filibuster

Hero Senator with Bladder of Steel to (Literally) Stand Up to Global Perpetual War Machine

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The last time Rand Paul stood on his feet for 13 hours, he created a phenomenon. His filibuster before the nomination of a CIA director to get answers from the White House about drone policy basically launched his presidential campaign. It catapulted him into the national spotlight, united a civil libertarian coalition of Republican and Democrat senators, and spawned the #StandWithRand hashtag that has become his campaign slogan two years later.

Now the senator has vowed to do the same thing, but for real this time. Two years ago, Paul wasn’t trying to block the Brennan nomination with his filibuster, only to delay it to force a clarification from the Obama administration on how they decide who receives oversight-free execution via flying death robot. He got it.

This time, he’s definitely trying to affect policy.

“I’m going to lead the charge in the next couple of weeks as the Patriot Act comes forward,” [Paul] said in a one-on-one interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader. “We will be filibustering. We will be trying to stop it. We are not going to let them run over us. And we are going to demand amendments and we are going to make sure the American people know that some of us at least are opposed to unlawful searches.”

Mitch McConnell and the “Republican brand”

TL;DR: Mitch McConnell feels threatened by principled conservatives and feels that they’re ruining the “Republican brand” by challenging him and other establishment Republicans. But really, the “Republican brand” is in shambles, and it’s time to re-define that brand to return to small-government principles.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t a happy camper these days. He’s locked in both a contentious primary and general election fight, losing rule battles against his Democratic counterpart, and has to contend with some members of his own party who are constantly willing to stand on principle, rather than the party line.

“The ‘Republican brand’ was severely damaged several years ago. That was largely due to dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush, an unpopular war, and corruption in Congress.”

The rise of the Tea Party movement and conservative organizations have created havoc for McConnell and Republican leadership in the chamber, who enjoyed mostly distant rumblings from the political right in the past. But over the last few months, there has been a tiff between the Kentucky Republican and the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) that has now boiled over into the public.

Senate on a slippery path with filibuster change

The manufactured crisis last week that led to extraordinary, unprecedented change to the filibuster, prompted by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Democrats, is the first step down a road that undermines the nature of the chamber and will, almost certainly, lead to bigger changes.

The Senate was meant to be the more prestigious body of Congress and its members, given six-year terms, were selected to be responsive to state interests in Washington. Members of the House of Representatives, on the other hand, were meant to serve as the voices of the people, subject to re-election every two years.

Contrary to what President Obama said in his statement after the filibuster change, that “if you got a majority of folks who believe in something, then it should be able to pass,” the upper chamber was never meant to serve as a “voice of the people,” nor was meant to rubber stamp majoritarian views or interest.

It was meant, as James Madison once said, “to consist in its proceedings with more coolness, with more system and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” Passing legislation and approving nominees based on consensus. The filibuster — which has existed as a concept since the chamber was created and in practice since 1837 — was a tool to achieve consensus.

But, over time, the Senate has become more and more like the House, beginning in 1913 with the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment, which mandated direct election of senators by voters in their respective states.

The Founding Fathers were concerned about a legislative branch that was too responsive to the whims of majority views, which could potentially be dangerous to essential liberty. In Federalist 10, Madison warned about the problem of faction.

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).

Despite filibuster deal, questions remain on NLRB

The devil, as they say, is in the details. It’s easy to forget in the face of larger-than-life scandals (Benghazi, IRS targeting, improper and runaway spending in federal agencies) that the small, underreported, and incremental chipping away at free-market values is what may get us to what many fear the most: the irreversible intrusion of the federal government into the very machinery of our economy.

Media has begun buzzing — as much buzz as they can muster over what are mostly perceived as tiny earthquakes — about President Obama making two new nominations to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). As Josh Gerstein at Politico reports:

A developing deal to break an impasse over President Barack Obama’s nominations to the National Labor Relations Board may head off proposed changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules but it seems unlikely to scuttle a Supreme Court showdown over Obama’s authority to use his recess appoinment power to fill longstanding vacancies in the executive branch and the courts.

Floundering Old Guard Republicans re-launch attacks on Rand Paul

Back in March, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) propelled himself to the forefront of Republican politics when he led an inspiring 13-hour filibuster against the confirmation of CIA nominee John Brennan.

