James Inhofe

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).

Counter-Point: The fight against earmarks is the opening shot in a much larger battle

This is part two in a debate between Doug Mataconis, a contributor at Outside the Beltway and United Liberty, and Jason Pye, editor of United Liberty, over whether the current debate over earmarks is distraction from the larger fiscal issues facing the nation.

Over the last several years, there has been much debate in Congress over earmarking, which is the process of designating funds for a specific purpose in a spending bill. Critics of the practice call most of these earmarks “pork barrel projects.”

Earmarks are an issue for several reasons. They can distort the marketplace, allowing the government to pick winners and losers. More often than not, the cost of an earmark is greater than the benefit, a point that is especially true with mass transit projects. And there is almost no sunlight on how they are inserted into appropriations bill.

There also is not much public support for the practice. According to a CBS News poll conducted in 2007, 67 percent of the public viewed earmarks as “not acceptable.”

Members of Congress use the practice in order to secure funds for their districts and proudly point them out during their next campaign to prove they are in Washington to “bring home the bacon.” Leadership of parties in Congress will often use earmarks to entice members to vote a certain position on legislation. The 2003 expansion of Medicare and the 2007 emergency spending bill for Iraq are both examples of this practice.

Point: The earmarks debate is a diversion

This is part one in a debate between Doug Mataconis, a contributor at Outside the Beltway and United Liberty, and Jason Pye, editor of United Liberty, over whether the current debate over earmarks is distraction from the larger fiscal issues facing the nation.

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans will take up the issue of whether to forswear earmarking during the upcoming session of Congress. On one side stands Jim DeMint who contends that earmarking is a corrupting process that helps increase the size of spending bills. On the other stands Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who contends that earmarking is an important legislative prerogative and that eliminating it would do nothing to cut Federal spending. While earmark opponents do have a point that the process can be corrupting when not done transparently, the truth is that the so-called “war on earmarks” is a diversion from the real battles that have to be fought in order to reduce the size, scope, and power of government.

Let’s take the Omnibus Spending Bill passed early last year as an example.

Kerry will sign U.N. Arms Trade Treaty

Despite bipartisan opposition in the United States Senate, Secretary of State John Kerry has signed the United Nations’ controversial Arms Trade Treaty, which gun rights supporters fear is a backdoor way to advance strict gun control measures:

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday signed a controversial U.N. treaty on arms regulation, riling U.S. lawmakers who vow the Senate will not ratify the agreement.

As he signed the document, Kerry called the treaty a “significant step” in addressing illegal gun sales, while claiming it would also protect gun rights.

“This is about keeping weapons out of the hands of terrorists and rogue actors. This is about reducing the risk of international transfers of conventional arms that will be used to carry out the world’s worst crimes. This is about keeping Americans safe and keeping America strong,” he said. “This treaty will not diminish anyone’s freedom. In fact, the treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess, and use arms for legitimate purposes.”

Many gun rights supporters believe that the treaty will serve as a backdoor for more strenuous gun control measures than what is currently being pushed by the White House. In particular, there is a requirement for countries to track gun ownership of small arms to the “end user” (gun registration).

Senator Slams Government Ammo Purchases, Wants Probe on Effect on Consumers

ammunition

If you’ve read the Drudge Report at all over the past several months, you know that ammunition is flying off the shelves at an alarming pace. Part of the reason for high-demand is reaction consumer reaction to President Barack Obama’s push for new gun control.

The other aspect is that the federal government is buying up a lot of ammunition, which some claim is a scheme to dry up supply. Some of this is myth — some is fact. But with reports that the Department of Homeland Security will purchase 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition over the next five years, some in Congress are speaking out.

In a radio interview over the weekend, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) expressed concern over the ammunition purchases and touched on legislation that he has introduced that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to determine the effect the government is having on ammunition supply:

Why people blow off climate change

Climate change.  The mere mention of the term is bound to stir deep seated emotions regardless of political ideology, though that particular ideology may dictate what nature those emotions take.  However, it’s difficult for many people to take it seriously.  Why is that?  Because they’ve been wrong before.

From The Daily Caller:

During the hearing, Republican Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John Barrasso of Wyoming questioned the supposed need to enact policies to combat global warming by pointing to similar predictions in the 1970s of a global cooling phenomenon.

The exchange started with Barrasso addressing the committee’s witness, Environmental Protection Agency Director Lisa Jackson.

