The Obama Administration ‘Looks Like They’re Struggling to Run the Government’ | Speaker.gov

As scandals and crises engulfed the Obama administration last summer, outside observers began to openly wonder if the president and his team are up to the task of managing the government:

  • National Journal’s Ron Fournier: “For a party that wants to establish the fact that good government can do good things, they're now giving the public two choices: One, either we're incredibly incompetent …. Or, we're crooked.” (CNN)
  • CNN’s John King: “Raising the competence question, some Democrats, who believe in government, [are saying] this White House doesn’t appear to have its hand on the lever.” (CNN)
  • The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt: “Overseas and at home, the administration seems besieged and befuddled. Obama is in danger of cementing an image of haplessness that would be hard to undo.” (The Washington Post)
  • NBC’s Chuck Todd: “I think the last six months have painted a picture of an administration that looks like they’re struggling to run the government.” (MSNBC)

A year later, it still looks that way:

  • “A computer glitch in the State Department system for conducting security checks on foreign visitors has virtually halted the issuing of visas at embassies worldwide this month …. Although the system is slowly returning online at some embassies, the State Department says the problems will continue through this week and probably beyond. Then it will take time to catch up with two weeks of backlog, built up at an average of 50,000 visa applications every day. … On June 8, the system that stores the data suffered a hardware failure …. When technicians tried to switch to a backup system, they discovered it was damaged and unusable.” (The Washington Post)
  • “The federal government cannot verify nearly $3 billion in subsidies distributed through ObamaCare, putting significant taxpayer funding ‘at risk,’ according to a new audit report. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) … did not have an internal system to ensure that subsidies went to the right enrollees, or in the correct amounts.” (Washington Free Beacon)
  • “A ‘sophisticated’ organized crime syndicate used the IRS website to steal tax forms full of personal financial information on 104,000 taxpayers …. An unnamed cybermafia used .... posed as legitimate taxpayers, and tried to download forms on 200,000 people between February and May. They got away with half of them, the IRS said. The crooks used about 15,000 of them to claim tax refunds in other people's names. But the potential damage is worse. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said he believes the criminals' true mission was to gather vast amounts of personal information. Armed with that info, fraudsters can open bank accounts, credit lines and steal tax refunds in the future.” (CNN)
  • “The personal data of an estimated 18 million current, former and prospective federal employees were affected by a cyber breach at the Office of Personnel Management - more than four times the 4.2 million the agency has publicly acknowledged. The number is expected to grow, according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation.” (CNN)
  • “The [Denver VA] hospital project is now more than $1 billion over budget and years behind schedule. … In 2010, contractor Kiewit-Turner signed on to the Denver-area project using a type of contract the VA had never used before and allowed construction to begin before planning and design had been finalized.” (The Wall Street Journal)
  • “Employees in the purchasing department of a VA hospital in the Bronx had used government purchase cards like credit cards at least 2,000 times to buy prosthetic legs and arms for veterans. Each time they swiped the cards, it was for $24,999. That was precisely one dollar below VA’s charging limit for purchase cards. … VA officials had prepared to tell Congress that the records had been destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, according to previously undisclosed records, until a senior adviser in the Secretary’s office pointed out that the timing was wrong and the excuse wouldn’t hold up. … [A]n internal memo … described a culture of ‘lawlessness and chaos’ at the Veterans Health Administration …. [which] has been spending at least $6 billion a year in violation of federal contracting rules to pay for medical care and supplies, wasting taxpayer money and putting veterans at risk.” (The Washington Post)
  • “One year after outrage about long waiting lists for health care shook the Department of Veterans Affairs, the agency is facing a new crisis: The number of veterans on waiting lists of one month or more is now 50 percent higher than it was during the height of last year’s problems, department officials say.” (The New York Times)
