Dick Durbin

Ted Cruz has been on the Senate floor for over 18 hours

Ted Cruz filibusters CR

“I rise today in opposition to ObamaCare. I rise today in an effort to speak for 26 million Texans and for 300 million Americans,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said yesterday at 2:41pm as he began a filibuster of the House version of the Continuing Resolution (CR), the stop-gap spending measure that Congress must past to avoid a government shutdown.

What has been billed as a “filibuster” isn’t actually a filibuster, as the motion to proceed on the CR will take place today regardless of what Cruz says. Nevertheless, Cruz has used his time — controlling the floor of the Senate for nearly 19 hours, the fourth longest speech in the chamber’s history — to express a multitude concerns about the 2010 healthcare law and Majority Leader Harry Reid’s opposition to raising the vote threshold for changes to the CR to 60 votes (only 51 votes are currently required to make changes).

Rand Paul, Tea Party Senators Stand Strong for the Constitution in Historic Filibuster

Rand Paul

“Epic,” “inspirational,” and “historic” are three words that best describe what I watched transpire on the floor of the United States Senate yesterday. At 11:47am, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) began his filibuster of John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, largely due to the lack of transparency from the Obama Administration on its drone program — specifically the targeted killing of Americans inside the borders of the United States.

The reasons that this gained so much interest was because it was an actual filibuster. This wasn’t a situation where Brennan couldn’t get 60 votes for cloture. Sen. Paul performed an old school filibuster, something that has become all too rare.

There was also another point that made this filibuster unique — Sen. Paul, along with several of his colleagues, spent nearly 13 hours talking substantive policy. There was no reading from a phone book or any other manner of time-buying tricks. Sen. Paul and others spent their time relaying a very pointed message about the Constitution, limits on executive power, and civil liberties.

For nearly 13 hours, Sen. Paul gave one of the most eloquent defenses of the Constitution that I’ve ever witnessed. He was joined at various times by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), both of whom spoke at length on the constitutional concerns over the policy.

Here are the 3 reasons why it’s time to end mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenders

There has been a big, bipartisan push in Congress to right a wrong in the United States’ approach to the drug policy. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 1410), a measure that would end mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) has introduced companion legislation in the House.

Unfortunately, this much-needed, fiscally responsible reform has been stalled in both chambers thanks to leaders from both parties who haven’t accepted that the War on Drugs has been an abject failure.

Criminal law professor Alex Kreit explains why Congress should wise up, giving three reasons that mandatory minimum prison sentences are bad policy in the latest video from Learn Liberty, a project of the Institute for Human Studies.

Kreit’s first reason is that relative to other crimes, drug-related sentences are proportionally too long. For example, someone who has sold marijuana a couple of times and is reported to have had a gun will receive twice as much time as someone who hijacks an airplane or is convicted of second-degree murder.

Today in Liberty: House GOP set elect new leaders on June 19, gun control group caught lying about shooting numbers

“Governments constantly choose between telling lies and fighting wars, with the end result always being the same. One will always lead to the other.” — Thomas Jefferson

— House Republican leadership schedule for June 19: And they’re already taking shape. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who was dealt a stunning and overwhelming loss on Tuesday, will step down from his post at the end of July. That move is expected to open up two top leadership spots — Majority Leader and Majority Whip. Things are moving quickly, but current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) seem to be emerging as two main candidates for Majority Leader ahead of the June 19 conference election. Whatever happens, however, House conservatives could be serious players in what is a delicate process, and that could be good news for Hensarling.

Senate Dems to Obama: Hey, Obamacare is hurting us

Republicans need to win a net of just six seats next year to talk control of the Senate. While their chances seemed relatively low in the wake of the government shutdown, the problems surrounding Obamacare may have given them a much needed lift.

That’s not lost on Senate Democrats. They now get the sense that their majority could be in jeopardy due to the glitches with the federal insurance exchange website and millions of cancellation notices sent to consumers that are a direct result of Obamacare. Needless to say, they’re in a panic (emphasis added):

Democratic senators from red states — the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection next year — voted for Obamacare and have been among the law’s biggest champions, believing that voters would embrace it once they experienced its benefits. They could end up being some of the law’s most prominent casualties if its unpopularity continues to grow.

If voters continue experiencing problems like a balky website, canceled policies and higher premiums, the fallout could be brutal next November, Democrats acknowledge.

Rand Paul: Obama, Democrats “have rejected every compromise”

 Re-Open the Federal Government

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) gave an impassioned plea on Wednesday to his Democratic colleagues to approve measures passed by the House of Representatives to reopen parts of the federal government affected by the government shutdown.

