Today in Liberty: Darrell Issa may hold White House official in contempt, Senate Republicans block anti-Hobby Lobby bill

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

— Issa may take action against defiant White House official: David Simas, director of the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, may find himself in contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify yesterday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on violations on the Hatch Act. “I can’t rule it in or out, yet,” said Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), according to Politico. “I can’t answer what we will do in this case, but I can tell you that there is a similar case that occurred under President [George W.] Bush and the similarities are significant.” Democrats on the committee, of course, defended the White House, which has ostensibly claimed executive privilege in order to prevent Simas from testifying. Because, you know, the suspicious political activities of the White House are basically state secrets. Or something.

— Republicans block Democrats’ Hobby Lobby bill: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brought a measure designed to get around the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case to the floor for a procedural vote, but was unable to get enough support to bypass a Republican filibuster. “The Senate rejected, by a 56-43 vote, the first procedural motion to advance the bill. Sixty votes were needed to limit debate on the motion to proceed,” Roll Call reports. “The measure, sponsored by Democrats Patty Murray of Washington and Mark Udall of Colorado, would prevent employers from refusing to cover contraception or any other type of health coverage guaranteed under federal law for their employees and dependents.” You can see how your senators voted here. Republicans are, of course, right to block this bill and, thankfully, they’re pushing legislation that would study making birth control available over-the-counter. At least it’s something.

— House votes to restore gun rights in D.C.: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced an amendment late Wednesday afternoon to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that would prohibit the District of Columbia from enforcing some of its onerous gun control statutes. “Criminals by definition don’t care about laws. They will get guns any way they can,” Massie said in a press release. “Strict gun control laws do nothing but prevent good people from being able to protect themselves and their families in the event of a robbery, home invasion, or other crime. Studies indicate that murder rates rise following bans on firearms.” The House of Representatives passed the amendment in a 241 to 181 vote. Though it’s far past time to extend gun rights to law-abiding residents in the District, the Senate will likely strip out the Massie amendment, or it’ll be moot when Congress passes a separate measure to continue funding the federal government.

— Rand Paul is making friends in Silicon Valley: The Kentucky Republican and likely 2016 presidential hopeful will be out in San Francisco today to get to know donors in the tech industry. Paul “hopes the three-day trip can tap into a powerful resource that could boost his fundraising skills, message delivery and voter turnout — potent technology tools that were a crucial component in President Barack Obama’s two general-election victories,” Politico explains. “But Paul also has a more lofty agenda — using his strongly held views on National Security Agency surveillance, Internet privacy and free markets to broaden the traditional GOP coalition — and perhaps even convince California voters to turn their state red for the first time since George H.W. Bush in 1988.” Paul has already met with PayPal’s Peter Thiel, who supported his father’s 2012 presidential bid, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Paul’s stance on civil liberties as well as his support of the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation make him an attractive candidate for the tech industry. It may not be enough to win over California voters for the GOP in 2016, whether he is the nominee or not, but Paul continues to go places that most Republicans avoid and this is another example of his long-game strategy. By the way, Paul will be a keystone speaker at this weekend’s Reboot conference, a three-day conservative-libertarian event which will focus on the tech industry and its role in campaigns and policy.

— Good luck with that, Nancy Pelosi: House Democrats held a press conference yesterday in which they outlined their plans should they win control of the lower chamber this fall. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who led the press conference, followed up with the Washington Post, telling the paper that she’s “very certain that we will win the 17 seats we need” to take control of the House. Yeah, about that. “At this point, picking up seats would be a victory for Democrats on Election Day, hopefully better positioning themselves in 2016 to make a real run at flipping the House,” The Hill explains. “But with a president whose approval ratings continue to dwindle and Republicans posting strong fundraising numbers, it’s beginning to seem more likely than not that Republicans will add to their House majority.” Anything is possible and there is still some time for Democrats to change the trajectory of the election, but that would also take a reversal of President Barack Obama’s approval rating, which, whether Pelosi likes it or not, is tied to how her party will perform at the ballot box in November.

