Carl Levin

More Calls for Intervention in Syria

Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

Pressure is building on President Obama to involve the United States more deeply in the brutal civil war in Syria that may have claimed as many as 70,000 lives, and created more than a million refugees. Late last week, the editorial board of the Washington Post called for “aggressive intervention by the United States and its allies to protect the opposition and civilians.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) apparently believes that the Post didn’t go far enough because the editorial explicitly ruled out sending U.S. ground troops. He wants the U.S. military to secure suspected chemical weapons caches there. But where Graham is leading few will follow, aside from his frequent co-conspirator, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). The American people are not anxious to send U.S. troops into the middle of yet another civil war in the region.

House passes NDAA, White House backs off veto threats

[UPDATE - 7:23pm] The United States Senate passed the NDAA this evening by a vote of 86 to 13. It will now head to President Obama’s desk for approval.

As noted yesterday, House and Senate conferees were moving the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) forward to the final action in both chambers with compromise legislation that kept in controversial language that would allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens and legal residents of the United States.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed the NDAA overwhelmingly last night by a vote of 283 to 136. You can see how your representative and the members of your state’s delegation voted here. It now heads to the Senate for final passage.

For those of you that are just now catching up on this, the House basically voted last night to suspend the right to due process, the right to a trial by a jury of an accuser’s peers, and the right to habeas corpus. And now that the so-called “war on terror” has been expanded to include not only al-Qaeda but also the Taliban and other “associated forces.” Given the war on terrorism has become an open-ended war with civil liberties being offered by Congress on the alter of the “national security,” this provision will be no doubt be abused; if not by this administration than the next.

It was also noted that the White House asked for the language, at least according to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). So it should come as no surprise that the White House has backed off veto threats of the NDAA:

House Republicans should probably investigate Senate Democrats for the big role they played in the IRS scandal

House Republicans have spent a significant amount of time over the 13-plus months investigating the Internal Revenue Service and disgraced official Lois Lerner over the targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.

But a series of ethics complaints filed by the Center for Competitive Politics earlier this month highlights the involvement of nine Senate Democrats, including Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in the IRS scandal, as A. Barton Hinkle explains:

The complaint details several letters Levin wrote to the IRS in which he insisted that “a message needs to be sent” to social-welfare groups “on an urgent basis,” and that the message should make it “crystal clear” they needed to restrict their political activities. Just so the IRS would not misunderstand, he drew attention to two TV advertisements—one by Crossroads GPS and another by Patriot Majority USA.

Unsatisfied by the IRS response, Levin continued to press the agency to give such groups—which are organized under Section 501(c)4) of the tax code—”a choice: either lose their exempt status (and pay taxes) or eliminate the partisan political activity.” He followed that up with a demand to see confidential information about Crossroads GOP, Priorities USA, Americans for Prosperity, and Patriot Majority USA. Informed that “the IRS cannot legally disclose” what he wanted, he tried again—and again. As the ethics complaint notes, “IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller acknowledged in an interview that Senator Levin’s effort did, in fact, have an effect on the IRS’ internal proceedings.”

Obama’s IRS stalling on release of emails between officials and Democratic senators

The Internal Revenue Service has stalled for nearly a year on a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee seeking all correspondence between agency officials and 13 Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and several vulnerable incuments up for reelection this year:

On May 21, 2013 the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent the IRS a Freedom of Information Act request asking for “any and all documents or records, including but not limited to electronic documents, e-mails, paper documents, photographs (electronic or hard copy), or audio files,” related to correspondence from January 1, 2009 and May 21, 2013 between thirteen different Democrat members of Congress and top IRS officials. Those officials include former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, former Commissioner Steven Miller, senior IRS official Joseph Grant and former head of tax exempt groups Lois Lerner. Members of Congress named in the request include Sen. Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Reid (D-NV), DSCC Chair Sen. Bennet (D-CO), Sen. Landrieu (D-LA), Sen. Pryor (D-AR), Sen. Hagan (D-NC), Sen. Begich (D-AK), Sen. Shaheen (D-NH), Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), Sen. Franken (D-MN), Sen. Warner (D-VA), Rep. Braley and Rep. Peters (D-MI).

Since that request was received by the IRS nearly one year ago, IRS Tax Law Specialists Robert Thomas and Denise Higley have asked for more time to fulfill the request six times.

Biggest Stories of 2013: Congress Actually Thinks for Itself on Syria

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

syrian rebels

A strange thing happened on the way to war with Syria: Dems on the Hill began to admit that they would only support a strike on Syria out of loyalty to Obama; and then they began to balk even at that. In short, Congress pushed back against the Executive Office in a manner not seen in the last 5 years. And it was a welcome sight.

Back in March of this year, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad was rumored to have used chemical weapons against his own people and, as United Liberty’s Jeff Scott wrote at the time, it came at a time when there had already been a “bipartisan drumbeat from the usual suspects like Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Carl Levin, plus the ‘humanitarian’ left like the Washington Post’s editorial page eager to get the United States involved in the civil war currently going on in Syria.”

MI Senate: Republican candidate competitive in Democratic-leaning state

Terri Lynn Land

Could a Republican win the open Senate seat in Michigan? Weeks ago, most political observers would have said this is unlikely, and some may still say that Republicans face an unlikely path to winning what is a Democratic-leaning state.

