A slew of scandals bubbling up this week involving the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea party groups, the handling of the Benghazi incident, and government snooping of a major news organization have the Obama administration in hot water. These scandals are subject of nearly one-third of House committee investigations.
In the latest development, it was revealed Monday evening, that senior officials in Washington knew that the IRS had given special scrutiny to conservative groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, despite the agency’s previous assurance that only low-level staffers in Cincinnati had been involved in those activities. The House Ways and Means committee will hold a hearing on Friday investigating the allegations against the IRS.
At the same time, the Justice Department notified the Associated Press that law enforcement officials had been spying on its reporters and had obtained two months office and home telephone call data. The Justice Department did not explain the purpose of the intrusive action, but the timing suggested it was part of a continuing government investigation into the leaking of information about the CIA’s disruption of a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner. Attorney General Eric Holder will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.
Meanwhile, five separate committees are still investigating the administration’s handlings of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the ambassador. In addition, a probe is underway into Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s effort to raise millions of dollars in private funds to promote the Affordable Care Act.
This all comes at a time when the president is trying to charm House Republicans into passing major budget and tax legislation and immigration reform. - Read more at Politico
WILL IRS SCANDAL KILL OBAMACARE? The biggest victim of the budding IRS scandal could well be Obamacare. The agency is tasked with implementing major parts of the new law, including administering tax credits for low-income individuals and tax increases. The Fiscal Times’ Josh Boak and Eric Pianin write that, for Republicans, “the scandal is just what the doctor ordered, a chance to attack the IRS--a perennial punching bag--as politically tainted while linking the scandal back to a massive implementation challenge confronting the administration. The House plans a symbolic vote this week to repeal Obamacare, the 37th time it has done so.” - Read more at The Fiscal Times
FEWER FURLOUGHS FOR DEFENSE The Pentagon is expected to reduce civilian furlough days from 14 to 11. Shipyard and depot workers will likely be exempt from furloughs because of concerns that they could be detrimental for long-term modernization and readiness efforts. Defense civilians were originally scheduled to take 22 furlough days, but that number was reduced to14 after Congress passed a stopgap spending measure that shifted $10 billion into the military’s operations and maintenance budget. One Pentagon official told the Associated Press that some DOD managers wanted to reduce the number of furlough days to just nine. A final decision could come as early as today. - Read more at GovExec
RETAIL SALES ARE UP Forecasters are bumping up their second-quarter growth estimates after retail sales unexpectedly rose in April. Retail sales, which account for 30 percent of consumer spending, edged up 0.1 percent after a 0.5 percent drop in March as households began making big purchases like automobiles, building materials and a range of other goods. - Read more at Reuters
U.S. SHALE OIL WILL MEET GLOBAL DEMAND In its annual Medium-Term Oil Market report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said global oil demand is expected to rise 8 percent between 2012 and 2018 to reach 96.7 million barrels per day (bpd). That demand will mainly be met by non-OPEC production, which will rise by more than 10 percent between 2012 and 2018 to 59.31 million bpd, the IEA said, increasing its estimate of non-OPEC supply in 2017 by 1 million bpd.
“The supply shock created by a surge in North American oil production will be as transformative to the market over the next five years as was the rise of Chinese demand over the last 15, “the IEA said today. - Read the release here