— FreedomWorks to host Liberty Summit for black conservatives: In response to the NAACP denying black conservative commentator Deneen Borelli a speaking slot at its convention, FreedomWorks has decided to host their own panel at the same hotel. “After being denied a speaking spot at the NAACP annual convention for the second year running, FreedomWorks Director of Outreach Deneen Borelli will host the Empower Liberty Summit in the same hotel during the conference,” FreedomWorks communications director Jackie Bodnar said in a press release. “A panel followed by Q&A will discuss the three E’s of free-market solutions: education, employment, and energy.” FreedomWorks will also have a booth in the NAACP exhibit hall, a privilege the organization was denied last year. The panel, which will include Borelli and Rev. C.L. Bryant, will take place at Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas on Monday, July 21. More details are available here.

— Liberal billionaire Steyer falls dramatically short of fundraising goal for 2014: It’s still early in the 2014 election cycle, but billionaire and radical environmentalist Tom Steyer has fallen dramatically short of his $50 million fundraising goal to make climate change an issue in this election cycle. Steyer spent millions of dollars to defeat Virginia Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the 2013 gubernatorial election, but it appears he’s having a bout of electile dysfunction this go around. Steyer’s problem may be messaging. His obsession with climate change likely won’t resonate this year, as Gallup reveals only about 2 percent of the electorate considers the issue important. POLITICO reports, “The numbers show just how hard it may be for Steyer to persuade rich liberals to spend their millions on climate change while voters focus on the economy, immigration and Obamacare.” That’s not Steyer’s only messaging problem, though. Liberals accused Romney of using the complicated tax system to hide his wealth in 2012, and it appears as though Steyer has taken a page from Romney’s book by hiding his own personal wealth and his clients’ wealth with the help of the ridiculously complex tax code. Hmph, hypocrite.

— Congressional Surveillance State reformers are running out of time: Politico’s Alex Byers notes the clock is ticking on NSA reform in Washington. With just a few weeks left before August recess, Congress — and especially the Senate — may let the clock run out to return home to campaign. “That reality isn’t lost on the [USA Freedom Act] supporters. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the measure’s top sponsor in the upper chamber, is considering an attempt to bring the bill straight to the Senate floor. The Judiciary Committee has held several hearings on surveillance reforms this Congress but hasn’t yet scheduled a markup.” The Freedom Act, originally hailed as a serious effort to reform the NSA’s domestic spying program, is a shell of its former self, with many outside groups having withdrawn support after the bill was significantly watered down. This should cause civil libertarians to pause and question whether passing an imperfect bill is better than passing no bill at all. If the answer is the former, then Congress must act before the August recess.

— House goes on appropriating spree, cuts more than $1 billion from IRS budget: It’s sometimes hard to tell when Republicans are being serious about cutting spending, but the House voted on a number of amendments to a Financial Services appropriations bill Wednesday afternoon that cut the IRS budget by more than $1 billion, according to The Hill. “Originally, the bill would have provided $10.95 billion for the IRS for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, which would be $341 million less than the current spending level.” The amendments cut bonuses for IRS employees and barred agents from further implementing Obamacare, and even cut funding for non-IRS endeavors like a remodel of the White House bowling alley. Though politically-motivated, it’s good to see House Republicans getting serious about cutting government spending.

— Stockman aide trolls lettuce bikini-clad PETA celeb during veggie dog giveaway: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA for short, are known for their outrageous publicity stunts. So when a scantily-clad celebrity began passing out veggie hot dogs near the Capitol on Wednesday to raise awareness for PETA’s mission, it literally shocked no one. We’ll let you Google those images. But Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman’s senior press assistant and policy advisor Donny Ferguson picked up a box of Popeye’s chicken and devoured the entire meal right in front of the PETA protest. Both Stockman and Ferguson are well known for their in-your-face brand of conservatism that rustles the jimmies of liberals. It certainly gave UL editors a good mid-afternoon chuckle. Bad news for PETA, though: It seems even plants can “feel” themselves being eaten. How long until vegans stop eating altogether?

— Greg Brannon launches online TV show: Greg Brannon, the former North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate, announced that he’ll be hosting a new online TV show, Constitutional Path to Liberty. He will focus on issues facing North Carolina, raising suspicions that he may run for office again at some point, talk about how free market policies are the answer to the United States’ economic woes. The online TV show will compliment his weekly radio show that airs on Wilmington-based WMYT every Wednesday at 8 am.

Other items we’re reading this morning:

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