  • “A year after Americans recoiled at revelations that sick veterans were getting sicker while languishing on waiting lists, VA statistics show that the number of patients facing long waits has not declined, even after Congress gave the department an extra $16.3 billion last summer to shorten waits for care. Nearly 894,000 appointments completed at VA medical facilities from Aug. 1 to Feb. 28 failed to meet the health system's timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days. More than a quarter of those appointments involved a delay of longer than 60 days.” (Associated Press)
  • “Two months after testifying to Congress for a third time about the Department of Veterans Affairs Philadelphia regional office, this time about a ‘revolving door of taxpayer waste,’ culture of retaliation and improper behavior — like two managers asking workers to pay one’s wife to contact the dead — whistleblower Kristen Ruell said little had changed. ‘I’m wondering what problems have been fixed,’ she said Monday … ‘I’m seeing the same things, and it’s worse than ever.’” (Stars and Stripes)
  • “For three years, more than $43 million the Department of Veterans Affairs had set aside to inform veterans about their benefits sat in an account, not a penny spent, until an agency financial manager happened to notice. … The Inspector General’s office, in a report issued last week, cited a ‘breakdown of fiscal controls’ and ‘lack of oversight’ in concluding that VA officials had ‘no need’ for the $43.1 million. At least not for the purpose they claimed, which was to print personalized handbooks that explain in detail what benefits a veteran is eligible for. … But the money sat from fiscal 2011 through fiscal 2014 ‘with no designated purpose,’ auditors found, and $2.3 million that eventually was spent did not produce handbooks but business cards, pamphlets and mailings about the Affordable Care Act, instead. … The agency had plenty of money to produce the handbooks, with a $20.1 million balance in the handbook account when the $43.1 million showed up in 2011. During the three years it went unspent, the handbook fund grew by $6.7 million, investigators said.” (The Washington Post)
  • “State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday the agency is still trying to determine whether the dozens of previously undisclosed emails sent to and from Hillary Clinton and published by the House Select Committee on Benghazi were records State ‘didn't have.’ … The uncertainty suggests it was not immediately clear that Clinton had submitted the newly published emails to the State Department upon request last November. Her former aide, Sidney Blumenthal, provided the emails to the committee earlier June 12. … [Kirby] did not deny the possibility, raised by several reporters at Monday's briefing, that some of the Blumenthal emails may not have been given to the State Department by Clinton's staff.” (Washington Examiner)
  • “Federal agents in a sweep targeting the most dangerous criminal immigrants arrested 15 people who have been allowed to remain in the U.S. under President Barack Obama's executive action intended to protect children who came to the U.S. years ago with their parents, The Associated Press has learned. Fourteen of the 15 had been convicted of a crime, the Homeland Security Department confirmed late Thursday. In at least one case, the Obama administration renewed the protective status for a young immigrant after that person's conviction in a drug case, a U.S. official briefed on the arrests said.” (Associated Press)
  • Most of the illegal immigrant criminals Homeland Security officials released from custody last year were discretionary, meaning the department could have kept them in detention but chose instead to let them onto the streets as their deportation cases moved through the system, according to new numbers from Congress. Those released [in 2013] had amassed 116 homicide convictions, 15,635 drunken driving convictions and 9,187 convictions stemming from what ICE labeled involvement with ‘dangerous drugs.’ … [T]he seriousness of the offenses increased [in 2014], with 193 homicide convictions among the detainees and 16,070 drunken driving convictions. There were also 426 sexual assaults and 303 kidnapping convictions, ICE said.” (The Washington Times)
  • Ten months since the start of the American-led intervention against ISIS in Iraq, President Obama said today that the United States does not have a ‘complete strategy’ to defeat ISIS and stem the group's rise in Syria and Iraq. ‘We don't yet have a complete strategy,’ Obama said at the G7 summit of world leaders in Germany. ‘The details of that are not yet worked out.’” (ABC News)

And here’s another thing to think about: President Obama justified his veto of the Keystone XL pipeline project by saying it needs to be studied more. Set aside the fact that everyone knows that’s a bogus excuse. Even if the president’s reason was valid, the federal government has been studying this energy infrastructure improvement project for nearly seven years. Is his administration really incapable of studying a single construction project in less time than it took to build the entire First Transcontinental Railroad more than 140 years ago?

Instead of sucking up to Iran, reducing wait times for dangerous terrorists held at Gitmo, and working to block a pay raise for our troops, the White House needs to get its priorities straight.