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Unless you filed for an extension, by now you should know if you were one of millions of Americans whose tax return was rejected because a crook stole your ID and your refund.

According to this GAO report, there were about 5.1 million attempted fraud cases in 2014.

However, only 1,063 criminal investigations were opened for these cases.  In fact, the problem is growing 60% every year, but in 2014 related criminal investigations were cut 30%.

This fascinating story from the Chicago Tribune details the problem:

About 2.9 million incidents of tax-related identity theft occurred in 2013, up from nearly 1.8 million in 2012, according to a report from the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. A spokesman said he didn't have more current numbers....

In calendar year 2011, the IRS identified more than 1.1 million incidents of identity theft affecting the nation's tax system, up from 441,000 in 2010, the inspector general said in its report....

But agency records show it's initiating fewer criminal investigations related to identity theft. Also in January 2015, the IRS said it had initiated 1,063 criminal investigations related to identity theft in fiscal year 2014.

In January 2014, the IRS said it initiated 1,492 identity theft-related criminal probes in fiscal 2013, up 66 percent from fiscal year 2012.

According to the FTC, tax related identity theft is the most common form of identity theft affecting American consumers.  However, the IRS seems powerless to stop the criminals.

IRS Commissioner Koskinen explained the problem to The Hill:

Koskinen said the agency is working with 13,000 fewer people this tax season and stands to lose an addition 2,000 to 3,000 people with proposed budget cuts.
Economist Jared Bernstein, among others, diagnosed the underlying cause:
By cutting the IRS budget, Congress ensures that the $385 billion annual tax gap - that's the estimated difference between taxes owed and taxes paid - remains in place. According to Treasury Department estimates, each additional $1 spent on IRS enforcement yields $6 of additional revenue. In this regard, whacking the IRS budget works to preserve and potentially expand a big tax cut, albeit an illegal one. That gap represents 11 percent of this year's spending, implying that the failure to collect revenue that's owed adds significantly to the budget deficit, another reminder of how some of these alleged budget hawks are really chicken hawks.
So enjoy your tax refund if you got it.  If someone else got it, you can blame the GOP.
Discuss

Sun Feb 22, 2015 at 08:13 AM PST

How the GOP costs taxpayers $6 billion

by topdog08

Stolen Identity Refund Fraud or SIRF is a growing $6 billion a year epidemic.

By contrast, only about $30 million is lost in around 5,000 bank robberies each year.  Stolen identity tax fraud is the equivalent of 5 million bank robberies with a 20% success rate or 1 million successful robberies a year.  Why rob banks if you can steal more in your pajamas?
WSJ: The U.S. Internal Revenue Service paid an estimated $5.8 billion last year in fraudulent refunds related to identify theft according to a government report. The agency is now looking at several methods to improve taxpayer authentication, but says it is hampered by hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts.
TheHill: Koskinen said the agency is working with 13,000 fewer people this tax season and stands to lose an addition 2,000 to 3,000 people with proposed budget cuts.
NBC: And the problem—which the agency admits is growing quickly—is compounded by an outdated fraud-detection system that has trouble identifying many attempts to trick it.

"The flaws in [the IRS'] system are so basic," said Akli Adjaoute, founder and CEO of artificial intelligence firm Brighterion.

"The whole system is a disaster," Adjaoute said.

Fortunately there are workable solutions.  Unfortunately the IRS can't afford to try them because the GOP cut another $200 million from its IT budget in 2015 for purely political reasons.
Jared Bernstein: By cutting the IRS budget, Congress ensures that the $385 billion annual tax gap — that’s the estimated difference between taxes owed and taxes paid — remains in place. According to Treasury Department estimates, each additional $1 spent on IRS enforcement yields $6 of additional revenue. In this regard, whacking the IRS budget works to preserve and potentially expand a big tax cut, albeit an illegal one. That gap represents 11 percent of this year’s spending, implying that the failure to collect revenue that’s owed adds significantly to the budget deficit, another reminder of how some of these alleged budget hawks are really chicken hawks.
Now you get the idea?  Your identity was just stolen?  Sorry politics is more important.
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The more I hear about Toomey-Manchin the less there is to like about it:

A prominent gun-rights advocate claims his group’s staff was in the room during the drafting of the recently unveiled proposal to expand gun-purchase background checks and said that “we snookered the other side — they haven’t figured it out yet.”

Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, made the remarks at a speech in Portland, Ore., on Friday, according to video captured by the group Daylight Disinfectant....


“We’re taking the background check and making it a pro-gun bill,” he added. “Unfortunately, some of my colleagues haven’t quite figured it out yet because they weren’t sitting in the room writing it,” he continued. “My staff was. I’ll be perfectly candid about it. This will probably break on Monday in the Wall Street Journal.”

“If you really read what’s in the Manchin-Toomey bill — man, it’s a godsend,” he went on to say. “We win rights back like crazy.”

Discuss

From Wikipedia:

In economics, austerity refers to a policy of deficit-cutting by lowering spending via a reduction in the amount of benefits and public services provided.
Also from Wikipedia:
Sequestration is the act of removing, separating, or seizing anything from the possession of its owner under process of law for the benefit of creditors or the state.
Okay maybe this one will fit?
Carbon sequestration is the process of capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and may refer specifically to: "The process of removing carbon from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir."
Why so much cognitive dissonance here?  If you don't call it "austerity", maybe no one will make the connection to the disastrous austerity cuts and their affects in Europe until well after we are experiencing them and can then act like we are all so surprised.

What we can expect next below.

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John Boehner might be an idiot, but he knows how to spin:

"The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass," Boehner said in a Thursday night statement. "Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff."
So guess what?  Boehner is winning.  His spin worked.  Here are a few headlines:
McConnell demands Senate Democrats now move legislation on fiscal cliff
Pressure grows on Senate Democrats to act on ‘fiscal cliff’ in wake of 'Plan B'
Wonkbook: Fiscal cliff deal moves to the Senate
Fiscal Cliff's Great Last Hope: the Senate?
Today’s Top Reads: Averting Fiscal Cliff Falls to Senate
His entire point was to distract the conversation from what Democrats are all saying:
Reid said Boehner should resume negotiations with Obama or act on the Senate-passed bill extending current tax rates on family income below $250,000.

"It’s time for the Speaker and all Republicans to return to the negotiating table," Reid said. "In the meantime, the Speaker should bring the middle-class tax cut passed by the Senate five months ago to the floor of the House."

...Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders said the least Boehner could do was bring up the Senate proposal to lock in tax rates for annual family income up to $250,000 a year.

“This House will say yes, we believe, to a bipartisan compromise bill,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “And, we believe it will say yes to the Senate passed bill that is already pending.”

Boehner is winning the spin war and relying on lazy reporters over the holiday season.  We need to keep the focus on the Senate bill which has the votes to pass the House. Boehner won't bring it up at all because it would win with mostly Democratic votes and put his speakership at risk.  Last week he was holding the country hostage to save tax breaks for millionaires, this week he is holding the country hostage to save his job:
Republican leadership scrapped a plan to vote on the Senate’s tax rate proposal, which extended Bush-era tax rates for income below $250,000. Republicans are looking to keep their message tight, sources said.
In other words, they scrapped it because the Senate bill would have passed the House.
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According to Politico:

House Republicans will go first. On Thursday, they will bring up the Senate Democrats’ tax bill, which extends income rates for only the middle class. That Democratic bill will fail to win a majority, and House Republicans will then try to pass their own legislation extending current tax rates for all income under $1 million.
Dozens and dozens of Republicans have said they support the Senate bill!  Can Boehner hold ranks and get those same Republicans to vote against the Senate bill they support and the President has said he would sign into law immediately, and instead vote for a bill Obama has said that he will veto?  This seems like a huge risk Boehner is taking.

If the grassroots works the phones in the next 24 hours we can make sure the Senate bill passes and this goes down as one of Boehner's biggest mistakes of his speakership.

