without congressional authorization and in a manner aimed at undercutting state choice, is flagrantly illegal.”

THE KURTZ MATTER

Alas, media critic Howard Kurtz lost his perch with The Daily Beast on Thursday following his erroneous reporting on NBA player Jason Collins‘ decision to reveal that he is gay. Mr. Kurtz headlined his account “Jason Collins’ other secret” and wrongly said that the athlete had not mentioned in his essay for Sports Illustrated having been engaged to a woman.

In the aftermath, Daily Beast Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown simply declared that the publication and Mr. Kurtz had “parted company.” He, in turn, sent out a pair of neutral tweets, noting that he and the Beast had moved in different directions. He wished his former colleagues luck. News of the dismissal was instantly trumpeted by those who monitor press high jinks, from Politico to the Drudge Report; many declared Mr. Kurtz had been “fired.” Many also pointed out that the veteran media maven still had his weekly look at journalism via CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

Will he address his own error on his own show? Not a bad idea.

“The show has a ‘Media Monitor’ segment in which Kurtz notes the debatable issues of the day, like whether a reporter’s erroneous column was appropriately amended,” points out Eddie Scarry, a correspondent for FishBowlDC, the gossip and news site which is a must-read for Washington-based journalists.

“We’ve reached out to Kurtz and one of show’s producers to find out if he’ll be addressing the matter. But in the highly unlikely event that he decides not to cover his own bungle, we’re going to pre-empt Kurtz’s media monitoring and do it ourselves,” Mr. Scarry adds.

BUMPER PATROL

“America: designed by geniuses, run by idiots.”

Bumper sticker spotted in Bristol, Va.

TEACHABLE MOMENT

Was the Boston Marathon terrorist attack a teachable moment for the White House? Apparently not. The bombing will not change U.S. plans to pull back on the fight against al Qaeda and terrorists, says James Jay Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, and a contributor to World Review.

“The weakening of al Qaeda ‘central,’ combined with the success of domestic security activities, has allowed the White House to make the case that scaling back global counterterrorism operations is a reasonable and responsible course of action,” he says. “There are many indicators that this trend will continue.”

“It is unlikely that there will be significant pressure on the administration to do much differently unless further investigation reveals a serious lapse which could have prevented the attack or a demonstrable link to a transnational terrorist group,” Mr. Carafano adds. “The global terrorist threats which may one day turn on America and its allies seem a diminishing priority for Washington at present.”

POLL DU JOUR

44 percent of Americans say federal programs to benefit “younger adults” should be protected when cost-cutting measures are considered; 46 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats agree.

43 percent overall would pare down military spending; 30 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats agree.

38 percent overall say programs benefitting older adults should be protected; 40 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Democrats agree.

29 percent overall would cut funds for roads and infrastructure; 20 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats agree.

29 percent overall would cut unemployment benefits; 44 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A CBS News/New York Times poll of 965 U.S. adults conducted April 24 to 28 and released Thursday.

Tipline always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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