Congress

Matt Lewis Is Right: Rand Paul Is Wrong on Term Limits, Here’s Why

(Editor’s note: this post first appeared on George Scoville’s personal blog.)

The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has a really important piece up this morning critiquing Rand Paul’s rhetoric on congressional term limits from Paul’s announcement of his 2016 presidential campaign yesterday. During his speech, Paul said, “We limit the president to two terms … It is about time we limit the terms of Congress.”

Here are the counterpoints Lewis offers (emphasis added):

Five Things That Are Right with the Congressional Budget Process

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog published a listicle by public affairs consultant John Feehery (once a spokesman for former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, the moderate, more timid successor to revolutionary Newt Gingrich), opining on the messy federal budget process. My attempts to reach Reid Epstein, the blog’s editor, to offer a counterpoint were fruitless, so here are five reasons we should be thankful for the current federal budgeting process.

The Senate Letter to Iran is Dumb, But Not Unprecedented

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In case you still consider the left to be great defenders of free speech, please be advised that nearly half the US Senate is being accused of treason for the heinous crime of writing a letter.

That letter, written by the junior senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, was sent to Iran. In it, Cotton and the other 46 signatories lay out the constitutional case that a potential nuclear disarmament (or armament, depending on your perspective) deal must be approved by Congress. Here is the full letter:

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Cotton is right, of course. While the chief executive conducts foreign policy, he can only make treaties with the consent of 2/3 of the US Senate. But that’s precisely what makes this so silly and pointless.

Why would Cotton & Co bother pointing this out to Iran? His chamber has the last say on any deal with Iran. If anyone needs to be reminded of that, it’s the White House, who has suggested otherwise. To go around the White House and engage a foreign government directly, especially while negotiations are ongoing, is petty and unseemly.

Today in Liberty: Email Scandals, Threats to Signature Legislation, and Netflix’s Discovery That Big Government Is No Friend

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Plenty of red meat in the news these days, from Hillary Clinton’s homebrewed email server to the US Ambassador to South Korea getting slashed in the face. Taken individually, these stories are just a fun diversion as part of surprisingly full news cycle. Taken together, however, they represent a potential sea change in how government functions — and how citizens and voters are reacting to it. Not surprising that things are changing in the time of NSA data gathering, a newly confident Russia, and the (continued) rise of the brutal Islamic State. So here’s a rundown for those seeking the little glimmers of liberty buried under the chaos.

CPAC happened last week and there was an air of excitement and momentum surrounding the incredibly deep GOP field leading into 2016’s presidential election. Scott Walker has ramped up his game and Jeb Bush tried to make the case that he’s not just the guy the Democrats would love to see make a run. And Rand Paul, as he usually does, won the straw poll largely due to the contingent of young voters who attend the annual gathering. A really great thing in fact because it means the millenials may actually be migrating to the right at a greater clip than anyone knew. But while Rand won the youth, social media and news data says that Scott Walker’s the one to watch…for now:

President Obama’s first message to the new Republican majority tells you how the next two years will go

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Upon receiving his second and final midterm electoral thumping last November, President Obama vowed to work with the new Congress and its Republican majorities in both House and Senate. On Sunday, Obama reiterated his pledge:

“I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done,” Obama told reporters before leaving on his annual end-of-the-year holiday in Hawaii. “We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen.”

But Tuesday, while the new Congress was being sworn in and voting for their caucus leadership, Obama sent his real message to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner: roughly, “GFY”:

“I can confirm that the president would not sign this [Keystone XL] bill,” Earnest said at a White House press briefing when asked about legislation set to advance in Congress this week that would greenlight the project.

It takes a lot of guts to project an image of bipartisanship, compromise, and utilitarian pragmatism and then threaten vetoes of bills that haven’t even been introduced. At least give them a day to put their names on the doors.

Well, this is an awful idea: There’s a push on the Hill to require Congress to work five days a week

It might sound like a good idea, but the latest call to make Congress work more probably is the most dangerous piece of legislation we’ve seen since the “you’ve got to pass it to know what’s in it” ObamaCare atrocity. Sure, the logic is that the taxpayers are paying lawmakers a (more than) fair amount of money yearly, considering wages, benefits and perks. The problem is that unlike other professions, getting “more bang for the buck” definitely should not include forcing longer work hours, at least not on the Hill.

TheHill.com reports:

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) plans to introduce a bill that would require the House and Senate to work five days a week.

Congress is on a five-week August recess, which prevents Nolan from introducing his bill until the House comes back into session on Sept. 8.

The House and Senate rarely work five days a week in Washington. Each chamber typically is only in session for two full days and two half days per week, and lawmakers often spend the remaining half of the week back home in their districts.