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First, keeps John Kerry in the Senate.  Don't need to give Scott Brown another chance.

Outgoing rookie Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, bumped off by Democrat Elizabeth Warren last week, would likely run for Sen. John Kerry's seat if President Obama taps the longtime senator to take over the Pentagon or State Department, according to GOP sources. Republicans are confident that Brown, who won in an earlier special election to replace Sen. Edward Kennedy after he died, would win. They said he lost out to Warren last Tuesday because President Obama won the state by a huge margin and his coattails carried her across the finish line.
Second, reminds nation what idiots Republicans were to pick Mourdock over him for 2012.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) won’t be returning to the Senate next year, but he’s not a forgotten man in the race to replace him. With 18 days left until Election Day, Lugar’s cold shoulder is complicating GOP candidate Richard Mourdock’s bid against Rep. Joe Donnelly (D).
Third, he would sail through confirmation.  Not even McConnell would filibuster him.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate's Republican leader, called Lugar a forward thinker and the embodiment of a "Republican intellectual." He praised Lugar's work on foreign policy issues, saying Lugar always pressed to improve the world around him. "I have no doubt he will be remembered as one of the best," McConnell said. McConnell also paid homage to Lugar's genial personality. "He's done it with perfectly smooth elbows," McConnell said. "Walk into any office on Capitol Hill, and you won't find a single person who will say a bad word about Dick Lugar."
Fourth, he would remind the nation Republicans used to work together with Democrats.
Sen. Richard Lugar urged his colleagues Wednesday to avoid locking themselves into inflexible positions so they can address a host of pressing national and international problems. In his official farewell speech delivered on the Senate floor with his family and staff on hand, Lugar particularly called for better cooperation between the White House and Congress on national security issues, saying that the current dialogue is “one of the least constructive that I have ever witnessed.”
Fifth, he would remind the nation Obama is not such a bad guy despite the GOP claims.
Now, I will point out, it was Dick who took me on my first foreign trip as a Senator -- to Russia and Ukraine and Azerbaijan.  We were there to see the Cooperative Threat Reduction program in action.  And the first thing I learned is that when Dick Lugar travels overseas, it's not a junket.  We didn't stop and look at a lot of beautiful sights -- (laughter) -- and sort of lounge around on some shopping excursions.  He wore out every 25-year-old staffer that was part of this delegation.

What you also learn is that Dick Lugar -- the more remote the place is and the more obscure the facility is, the bigger a rock star Dick Lugar is.  (Laughter.)  I mean, they love him in these places.  

I remember walking through one facility.  I started leaning in for a closer look and one of the workers said, don’t touch that orange stuff.  It turned out to be TNT.  (Laughter.)  At another point, the workers were taking apart munitions -- gloves on their hands, masks over their faces -- and I’m thinking, wait a second, why don’t we have masks on?  (Laughter.)  This is the kind of trip you take with Dick Lugar.  (Laughter.)

We're traipsing through nuclear weapons storage sites and junkyards full of old land mines and technicians showing off test tubes where you said, well, what's that?  Well, that's anthrax, that's plague.  (Laughter.)  Shouldn't you keep it in something a little more sturdy than this?  (Laughter.)  Dick Lugar is standing in the back of the room.  (Laughter.)  I remember I asked him, I think, have you seen it?  He says, yes, yes, I've seen it.  I don't get too close now.  (Laughter.)  That's what it's like traveling with Dick Lugar.  

Sixth, did I mention that he is qualified for the job?  I think Barack said it best.
And, Dick, I want to take this opportunity to say something else.  At times, we’ve disagreed on matters of policy.  But one thing we’ve always shared is a notion of what public service should be.  That it ought to be more than just doing what’s popular in the moment.  That it ought to be about what’s right for our nation, over the long term.  It ought to be about problem-solving and governance, not just how we can score political points on each other or engage in obstructionism.  And where compromise is not a vice and where bipartisanship is a actually considered a virtue -- to be rewarded, not punished....

