Senate

Cruz, Lee, and Paul Threaten Filibuster on Gun Control Measures

Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz

The conservative trio who held up John Brennan’s confirmation to the CIA for 13 hours and exposed the White House’s drones policy could be at it again when the Senate takes up gun control measures next month. It may not be a “talking filibuster” like it was the earlier this month, but it could certainly throw a wrench in Senate Democrats’ plans.

According to Politico, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY) will today deliver a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stating that they will oppose a procedural motion on any legislation aimed at tightening gun control regulations:

Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are threatening to filibuster gun-control legislation, according to a letter they plan to hand-deliver to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office on Tuesday.

“We will oppose the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions,” the three conservatives wrote in a copy of the signed letter obtained by POLITICO.
[…]
Though they don’t use the word “filibuster” in the letter, the conservatives are leaving no doubt that they would filibuster on an initial procedural question — the motion to proceed.

Obama to Campaign for Assault Weapons Ban

Obama and gun control

The never-ending campaign continues. With the Assault Weapons Ban facing an incredibly tough road in the Senate — so tough, in fact, that Majority Leader Harry Reid admitted that he didn’t have enough votes to avoid a filibuster — President Barack Obama announced in his weekly address that he would hit the road in support of the measure:

In his weekly radio and Internet address released Saturday, Obama says the U.S. has changed in the three months since the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., left 20 first graders and six educators dead. He says Americans support the ban, plus limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, school security funding and a crackdown on gun trafficking.

“Today there is still genuine disagreement among well-meaning people about what steps we should take to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country. But you, the American people, have spoken,” Obama said.

The White House said Saturday that Obama will make additional trips outside Washington to rally support for the measures, including the assault weapons ban. The White House also said that before Obama left for Israel earlier this week, his push for gun control was among the issues he raised with lawmakers from both parties as he embarked on a concerted effort to reach out to Congress.

Senate Passes Its First Budget in Nearly Four Years

United States Senate

For the first time since April 29, 2009, the United States Senate has passed a budget. Early this morning, the Senate finished voting on dozens of amendments and gave final passage to its version of the budget — which never balances and raises taxes by $1 trillion — by a vote of 50 to 49.

It was mostly a party-line vote, 48 Democrats and two Independents, both of whom caucus with the party in power, voted for passage. Four Democrats — Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) — joined all 45 Republicans in opposition. It just so happens that every Democrat who voted against the budget is up for re-election next year.

Sens. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Mark Warner (D-ND) are also up for re-election next year. Their votes in favor of the budget will no doubt be brought up by their opponents.

Negotiators from the House, which passed its budget proposal on Thursday, and Senate will soon meet in a conference committee to try to reconcile their vast differences. Because they’re so far apart — with the House wanting a balanced budget in 10 years, tax reform, and entitlement reform and the Senate pushing $1 trillion in tax hikes and an perpetually unbalanced budget — agreement on a budget for FY 2014 looks unlikely.

Senate Votes to Repeal ObamaCare’s Medical Device Tax

Medical Device Tax

Last night, the Senate symbolically voted to repeal yet another part of ObamaCare — the medical device tax. This provision will imposed 2.3% tax on medical devices, which could lead to the loss of some 43,000 jobs:

By a vote of 79 to 20, the Senate moved to rescind the 2.3 percent tax on manufacturers and importers of medical devices. The tax will raise nearly $2 billion in new revenue in 2013 and $20 billion over the next seven years.

Thursday night’s vote was nonbinding since it was on an amendment to a Senate budget resolution which is not likely to result in a budget plan that Republican-controlled House would agree to.

The medical device tax is one of $24.6 billion in 2013 tax increases mandated by the Affordable Care Act which took effect on Jan. 1.

Click here to see how your Senators voted.

Not only would the medical device tax hit the medical industry and hurt innovation, consumers would have been hit with higher healthcare costs. The tax was even blamed for an increase in prices for pet owners at vet offices.

Senate to Push Online Sales Tax This Week

online retailer

Not only will the budget being pushed by Senate Democrats raise taxes by nearly $1 trillion, they want to make it easier for states to go after tax dollars from online sales.