Paul, a likely candidate for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, countered arguments that Republicans are unwilling to negotiate to end the government shutdown and slammed the “farce” of closing federal memorials and monuments.

“We’ve offered request after request to reopen the government. We’ve offered to negotiate. From the other side, we hear, we will not negotiate. We will not compromise. And we will not reopen the government,” said Paul from the Senate floor. “We have offered 13 different compromises today to reopen the government. We are willing to open the government, and they say, oh, you must agree to everything or we will open nothing. We will not compromise, and we say to them, why don’t we open the parts of government that we agree to?”

Senate Dems willing to discuss medical device tax repeal

During an appearance on CNN yesterday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) hinted at that Senate Democrats may be willing to negotiate with Republicans on repeal ObamaCare’s medical device tax, though they expect Republicans to trade repeal of the tax for revenues elsewhere.

Durbin insisted that proposals to delay or defund ObamaCare in the Continuing Resolution (CR), a stop-gap spending measure to fund the government, were dead on arrival in the Senate. But he said that repeal of the medical device tax was on the table.

“We can work out something, I believe, on the medical device tax. That was one of the proposals from the Republicans,” said Durbin, who serves as the Senate Majority Whip, “as long as we replace the revenue so that we don’t put a hole in our deficit and respond to this in a responsible fashion.”

“That’s one thing the Republicans want to talk about it. Let’s sit down, and put that on the table,” he added.

How Debit Card Swipe Fee Regulations Hit Consumers

debit card swipe

Perhaps one of the most brilliant things about a free market is law of supply-and-demand. Businesses or financial institutions set a price for their good and/or services based on demand. But Congress often interferes with this basic economic law, often masquerading it as some sort of “victory for consumers.”

And while there are countless instances, last Monday was the birthday of one of the more recent recent examples. Before passing Dodd-Frank — frequently referred to as the “financial reform law” — the Senate added an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) that capped how much financial institutions could charge for debit card transactions.

Jason Hughey of Americans for Prosperity marked the birthday of this regulation last week, noting that financial institutions are still getting their money, despite having the fee capped. They’re just doing what every other business does when they’re hit with a new regulation — they’re passing the costs along to account holders (emphasis mine):

Before Durbin, banks were charging roughly 44 cents per debit card transaction.  In the aftermath of the market crash, congressional leaders thought that this price cap would help struggling consumers.

Some Democrats getting nervous about tax hikes?

The issue of the fiscal cliff may have taken a backseat thanks to the party conventions and the distractions that have popped up along the campaign, but it looks like President Barack Obama’s tax plan, which would raise tax rates on families making more than $250,000 may be losing some steam among Senate Democrats:

President Barack Obama has made his tax position abundantly clear: Let the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans expire at year’s end.

But on Capitol Hill, some in his own party are ready to make a deal.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois is floating a six-month extension of current rates combined with budget cuts so lawmakers have time to reach a grand bargain deal early next year. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and other Democrats are open to a temporary extension of the top individual tax rate if Republicans agree to raise revenue in other parts of the Tax Code. Some liberals, like New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell, aren’t ruling out extending the current rates if the GOP agrees to sweeteners like a patch on the alternative minimum tax or extending dozens of lapsed business tax breaks.

And Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, along with several of his colleagues, won’t take any option off the table, knowing full well that high-stakes talks over taxes could result in any number of outcomes.

“I’ll certainly consider it,” Nelson said when asked about a short-term extension of all the Bush-era rates. “But I’ll consider anything.”

Democrats Continue to Play Games with Taxes

Taxes

There’s no way to get around it, folks, President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats are playing a dangerous game. Rather than go along with plans to extend current tax rates for all income earner, they’re apparently ready and willing for the economy fall off the “fiscal cliff.”

Recall that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned in May that if the tax cuts expired, the economy would dip back into a recession. More recently, Citigroup noted that the economy would see a 2.9% contraction next year if only “most” the tax cuts remained in place. James Pethokoukis warned that the Citigroup study is especially concerning because the “economy will be lucky to grow 2% next year.”

Unfortunately, these concerns seem to be falling on deaf ears. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told CNN yesterday that the middle class could see a tax hike if Republicans don’t act on President Obama’s tax proposal. However, Republicans are willing to act provided that President Obama and Senate Democrats agree to extend all current tax rates, including those on the middle class.

Sadly, it seems that they’re more content to play political games with the economy, as evidence by the point-of-view from one Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray, (D-WV), via the Wall Street Journal:


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