Archive for the ‘Senate’ Category

Republican Senator Mike Lee suggests Donald Trump could kill the Republican Party

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

As an original tea party organizer, I participated in our movement’s growth from an act of street protest into an organized, albeit decentralized political force. By 2010, we had managed to elect some of the most impressive liberty Republicans seen in generations.

I was optimistic.

Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Raul Labrador, Mick Mulvaney, and David Schweikert, these were Republican leaders of integrity.

But one of the best remains Mike Lee.

Sen. Lee is a brilliant constitutional conservative — who also happens to be one of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet. As the Republican National Convention unfolds — or more accurately, erupts into chaos — Lee has been thrust into a position of influence both logistically and intellectually.

The mild-mannered Utahan, who has expressed concern about the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, is Chairman of the RNC’s Rules Committee this year. And as he told Politico, “I have never in all my life, certainly in six years in the United States Senate, prior to that as a lifelong Republican, never seen anything like this.”

Lee was referencing pro-Trump forces running roughshod over delegates who wanted a chance to vote on rules they found unfair and silencing. A critic of Trump himself, Lee hoped Republican delegates — by the nature of their positions longtime Republican activists — would be allowed more say over the direction of their party.

As he told The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes: “There’s a lot of support for reforms within the Republican Party, particularly changing the rules to make sure we remain a vibrant party, a party that welcomes grassroots participation and nurtures activists rather than shunning them.”

And Hayes accurately described Lee, writing, “In his short time in the U.S. Senate, Utah Republican Mike Lee has distinguished himself as a policy innovator and a constitutional conservative who actually knows the Constitution.”

The intellectual backbone Lee has provided the Republican Party in the six short years he’s been in office has been invaluable. As a liberty Republican activist who hoped we could harness conservative disapproval of Washington forlibertarian populist ends, Lee’s work has stood out as a policy beacon.

Unfortunately, this project has been severely disrupted in the near-term by Trump’s more authoritarian form of populism. As the New York Times’ Ross Douthat observed:

This is of course, in reference to Lee’s last stand, flanked by other delegates highly skeptical of Trump; who represent a majority of Republican voters. As Rare’s Yasmeen Alamiri reported, Lee stood with the convention-goers demanding a rules vote, per traditional RNC protocol.

Instead, Lee and his allies were silenced; their mics literally turned off by party bosses.

It’s impossible to describe this as anything but a setback for constitutional conservatives who have been working to harness grassroots passion for limited government purposes. If you were to freeze 2016 in time, it would appear that our work has decisively failed.

But I do believe — and Mike Lee is one of the many wonderful conservatives at the center of this — despite this unfortunate detour, constitutional and liberty Republicans are laying the groundwork for a generational shift.

As Lee said, “The Republican Party has been known as the natural refuge of the conservative. If we find ourselves with a candidate who doesn’t maintain that status, I don’t know what happens. I don’t know how to live in that world. I don’t know how the Republican Party maintains its vitality. I don’t think it does.”

This speaks to the fact that political parties are empty vessels absent principles. Sure, the Republican Party can be shaped into a more liberty friendly entity. We’ve seen strong evidence of that as a possibility in the past decade. At the same time, we’ve seen how a party can easily be taken in a more authoritarian direction.

This is why the project of liberty conservatives in Congress remains crucial; a truth Mike Lee is keenly aware of. As he told The Weekly Standard, “I look forward to the day when it’ll no longer be news when Congress is actually taking steps to rein in executive overreach, to rein in the federal regulatory system and to do so with a mandate from the people who are made to understand number one Congress has cause this problem.”

This work is paramount whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes our next Commander in Chief. A Congress that acquiesces to a president’s every whim has abdicated its basic function as a representative body.

If prospects for liberty look grim in the immediate future, we can take solace in the fact that Congress seems keen on asserting its supremacy in the face of both Trump and Clinton. Constitutionally speaking, that’s the best outcome conservatives can hope for.

Luckily, we have men like Mike Lee to lead us.

Rand Paul wants to end the draft as a tribute to Muhammad Ali

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

The death of Muhammad Ali has reignited a debate about the outspoken athlete’s legacy, particularly his famous refusal to be drafted to fight in the Vietnam War.

Now, Rand Paul is getting in on the discussion.

Paul recently introduced an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would end the selective service, which forces men between the ages of 18-25 to register for a military draft that, while still technically in existence, hasn’t been enforced since the 1970s.

Now he wants to do it in Muhammad Ali’s honor.

Sen. Paul wrote in the Louisville Courier Journal, “In honor of Muhammad Ali’s life work, I will introduce the repeal of the draft as stand-alone legislation with his name on it.”

“He was a conscientious objector and practiced civil disobedience, a proud American tradition that runs from the Founding Fathers to Thoreau and all the way through Martin Luther King, Jr. in Ali’s own time,” said Paul.

