Rob Portman

No More Tanks: Army Tells Congress to Stop Spending

Abrams tank

Whenever people call for cutting the military budget, the usual response goes something like  ”How can you keep the Army from getting the equipment it needs to fight wars?” Well, the problem with that response is highlighted today by this story from ABC:

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.

Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.

If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.

The Constitutional Case for Same-Sex Marriage

As the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week on both Hollingsworth v. Perry - the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state - and U.S. v. Windsor - the challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which recognized marriage at the federal level as between a man and a woman – state and federal laws effecting marriage equality face their first legal confrontation with the Judicial Branch. Herein I make the constitutional case for marriage equality that respects both individual and religious liberties.

Last week, Senator Rand Paul proposed removing federal recognition of marriage - for everyone – telling Bob Costa at the National Review:

Paul Ryan should stay in the House

Paul Ryan

Speculation over Mitt Romney’s possible running mate has been rampant over the last few days. While other names are being floated, including David Petraeus and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, most observers seem to agree that it’s likely down to three candidates — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

Out of the three, Rep. Ryan is garnering the most attention. Many conservatives seem to want him included on the ticket, and they’re laying out a strong case. David Harsanyi, for example, explains that Rep. Ryan “would add a measure of number-crunching earnestness to a campaign (and then, more importantly, should it happen, to an administration) that lives on broad strokes.” However, some want him to remain in remain in the House, where, as chairman of the Budget Committee, he has laid the blueprint to fiscal reform. My colleagues Jeremy Kolassa and George Scoville have already touched on the need for Rep. Ryan to remain in the House for exactly this reason. Over at Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis noted that, as Vice President, Ryan would be largely marginalized.

Today in Liberty: Glenn Greenwald blasts a “corrupted” Hillary Clinton, former CIA official endorses Benghazi committee

“For liberty to triumph in the United States (and eventually throughout the world) libertarianism must become a mainstream movement, converting if not a majority, at least a large, critical minority of Americans.” — Murray Rothbard

— Glenn Greenwald blasts Hillary Clinton: The journalist behind the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures didn’t hold back in his criticism of Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential frontrunner. “Hillary is banal, corrupted, drained of vibrancy and passion. I mean, she’s been around forever, the Clinton circle,” Greenwald said in an interview with GQ. “She’s a f**king hawk and like a neocon, practically. She’s surrounded by all these sleazy money types who are just corrupting everything everywhere.” Gospel.

— Yes, it should be made easier to deal with a bad president: Impeachment, the mechanism in the Constitution for the removal of a president, has become too much of a political football to be an effective tool for Congress, says Gene Healy. It has also been misinterpreted by legal schools. Healy points to one law professor, Sanford Levinson, who is pushing for a new way to deal with a bad president. “Levinson favors a constitutional amendment allowing a congressional ‘no confidence’ vote and removal of the president. Adding that “safety valve” to the Constitution would be a long shot, to say the least,” Healy writes. “But years ago, we went through a yearlong constitutional conniption because the Constitution makes it so absurdly difficult to dethrone a misbehaving executive. Given the vast powers the modern president wields, it ought to be easier to ‘throw the bum out.’”

Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the Congress

Written by K. William Watson, a trade policy analyst for the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. It is cross-posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

With all the China bashing we’re hearing on the campaign trail and the arguments from both candidates that free trade agreements are good only because they increase manufacturing exports, one might reasonably deduce that free trade advocacy is a thing of the past and a losing position with the American people.  If this is true, many in Congress haven’t gotten the memo.  The House and Senate are home to many free traders.  You can see for yourself by visiting Cato’s interactive trade votes database, Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the Congress.

The Cato Institute has been keeping track of how Congress votes on trade issues since 1997.  At the website you can see reports summarizing the votes for each congressional term.  There is no report for last term (2009–2010) because Congress was too busy dealing with healthcare and Keynesian stimulus to take on trade issues, but the last two years have seen votes on free trade agreements, Chinese currency and subsidies, export finance, and sugar price controls.  We’ll have a report after the current term ends on what all these votes mean for the freedom of Americans to interact with foreigners and on what to expect in the next two years.

Five Most Likely Picks for Romney’s Running Mate

With the Republican National Convention just three weeks away, we’re getting closer to Mitt Romney naming his running mate in 2012. Romney’s campaign has launched a smartphone app that will tip supporters off to his pick before anyone else knows, at least in theory.

Awaiting the pick is sort of like looking at top prospects for a Major League Baseball team or analyzing draft picks before the NFL Draft. Last week, The Hill reported that Beth Myers, the head of Romney’s VP search team, was on hand for a rally with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell — much like a scout at a game looking at a potential target’s stuff.

Back in April, I looked at some of the frequently mentioned names in the conversation as Romney was beginning his search for a running back. But speculation has been rampant in recent days and announcement could come literally any day now, here is look at the five most likely picks for Romney.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell: Much like Ohio, the Commonwealth of Virginia is a “must-win” for Romney. While Portman is relatively unknown in his home state, McDonnell has a 55% approval rating in Virginia. Unemployment is at 5.6%, which easily bests the national rate of 8.3%.

VP speculation continues to mount

Condoleezza Rice

The question of who Mitt Romney will choose to serve as his running mate has been a source of considerable speculation over the last couple of weeks. The New York Times ran a story on Tuesday giving some inside information about the grueling vetting process for prospects. But obviously, that doesn’t put to rest the seemingly endless speculation. Will his running mate be Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, or former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty? Or could it be someone off the wall, like Condoleezza Rice, whose name was dropped into the discussion over the weekend. Every guess is as good as the other.

Many commentators downplay the effect that a potential running mate can have on a ticket, but numbers indicate that it does indeed matter. And while the suggestion has been both dismissed and praised by Republicans, a new Fox News poll shows that Rice, who served in the Bush Administration as National Security Advisor (2001-2005) and Secretary of State (2005-2009), may actually help Romney’s campaign. But conservatives want someone more exciting given that Romney does little to inspire them.

Romney begins search for running mate

After going through a drawn-out primary, Mitt Romney announced yesterday that his campaign has started its search for a running mate:

Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, said Monday that his search for a running mate has officially begun.

Romney’s longtime adviser Beth Myers, who was his chief of staff when he was governor of Massachusetts, is leading the vice presidential vetting process.

“She’s begun that process and is putting together the kinds of things you need to do to vet potential candidates,” Romney told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an interview airing Monday night on “ABC World News” and “Nightline.”

Romney said he plans to have made his pick by the time of the GOP convention, which begins in Tampa, Fla., on Aug. 27.

There has obviously been a lot of speculation about this, even before Romney secured the nomination. Pundits have been making their predictions or offering up short-lists that Romney may choose from. And much like other pundits, the question of who Romney will choose has been something I’ve been thinking about for the last few weeks.

Paul Ryan: While many conservatives would like the idea of Ryan on the ticket, it doesn’t make sense. Sure, Romney has expressed support for budget passed by House Republicans, but picking Ryan would offer up more because he would be picking a member of Congress, of which Americans have a very low opinion.

Nate Silver: GOP on pace to pick up six or seven Senate seats

Over at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver, the polling and election guru, predicts that Republicans will pick up six or seven seats in the Senate, putting them just a few seats shy of the number needed to take control of that chamber:

The Democratic majority is in increasing jeopardy in the Senate, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight forecasting model. The Democrats now have an approximately 20 percent chance of losing 10 or more seats in the Senate, according to the model, which would cost them control of the chamber unless Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who is running for the Senate as an independent, both wins his race and decides to caucus with them.

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