And I had been a strong advocate for CTR before.  But visiting those facilities, seeing the work that so many of you do, seeing these old weapons once aimed at us now being turned into scrap truly brought home how important this work was.  This is one of our most important national security programs.  And it's a perfect example of the kind of partnerships that we need, working together to meet challenges that no nation can address on its own.

And so, Nunn-Lugar is the foundation for the vision that I laid out, once I was elected President, in travel to Prague -- where nations come together to secure nuclear materials, as we’re doing with our Nuclear Security Summits, where we build on New START and continue to work to reduce our arsenals; where we strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and prevent the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons; where, over time, we come closer to our ultimate vision -- a world without nuclear weapons.  

That’s why we haven’t just sustained programs like Nunn-Lugar over the past four years.  We’ve worked with all of you to strengthen it, expanding it to some 80 nations, far beyond the old Soviet Union -- moving ahead with the destruction of chemical weapons -- partnering with others, countries from Africa to Asia and global health organizations to prevent the spread of deadly diseases and bioterrorism.  And I have to give a shout-out to somebody who was on the original team with Ash that conceived of CTR; she’s been working it ever since and now leads our efforts at the White House -- Laura Holgate is here.  And so we're very proud of her for the outstanding work that she's done.  (Applause.)

And we’ve worked to keep weapons from spreading, whether it was nuclear material in Libya or, now, chemical weapons in Syria.  And on Syria, let me just say this.  We will continue to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people -— engaging with the opposition, providing with -- providing them with the humanitarian aid, and working for a transition to a Syria that’s free of the Assad regime.

Add your own reasons or criticisms below.
Poll

Would you support Richard Lugar for Secretary of State?

32%64 votes
30%61 votes
14%28 votes
8%16 votes
14%28 votes

| 197 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

Of course none have signed the discharge petition yet, but next week who knows?

Americans for Tax Reform lists 219 of 435 incoming Representatives and 39 of 100 incoming Senators who have signed Grover's pledge (PDF).  Of those 33 Representatives and 12 Senators have renounced their pledge as of 12/6/12.  This leaves 186 Representatives and 27 Senators. 16 incoming Republican Representatives and 6 incoming Republican Senators never signed the pledge.  66 incoming Republicans oppose it, 76 total.

Incoming pledge renouncers:

DEM-Robert Andrews (NJ-01)
1-Charles Boustany (LA-03)
2-Howard Coble (NC-06)
3-Tom Cole (OK-04)
4-John Campbell (CA-45)
5-Rick Crawford (AR-01)
6-Charlie Dent (PA-15)
7-Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
8-Jo Ann Emerson (MO-08) - NEW
9-Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01)
10-Chris Gibson (NY-19)
11-Kay Granger (TX-12)
12-Walter Jones (NC-03)
13-Peter King (NY-02)
14-John Kline (MN-02)
15-Tom Latham (IA-03)
16-Buck McKeon (CA-25)
17-Pat Meehan (PA-07)
18-Tom Marino (PA-10)
19-Rich Nugent (FL-11)
20-Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
21-Tom Reed (NY-23)
22-Reid Ribble (WI-08)
23-Scott Rigell (VA-02)
24-Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48)
25-Tom Rooney (FL-17) - NEW
26-Dennis Ross (FL-15)
27-Jon Runyan (NJ-03)
28-John Shimkus (IL-15) - NEW
29-Mike Simpson (ID-02)
30-Adrian Smith (NE-03)
31-Lee Terry (NE-02)
32-Dan Webster (FL-10)
33-Lamar Alexander (TN-SEN)
34-Kelly Ayotte (NH-SEN)
35-Saxby Chambliss (GA-SEN)
36-Tom Coburn (OK-SEN)
37-Bob Corker (TN-SEN)
38-Mike Crapo (ID-SEN)
39-Mike Enzi (WY-SEN)
40-Lindsey Graham (SC-SEN)
41-Mike Johanns (NE-SEN)
42-John McCain (AZ-SEN)
43-Jeff Sessions (AL-SEN)
44-David Vitter (LA-SEN)
Americans for Tax Reform lists 238 of 435 outgoing Representatives and 41 of 100 outgoing Senators who have signed Grover's pledge (PDF).  Of those 44 Representatives and 13 Senators have renounced their pledge as of 12/6/12.  This leaves 194 Representatives and 28 Senators.  6 outgoing Republican Representatives and 7 outgoing Republican Senators never signed the pledge.  67 outgoing Republicans oppose it, 76 total.