Beyond requiring longer working hours, this bill would require open debate on all bills. While that might be a good idea, forcing longer sessions on the Hill definitely wouldn’t be a good idea. Our problem now is that we have far too many laws, so solutions to our problems do not include encouraging lawmakers to create more of them. Otherwise, it’s at least a little amusing to consider the irony that this bill hasn’t been introduced because Congress is in summer recess.

Nonprofits are stepping up to do what the VA system isn’t: Helping our brave veterans

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The Texas Medical Association is stepping up where the Veterans Affairs system is failing.

The TMA announced this week they were starting a registry where private physicians could say whether or not they would accept veterans in their offices. The list would be given to community groups and VA health system officials. This is after The Daily Beast reported the Central Texas VA was being run like a “crime syndicate” so executives could get bonuses.

It isn’t the first time the non-profit group has suggested private doctors take care of veterans. They pressed the American Medical Association to tell President Barack Obama and Congress that military members deserved to have health care outside of the VA system.

Texas doctors aren’t the only ones doing this. Cooper University Health Care also announced this week they’d be starting a program to help veterans get access to care. Their “Cooper Veterans VIP Priority Program” is promising to deliver same-day service to veterans needing treatment. That’s down from the 25-day wait period veterans were having in the New Jersey VA system. Vets needing to see a specialist had to wait 45 days.

To Help The Poor, To Not Help The Poor

Republicans in the Senate blocked legislation this week that would increase the federal minimum wage. Currently, the federal minimum wage level is at $7.25 an hour and the failed proposed increase would have raised it to $10.10 an hour. Democrats promoting the bill claimed it was a strong way to combat poverty.

The expected outrage at the failure of the bill included sound bites from an angered Obama aimed at Republicans, saying, “They said ‘no’ to helping millions working their way out of poverty.” Republicans responded to the many criticisms citing the CBO report showing that 500,000 jobs were expected to be lost if the increase was passed.

Though that is a great argument to make since it is quite difficult to work your way out of poverty if you no longer have a job, it is not the only one. The options for a business owner that is presented with a forced increase to labor costs include raising prices and cutting hours as well as cutting jobs entirely.

So, from the view of a poverty stricken minimum wage worker these options look just as bad. They are faced with an increase in the prices of goods and services they need. Not to mention they now run the risk of having their hours cut or losing their job entirely.

How many people in poverty would see an increase in pay because of this bill? According to the Census Bureau, in 2012, nearly 60% of those living at or near the poverty level were not in the workforce, meaning an increase in wage would not help.

White House Budget Director Refuses to Answer Whether Obama’s Proposal Ignores the Law

 Sylvia Burwell

President Barack Obama appears to have ignored the Democrats’ decision to pass on pushing through a budget and decided to make a move on his own.

Obama’s recently unveiled $3.9 trillion budget would raise more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years and increase spending $56 billion above statutory caps in the next year alone, which means that the President did not consider the spending caps both the White House and Congress agreed to last year before he decided to unveil his plan.

During a Budget Committee hearing yesterday, Sylvia Burwell, Obama’s White House Budget Director, seemed to struggle to answer Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) question regarding the president’s budget proposal. While Obama’s plan would increase spending, Burnwell refused to answer Sessions when asked whether the budget would allow more spending than what had been already agreed to previously when the President signed the Ryan-Murray budget.

According to the Budget Director, “there are some questions that are not simply Yes or No questions.” Her justification and defense of the new budget proposal ignores the budget already signed by the president. When asked if she wanted Congress to change the Ryan-Murray budget so that the increased spending proposed by Obama would then become a possibility, Burnwell also struggled to respond.

Texas Candidates “Reject the Debt”

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Coming out of a brutal series of losses in last fall’s fiscal fights, budget hawks are facing tough odds.

Some commentators have gone as far as to say that fiscal restraint has been defeated in Congress, with the heyday of 2010 giving way to a situation in which those who want to cut spending and reign in looming deficits and debt have taken a “back seat.”

Have deficit hawks finally been defeated? Is big spending the new norm?

Not if a cadre of Texas candidates has anything to do with it.

On Monday, the Coalition to Reduce Spending announced that 14 candidates for federal office from across the state had signed the Coalition’s Reject the Debt pledge ahead of Tuesday’s primary. The pledge requires elected officials to (1) consider all spending open for reduction, (2) vote only for budgets with a path to balance, and (3) offset any new spending with cuts elsewhere.

The signatories include Tea Party favorites like Katrina Pierson and Matt McCall, in a diverse scattering of candidates from across the state. The Coalition has also been in touch with various third party and Democratic challengers and expects more candidates to jump on after the primary.

“Washington won’t change until we change the incentives of the people we send there,” Coalition President Jonathan Bydlak said. “Candidates have to hold themselves accountable, or we have to do it for them. I’m pleased to see this group willing to hold themselves to fiscal restraint.”


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