The budget proposed is in the Senate is bad enough. As noted, it’ll raise taxes by $1 trillion, it doesn’t balance the budget or set a path to pay down the national debt, and many of the savings in the proposal are double-counted. How could they possibly make it worse? By adding the Marketplace Fairness Act, which will apparently be presented as an amendment to the budget as early as this week.

While the bill has nice name, it’s protectionist in nature. It’s being pushed by traditional, brick-and-mortar retailers who have seen their business slide due to the popularity and convenience of online retailers. Many governors — including some Republicans — also like it because it would give them a new revenue stream.

Assault Weapons Ban is Dead in the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced yesterday that Assault Weapons Ban, a pet measure of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) doesn’t have enough votes to pass and wouldn’t be included in the measures that will be brought to the floor of the chamber next month:

Senior Senate Democrats bluntly acknowledged Tuesday that a proposed federal ban on assault weapons will not become law, bowing to the political calculus that only lesser gun control measures stand a chance of passing Congress, despite three months of emotional national debate since the Connecticut school massacre.

In separate remarks to reporters, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., both said they do not see Feinstein’s far-reaching proposal on assault weapons passing the Senate, let alone the Republican-led House, where opposition to the measure is even stronger.

Feinstein will apparently offer the bill as an amendment to other measures that will be brought forward in the Senate, but she refused to admit that she’s lost this fight. Maybe she should. According to Roll Call, Reid said, “Right now, her amendment — using the most optimistic numbers— has less than 40 votes. That’s not 60.” Additionally, Politico reports that the universal background check measure may also be in jeopardy.

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.”

Chatting with Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Mike Lee

“[T]he powers of government must be restrained. They’ve got to be restrained in terms of what they do in administering government programs, they need to be restrained as far as how much money they take from the American people, and they need to be restrained in terms of how much they interfere with the liberty of individual Americans.” — Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Back in 2010, conservatives trained their focus on Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT), who had positioned himself over the years as a big government Republican. Bennett had backed billions in corporate welfare for private companies, including the TARP bailout, and supported a healthcare proposal that was considered by some to be worse than ObamaCare.

Bennett was unable to gain enough support during the 2010 Utah GOP convention to win the nomination, setting the stage for a primary between Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee.

Lee would go on to edge out his primary opponent thanks to his strong constitutional and fiscally conservative message and support from grassroots organizations, and he easily defeated his Democratic opponent in the historic 2010 mid-term election.

VIDEO: Mike Lee, Ted Cruz Defend Civil Liberties

There has been a lot of attention paid to Sen. Rand Paul’s brilliant, 13-hour defense of the Constitution, which is now available online at CSPAN. But I wanted to share videos of Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), both of whom, like Sen. Paul, became champions of civil liberties in the United States Senate.

Below are some clips from yesterday of Sens. Lee and Cruz discussing the issues with President Obama’s drones program, the DOJ white paper that made the case for drone strikes on American citizens on American soil, and the constitutional ramifications of the policy.

“We have a standard [of an imminent threat] that is so broad, that is so malleable, that is so easily subject to so many varying interpretations, no one can reasonably look into this and decide who the government may kill with a drone and who the government may not kill with a drone.” — Sen. Mike Lee

“I would note that your standing here today like a modern Mr. Smith goes to Washington because surely be making Jimmy Stewart smile. And my only regret is that there are not 99 of your colleagues here today standing with you in defense of the most fundamental principles in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, namely that each of us is endowed with certain unalienable rights by our creator and that first among them is life, the rife to life and the right not to have life arbitrarily extinguished by our government without due process of law.” — Sen. Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz Reads Tweets in Support of Rand Paul’s Historic Filibuster

Ted Cruz

Because Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had been speaking on the floor since late this morning filibustering the nomination of John Brennan, President Obama’s pick to lead the CIA, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) came to the floor to read tweets of support from #StandWithRand on Twitter, which is currentluy trending nationally.

Sen. Cruz joined several members of the chamber, including Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), in highlighting the lack of transparency of the Obama Administration’s drones program.

This happened in the eighth hour of Sen. Paul’s filibuster, which is now into its 10 hour — 10 hours, folks, without a real break:


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