Outgoing pledge renouncers:

45-Charlie Bass (NH-02)
DEM-Ben Chandler (KY-06)
46-Chip Cravaack (MN-08)
47-Robert Dold (IL-10)
48-Jeff Flake (AZ-06)
49-Nan Hayworth (NY-19)
50-Tim Johnson (IL-15)
51-Steve LaTourette (OH-14)
52-Mary Bono Mack (CA-45)
53-Bob Turner (NY-09)
54-Allen West (FL-22)
DEM-Ben Nelson (NE-SEN)
16 GOP U.S. House Non-Signers:
55-Chris Stewart (UT-02)
56-Jackie Walorksi (IN-02)
57-Susan Brooks (IN-05)
58-Scott Perry (PA-04)
59-Brad Wenstrup (OH-02)
60-Tom Rice (SC-07)
61-Jim Bridenstine (OK-01)
62-Ted Yoho (FL-03)
63-Richard Hanna (NY-22)
64-Rob Woodall (GA-07)
65-Rob Wittman (VA-01)
66-Frank Wolf (VA-10)
67-Kevin Yoder (KS-03)
68-Rodney Davis (IL-13)
69-David Joyce (OH-14)
70-Paul Cook (CA-08)
7 GOP U.S. Senate Non-Signers:
REP – Sen Jeff Flake (AZ-SEN)
71-Charles Grassley (IA-SEN)
72-Susan Collins (ME-SEN)
73-Olympia Snowe (ME-SEN)
74-Thad Cochran (MS-SEN)
75-John Barrasso (WY-SEN)
76-John Hoeven (ND-SEN)
Continue Reading

42 Republicans, 30 in the House and 12 in the Senate, have now renounced the Grover Norquist pledge.  This does not include "revenue" comments from Boehner and Cantor.  In addition, 6 GOP members of the House and 7 GOP members of the Senate never signed it.

In all, 36 current Republicans in the House, and 19 current Republicans in the Senate are against it.  This leaves him only 205 supporters in the House and 28 in the Senate.

The following Republicans have renounced their pledge:

Charlie Bass (NH-02)
Charles Boustany (LA-03)
Howard Coble (NC-06)
Tom Cole (OK-04)
Chip Cravaack (MN-08)
Rick Crawford (AR-01)
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
Robert Dold (IL-10)
Jeff Flake (AZ-06)
Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01)
Chris Gibson (NY-20)
Nan Hayworth (NY-19)
Tim Johnson (IL-15)
Peter King (NY-02)
John Kline (MN-02)
Tom Latham (IA-03)
Steve LaTourette (OH-14)
Mary Bono Mack (CA-45)
Buck McKeon (CA-25)
Pat Meehan (PA-07)
Rich Nugent (FL-11)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
Tom Reed (NY-23)
Reid Ribble (WI-08)
Scott Rigell (VA-02)
Jon Runyan (NJ-03)
Mike Simpson (ID-02)
Adrian Smith (NE-03)
Lee Terry (NE-02)
Allen West (FL-22)
Lamar Alexander (TN-SEN)
Kelly Ayotte (NH-SEN)
Saxby Chambliss (GA-SEN)
Tom Coburn (OK-SEN)
Bob Corker (TN-SEN)
Mike Crapo (ID-SEN)
Mike Enzi (WY-SEN)
Lindsey Graham (SC-SEN)
Mike Johanns (NE-SEN)
John McCain (AZ-SEN)
Jeff Sessions (AL-SEN)
David Vitter (LA-SEN)
The following Republicans never signed it to begin with (PDF):
Richard Hanna (NY-24)
Todd Russell Platts (PA-19)
Rob Wittman (VA-01)
Frank Wolf (VA-10)
Rob Woodall (GA-07)
Kevin Yoder (KS-03)
John Barrasso (WY-SEN)
Thad Cochran (MS-SEN)
Susan Collins (ME-SEN)
Charles Grassley (IA-SEN)
John Hoeven (ND-SEN)
Richard Lugar (IN-SEN)
Olympia Snowe (ME-SEN)
Incoming freshman who refused to sign are not included.  Democrats Robert Andrews (NJ-01), Ben Chandler (KY-06), and Ben Nelson (NE-SEN) who all renounced it are also not included.