But new survey by Public Policy Polling shows that, at the very least, Republicans will be competitive. The likely Republican nominee, Terri Lynn Land, holds a small, 2-point lead (42/40) over her likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI).

In June, Public Policy Polling found that Peters had a 5-point lead, 41/36, over Land.

The reason for the swing is (surprise!) Obamacare. The poll found that 63% voters in the state don’t believe the implementation of the law has been successful. Just 6% describe implementation as “very successful” and 24% say it has been “somewhat successful.”

Overall, 48% of Michigan voters disapprove of Obamacare, while 34% approve of the controversial law, which has caused an estimated 225,000 policy cancellations in the state, as of the end of November.

Land, who served as Michigan Secretary of State from 2003 to 2011, is viewed favorably by 34% of voters, just 23% view her unfavorably. Just 22% have a favorable view of Peters, 21% have an unfavorable view of the Democratic candidate.

Michigan voters aren’t too thrilled with President Barack Obama, who won the state by 9 points last year. His job approval in among voters is underwater, at 47/51.

War in Syria: Just Say No

Last week was the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the United States’ involvement in the war in Iraq.  After 10 years, I still believe that the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime was the correct decision, but that the aftermath of the initial invasion was horribly managed, with poor rules of engagement, no clear strategy, and no real definition of “victory.”  Even after the successful surge in troop levels helped to prevent an immediate decline into civil war and achieve an unsteady peace, the inability of the Obama Administration to come to a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government not only left the United States with no tangible benefits 10 years later, but also left Iraq in a precarious position that runs the risk of declining into civil war that could have horrible regional consequences.

Justin Amash Shouldn’t Run for U.S. Senate

Justin Amash

Justin Amash first won my favor with his staunch adherence to the Constitution, and he further impressed me by taking government accountability and transparency to new levels.

With every vote he casts posted to his social networking profiles, Amash is actively and openly accountable to his constituents. I wish my Congressman were more like Justin Amash. I wish every member of Congress were more like Justin Amash.

Amash is, without a doubt, my favorite politician in Washington, and now there are rumors that he could be trying to move into the Senate. While I love the thought of Amash joining Senators Paul, Lee, and Cruz in the Senate, I don’t think Amash should run for Carl Levin’s soon-to-be-open seat in the Senate.

Amash was challenged for his House seat last cycle by a self-funded Democrat. His campaign was rushing for last-minute fundraisers to put him over the top for Election Day. Fortunately, the challenge from the left was not as much of a challenge as they anticipated, and Amash was able to return to Congress.

Amash doesn’t yet have the statewide name recognition (and the reputation that’s sure to follow) necessary to win in a statewide election. If he’s still at the point where he’s - as the incumbent - concerned about a Democrat with a pile of cash, he’s not ready to be running for a seat in the Senate.

Beyond that, he’s not exactly loved by the GOP leadership back home, and he’d have to spend a lot of his money to get through the primary election cycle. Primary elections can be brutal and expensive, and they’re usually followed by a tough general election as well. Without being a household name, Amash won’t likely be able to “Money Bomb” his way through the election process.

And it’s also worth noting that winning Michigan isn’t exactly a foregone conclusion for Republicans.

Justin Amash is “Certainly Open” to a Senate run in 2014

Justin Amash

Last week, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) announced that we would retire as the end of his current term. As I explained on Friday, this leaves a door open for Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who has been solid on fiscal issues and civil liberties, to make the jump to the Senate — and it looks like he may actually do it. According to The Detroit News, Amash is indeed weighing his options:

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a young firebrand in the lower chamber who has championed a Ron Paul-style of libertarian politics, said Monday he is “certainly open” to a run in 2014.

“Frankly, we can’t afford to nominate another unelectable establishment Republican,” Amash, R-Cascade Township, told The Detroit News. “History shows they don’t appeal to moderate and independent voters.”
Amash, 32, said a traditional establishment candidate cannot win the Senate seat. Posting explanations for his votes — including those that buck the GOP leadership — on his social media pages, Amash said he has enjoyed grassroots support to join the race.

“I don’t think any of the names that are being tossed around have quite hit the spot for most Republican voters or for most voters in the general election,” Amash said. “People both within the Republican Party and within the general electorate are tired of the pro-corporate welfare, anti-civil liberties Republican. I think we need to stop running on the past.”

Carl Levin’s Retirement Leaves an Open Door for Justin Amash

Justin Amash

Yesterday, Carl Levin (D-MI), who has served in the Senate since 1979 and was one of key figures behind the indefinite detention provision in the NDAA, announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014:

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, who has been a force for progressivism in the Senate since 1979 and made his mark in recent years as chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, will not run for re-election next year, likely setting off a political avalanche of interest in the seat.

Levin, 78, released a statement Thursday afternoon saying he made the decisions believing “I can best serve my state and my nation by concentrating in the next two years on the challenging issues before us … in other words, by doing my job without the distraction of campaigning for re-election.”

With Republicans having some modest success in the state in the 2010 mid-term, when Gov. Rick Synder was first elected, and taking control of the state legislature in the most recent election, there could be a door open to take control of this seat in 2014. Among those who may find interest in the seat coud be Rep. Justin Amash.

Rep. Amash, who has cast himself in the mold of Ron Paul and explains every single one of his votes on his Facebook page, has been one of the most vocal defenders of the Constitution in the House of Representatives. He has taken on his own party’s leadership and remained popular in his district.

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