For the entirety of his procedural protest, Paul and several of his colleagues, most notably Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), highlighted the constitutional problems with President Barack Obama’s drones policy, which is largely consistent with the views of his hawkish predecessor and many of today’s conservatives. Paul would go onto win the CPAC straw poll the following week and has been a frequent voice of opposition to the Washington political establishment on foreign policy.

The reaction from the Old Guard Republicans was expected. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) both sided with President Obama on drones and foreign policy and admonished Paul from the Senate floor with the latter referring to his colleague from Kentucky a “wacko bird.” Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, called Paul’s foreign policy views “dangerous” and tried to label him as an “neo-isolationist.” Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s token Republican, has also taken shots at Paul on foreign policy, though with little effect.

Rand Paul Issues Second Letter Asking the FBI About its Drone Use

On March 6th, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) held a 13-hour long filibuster to rally against this administration’s threatening drone policy concerning the targeting of American citizens overseas. He also used the time he had to ask broader questions dealing with the potential targeting of Americans on U.S. soil, which weren’t fully answered.

On June 20th, Sen. Paul requested more answers concerning the current U.S. drone use. Unfortunately, the Senator did not obtain any responses to his first letter, which was directed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the official release, Sen. Paul questioned the FBI Director Robert Mueller on whether the agency is actively using drones without governance policy, which would be the only way to assure the lawful use of the unmanned devices is authorized.

With the first letter, Sen. Paul asked the FBI for details on the period in which drones have been in use by the agency, and accurate information on whether these devices are armed.

Sen. Paul has now issued a second letter since the FBI failed to provide answers to his questions after Robert Mueller testified before Congress on June 19th claiming that the FBI does operate done aircrafts.

Shame on You, Johnny Isakson

Johnny Isakson

It hasn’t been a good few weeks for me if I wanted to be proud of my senators.  First, we had Saxby Chambliss use a ridiculous argument against same-sex marriage, and now we have Johnny Isakson’s opposition to a filibuster on gun control legislation.

Isakson’s office is reportedly saying he opposes the legislation, and that may be true, but he sees no problem with it passing.

You see, the United States Senate is in the hands of the Democrats.  They want this to become law.  That means it’s likely to pass the Senate.  Isakson isn’t a complete moron.  He knows this.  He knows that in a vote, the bill passes.

He should also know that he swore and oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States”, and on that he’s falling down on the job.

The problem stems from the misguided idea that universal background checks would do anything to curb violence in this country.

Folks, gang bangers, drug cartels, and other violent groups aren’t exactly deterred by laws. They’re criminals. By definiton, they skirt the law.  A universal background check will put more of a burden on the law abiding citizen who would like to purchase a gun from a buddy.

Isakson should know this.  I suspect he does know this.  However, instead of supporting an effort that is both legal and ethical as a way to block this, he’s arguing that members of his own party should sit down, shut up, and do nothing as they watch this nation go further down the tubes.

Chatting with Igor Birman

Igor Birman

“I think the impressionable libertarian kids are going to save our nation.” — Igor Birman

Late last year, I ran across video of Igor Birman, who immigrated to the United States with his family as the Soviet Union was collapsing, warning against a more centralized government healthcare system. Birman, who now serves as Chief of Staff to Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), was explaining that the Soviet system relied on rationing of healthcare, which would be the end result of ObamaCare.

Earlier this week, I had the chance to sit down with Birman to discuss his story, the transformation of the United States into a police state, ObamaCare, the budget, and other destructive economic policies that are being pushed by the White House.

When asked about the recent filibuster in the Senate, Birman applauded Sen. Rand Paul and noted that it was refreshing to hear a politician be so passionate. He also compared the policies implemented as part of the “war on terror”  to life in the Soviet Union, where the government frequently searched homes of ordinary citizens without cause, which he called a “fact of life,” noting that “you just accepted it as much as you did the cold weather and the long lines for the basic staples of food and water.”

Birman experienced this first-hand. “A week before we left for the United States, we went to say goodbye to my uncle in St. Petersburg and when we came back, we found our apartment just absolutely ravaged,” recalled Birman. “The authorities must have been looking for whatever lame excuse they could find to either delay or disrupt our departure.”

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.


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