Complete list of references available here.  

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This took a lot longer to put together than I thought.  The list kept growing the more I looked.  I'm still not sure if this is complete.  Please add any I missed in the comments.

Americans for Tax Reform lists 219 of 435 incoming Representatives and 39 of 100 incoming Senators who signed Grover's pledge (PDF).  18 Representatives and 11 Senators have renounced their pledge as of 11/29/12.  This leaves 201 Representatives and 28 Senators.

Robert Andrews (NJ-01)
Howard Coble (NC-06)
Tom Cole (OK-04)
Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
Jeff Fortenberry (NE-01)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Peter King (NY-02)
John Kline (MN-02)
Tom Latham (IA-03)
Pat Meehan (PA-07)
Rich Nugent (FL-11)
Erik Paulsen (MN-03)
Reid Ribble (WI-08)
Scott Rigell (VA-02)
Jon Runyan (NJ-03)
Mike Simpson (ID-02)
Adrian Smith (NE-03)
Lee Terry (NE-02)

Lamar Alexander (TN-SEN)
Saxby Chambliss (GA-SEN)
Tom Coburn (OK-SEN)
Bob Corker (TN-SEN)
Mike Crapo (ID-SEN)
Mike Enzi (WY-SEN)
Lindsey Graham (SC-SEN
Mike Johanns (NE-SEN)
John McCain (AZ-SEN)
Jeff Sessions (AL-SEN)
David Vitter (LA-SEN)

Remember this list does not even include the 4 incoming Republican Senators and 16 incoming Republican Representatives who never signed the pledge to begin with and don't plan to sign. References below and at DEARGROVER.COM.

UPDATE: Added two more names, Mike Enzi and Rich Nugent.  Thanks to commenters.  Should also note Jeff Sessions is being very vague but still have him in the list for now.

Continue Reading

Obviously to be middle class it means you have to be in the top half of family income.  It makes perfect sense if you think about it, doesn't it?  Or are you part of the 47%?

Stuart Stevens:

On Nov. 6, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters.
Census Bureau:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, real median household income fell for the second year in a row in 2011 - two years after the official end of the Great Recession - to $50,054.
Exit Polls:
Income          All Voters        Obama        Romney
Under $50k         41%             60%           38%  
$50k-$100k         31%             46%           52%
Over $100k         28%              44%           54%  

Under $50k          41%             60%           38%  
Over $50k           59%              45%           53%  

Under $100k        72%             54%           44%  
Over $100k         28%              44%           54%  

In other words, even if you raise the bar to $100,000, twice the median family income, Obama still won among voters making $100,000 per year or less, not Romney.  Maybe next time Stuart can redefine middle class as twice the median family income and up?  Then they could win it!
Discuss

Grover will have to cross off some names on his list of pledge signers in Congress (PDF).

According to his web site, Norquist says 39 Senators and 219 Representatives signed.

However, he counts both candidates in LA-03, only one can win, so that is really 218.

Reuters confirms this, only 218 of 234 incoming House Republicans signed, sixteen did not.

Then, this morning Peter King publicly declared that he will renounce his own pledge.

“I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss. A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress,” King said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” He continued: “For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a declaration of war against Japan. I’m not going to attack Japan today.The world has changed and the economic situation is different.”
As a result only 217 still support the pledge while the remaining 218 are opposed to it!

Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham have renounced theirs, too.  Who will be next?

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