“Forty years ago, the same scientists that are predicting the end of the world now from global warming were predicting the end of the world from global cooling,” said Barrasso. “So if we had committed the same amount of taxpayer resources and government manpower that the administration now wants us to commit to prevent global warming — if we’d done that prevent global cooling, we wouldn’t be the most prosperous nation on earth.”

He continued: “The fact is that the same doomsday predictions we were getting 40 years is the exact same thing this agency and this administration today. Only now…the problem is man-made global warming.”

Senate rejects earmark moratorium

As expected, the Senate voted down an amendment to S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act (a terrible bill), that would have imposed a two-year moratorium on earmarks (less than transparent process that is part of a larger, more expensive problem in Washington) for members of both parties:

The Senate Tuesday rejected a GOP bid to ban the practice of larding spending bills with earmarks — those pet projects that lawmakers love to send home to their states.

Most Democrats and a handful of Republicans combined to defeat the effort, which would have effectively forbidden the Senate from considering legislation containing earmarks like road and bridge projects, community development funding, grants to local police departments and special-interest tax breaks.

The 39-56 tally, however, was a better showing for earmark opponents, who lost a 29-68 vote earlier this year. Any votes next year should be closer because a band of anti-earmark Republicans is joining the Senate.

Two-thirds (67 votes) of the current membership of the body were need to pass the ban. Seven Democrats voted for the moratorium. Eight Republicans voted against it.

Here are the seven Democrats (*outgoing member):

McConnell will support earmark moratorium

Supporters of Sen. Jim DeMint’s proposal to impose an earmark moratorium on Senate Republicans (what he calls a test on whether or not the GOP got the message that voters sent two weeks ago) received welcome news yesterday as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reversed course, deciding to back the plan:

I have seen a lot of elections in my life, but I have never seen an election like the one we had earlier this month. The 2010 midterm election was a “change” election the likes of which I have never seen, and the change that people want, above all, is right here in Washington.

Most Americans are deeply unhappy with their government, more so than at any other time in decades. And after the way lawmakers have done business up here over the last couple of years, it’s easy to see why. But it’s not enough to point out the faults of the party in power. Americans want change, not mere criticism. And that means that all of us in Washington need to get serious about changing the way we do business, even on things we have defended in the past, perhaps for good reason.

If the voters express themselves clearly and unequivocally on an issue, it’s not enough to persist in doing the opposite on the grounds that “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” That’s what elections are all about, after all. And if this election has shown us anything, it’s that Americans know the difference between talking about change, and actually delivering on it.

Meet James Madison, Senator Inhofe

In an effort to defend earmarks and fight off a proposed moratorium, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who has apparently fallen in love with the smell of the marble in the Halls of Congress, invokes James Madison in defense of the practice:

Earmarks have been part of the congressional process since the founding of our country. As James Madison, the father of the Constitution viewed it, appropriating funds is the job of the legislature. Writing in the Federalist, he noted that Congress holds the power of the purse for the very reason that it is closer to the people. The words of Madison and Article 1 Section 9 of the Constitution say that authorization and appropriations are exclusively the responsibility of the legislative branch. Congress should not cede this authority to the executive branch.

Yes, Sen. Inhofe, that’s why James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, vetoed the Bonus Bill of 1817 (a spending bill loading with pork and pet projects for members of Congress) explicitly because it was unconstitutional:

The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers, or that it falls by any just interpretation with the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.

Senate Republicans debate earmark moratorium

Republicans in the Senate are engaged in a fight over whether or not to enact a caucus-wide moratorium similar to what House Republicans imposed on themselves this year. You would think that this would be a no-brainer as an effort to appeal to grassroots conservatives and tea partyers, but some Republicans are pushing back, including Sen. Mitch McConnell:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is maneuvering behind the scenes to defeat a conservative plan aimed at restricting earmarks, setting up a high-stakes showdown that pits the GOP leader and his “Old Bull” allies against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and a new breed of conservative senators.

In a series of one-on-one conversations with incoming and sitting senators, McConnell is encouraging his colleagues to keep an open mind and not to automatically side with DeMint, whose plan calls on Senate Republicans to unilaterally give up earmarks in the 112th Congress, according to several people familiar with the talks.

While McConnell is not demanding that rank-and-file Republican senators vote against the earmark ban, he’s laying out his concerns that eliminating earmarks would effectively cede Congress’ spending authority to the White House while not making a real dent in the $1 trillion-plus budget deficit. And McConnell is signaling his concern about the awkward politics of the situation: even if the DeMint moratorium passes, Republican senators could push for earmarks, given that the plan is nonbinding and non-enforceable.


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