“Ali said in 1975 that he would like to be remembered, ‘As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him and who helped as many of his people as he could – financially and also in their fight for freedom, justice and equality,” Paul added.

If Paul’s bill passes, it will essentially end the draft, officially making the United States dependent upon an on all-volunteer military, as has functionally been the case since 1973.

“One thing I liked about Muhammad Ali is that he would stand on principle even when it was unpopular,” said Paul, speaking to a slew of reporters in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky this week.

Tying Ali’s opposition to the draft to contemporary disparities, Paul said, “The criminal justice system I say now has a racial justice disparity, selective service had a racial disparity, because a lot of rich white kids either got a deferment or went to college or got out of the draft. I’m opposed to Selective Service.”

Paul’s standalone legislation is called ‘The Muhammad Ali Voluntary Service Act.’

Rand Paul is working to end the draft—among other things libertarians will love

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Rand Paul’s 2016 presidential race may be a historical footnote, but the senator libertarians know and love is back at it as Congress works through its annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is passed yearly to allocate defense spending.

As civil liberties advocates will recall, the NDAA was controversially used in 2012 as a vehicle to allow the indefinite detention of American citizens on the mere suspicion of involvement with terrorism. This year however, Sen. Paul is harnessing the NDAA process to promote liberty-aligned priorities.

Sen. Paul has thus far introduced several amendments to the appropriations bill. The most exciting include ending the military draft, declassifying 9/11 documents that allegedly show Saudi involvement in the attacks, and forcing a new congressional vote to authorize Obama’s ongoing Middle Eastern wars.

Ceasing the use of military drafts has long been a libertarian priority, and Paul’s amendment is an exciting addition to the recent discussion about whether the U.S. should also draft women, or if this outdated practice of conscription is even necessary anymore.

And Paul’s move to declassify 28 pages worth of documents that allegedly implicate the Saudi government in the 9/11 attacks comes on the heels of heated debate about this issue among lawmakers.

In the House, Reps Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), have been pressing this matter for months, with a major assist from former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). Graham co-chaired the intelligence committee that wrote the classified pages in 2002.

This helped lead to the recent passage of a Senate bill that allows Americans whose family members were lost during 9/11 to sue the Saudi Arabian government. Sen. Paul and many others now believe it’s long past time to declassify the information that would apparently justify this legislation.

Sen. Paul is also using the NDAA debate to force a matter that has long been a pet issue of his: Acquiring congressional authorization for acts of war abroad.

Paul recently authored an op-ed at Time Magazine on this topic, writing: “One generation cannot bind another generation to perpetual war. Our Constitution mandates that war be authorized by Congress.”

Paul’s point of contention is that the Obama administration is still working off of two Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) measures passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002, even though many new fronts of war have been opened since.

In addition to his work on making the NDAA even the slightest bit more liberty friendly, Sen. Paul is a sponsor of other great standalone legislation. Paul’s most notable recent accomplishment is the passage through the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act.

This bipartisan piece of legislation would empower federal workers to identify ways to save taxpayer money by giving them bonuses for helping to reduce spending; a seemingly commonsense measure that has evaded Congress so far.

It’s only been three months since Paul ended his presidential bid. Obviously, he’s been busy, pursuing these and other important measures, working across the aisle to achieve his goals when necessary.

Liberty-lovers can sleep a little easier knowing he’s there.

After being “Against Trump,” this famous conservative magazine has made an endorsement

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

National Review made waves earlier this year when they dedicated an entire edition of their magazine to opposing the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. Twenty-two conservative writers produced essays explaining why they are, as the issue was titled, “Against Trump.” This helped spark the #NeverTrump campaign, that has taken hold in many corners of conservative social media.

Now, National Review is endorsing Ted Cruz for president.

As the magazine’s editors explained, “Conservatives have had difficulty choosing a champion in the presidential race in part because it has featured so many candidates with very good claims on our support. As their number has dwindled, the right choice has become clear …”

While this helps Cruz, there’s a deeper story about how it’s disappointing for Senator Marco Rubio, who continues to underperform electorally and so poorly that it’s hard to see a path to victory for him.

As of this writing, Trump has 458 delegates, Cruz has 359, and Rubio has only 151. A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the nomination. National Review’s editors, some of whom seemed more inclined to support Rubio, are likely seeing the writing on the wall as the 2016 primary season unfolds.

Rubio’s home state of Florida votes on March 15th. Delegate-wise, it’s a winner-take-all contest, and a do-or-die moment for the junior senator. Real Clear Politics’ polling average for Florida puts Rubio behind Trump at 39.9 percent versus 25.2 percent, with Cruz in third place at 18.2 percent.

While some recent polls indicate that Rubio is on an upward swing in Florida, it may not be enough for him to eke out a crucial victory in what some believe should be a slam dunk contest for him.

This is largely why, despite many Republicans’ reservations about Cruz, many are beginning to see him as the only candidate capable of stopping Trump. Even Senator Lindsey Graham, who ran unsuccessfully for president this cycle and eventually endorsed Jeb Bush, has softened his anti-Cruz stance. This has become more common as a desperate Republican establishment scrambles to find a Trump alternative. For example, just this week, Jeb Bush’s brother Neil joined the Cruz finance team.

Of Cruz’s conservative credentials, National Review’s editors write:

“We supported Cruz’s campaign in 2012 because we saw in him what conservatives nationwide have come to see as well. Cruz is a brilliant and articulate exponent of our views on the full spectrum of issues. Other Republicans say we should protect the Constitution. Cruz has actually done it; indeed, it has been the animating passion of his career. He is a strong believer in the liberating power of free markets, including free trade (notwithstanding the usual rhetorical hedges). His skepticism about ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ is leading him to a realism about the impact of immigration that has been missing from our policymaking and debate. He favors a foreign policy based on a hard-headed assessment of American interests, one that seeks to strengthen our power but is mindful of its limits. He forthrightly defends religious liberty, the right to life of unborn children, and the role of marriage in connecting children to their parents — causes that reduce too many other Republicans to mumbling.”

The editors did hedge their bet slightly though, adding that, “He has sometimes made tactical errors [in the Senate], in our judgment; but conflicts have also arisen because his colleagues have lacked direction, clarity, and urgency.” They also noted that, “No politician is perfect, and Senator Cruz will find that our endorsement comes with friendly and ongoing criticism.” They then cited issues with his tax plan, lack of clarity as to what he’d replace Obamacare with, and questioned his strategy for mobilizing conservatives in a general election.

Nevertheless, National Review has concluded that Cruz is currently the best candidate to stop Trump, to the extent that it’s even possible.

The March 15th primaries promise to determine what’s possible. If Trump does in fact win Florida and Ohio, both winner-take-all states, the efforts of National Review and the #NeverTrump crowd may have been in vain.

 

How Rand Paul plans to stop the sale of U.S. weapons to Pakistan

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Senator Rand Paul is about to introduce a creative resolution that would halt U.S. arms sales to the government of Pakistan.

“This power hasn’t been used since the Reagan administration,” Paul told Rare, citing a 1986 push to stop arms salesto Saudi Arabia.

Sen. Paul said it’s dangerous for the U.S. government to continue arming that country, with its long history of human rights violations, particularly against Christians.

He plans to take advantage of a little-known procedural maneuver that allows senators to object to arms sales. “I object to continuing to feed the arms race in that area of the world,” Paul said. “Once we give planes to one side, the other side will need more planes,” he added.

Paul noted Pakistan’s holding of Asia Bibi, a Christian, is troubling. “[Bibi] is on death row for supposedly criticizing the state religion. I think that’s a human rights violation to such a degree that we shouldn’t be subsidizing arm sales to a country that is persecuting any Christians,” Paul said.

Bibi has been jailed by Pakistan for five years for breaking that country’s blasphemy laws.

Paul also noted his opposition to U.S. taxpayers subsidizing this endeavor to the tune of at least $4 billion. Paul says he’s concerned because Pakistan’s behavior hasn’t been reliable.

Rare asked Sen. Paul what he believes those who support arming Pakistan expect to get from it. He explained that, “They say it’s a way to fight terrorism. But frankly, Pakistan has been an uncertain ally as far as the War on Terrorism goes.”

“There are some allegations that the ten years Osama bin Laden spent in Pakistan, that could have almost never have occurred without their knowledge,” Paul noted.

The senator noted that some politicians believe the United States influences Pakistan’s behavior by giving them weapons. Paul doesn’t buy it.

“Not only is Pakistan’s imprisonment of Asia Bibi wrong, they imprisoned Dr. Shakil Afridi, who helped us get bin Laden,” said Paul.

“Until they release those [two prisoners], I will be forcing votes on any arm sales to Pakistan,” the senator insisted.

For Sen. Paul, who since leaving the presidential race has been focusing on reelection in his home state of Kentucky, the issue also comes down to a matter of priorities.

“As I’m traveling around Kentucky and I see the looks on the faces of people who are out of work, and we have a lot of people who have lost their jobs in the coalmines, it saddens me to think of where they are, and their situations. Yet then we’re sending money to Pakistan.” Paul said.

“We don’t even have enough money take care of our people at home,” he added. “We have no business sending hundreds of millions of dollars overseas, and fueling an arms race at the same time.”

Sen. Paul said that he expects that his objection to arming Pakistan will be heard on the Senate floor during the week of March 7th.