Senate

Today in Liberty: Facebook CEO expressed NSA frustrations to Obama, CFOs say minimum wage hike would curb hiring

“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” — Edmund Burke

— Pen and Phone: In its latest executive action, the Obama administration has decided to reverse cuts to Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies that it previously said would be trimmed because of the Budget Control Act, better known as the sequester. “Last year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the subsidies would face a roughly 7 percent cut under sequestration,” The Hill reports. “Budget officials changed that in their latest report, removing the subsides from a list of programs the sequester will hit.” Presumably, the administration will have to cut elsewhere in the budget to make up for preserving these subsidies.

Lindsey Graham Defends His Rights, Forgets to Defend Yours

It has been a frustrating week for those of us who have been constantly sounding the alarm on the unconstitutionality of the NSA spying programs ever since Edward Snowden first released information regarding the data collection programs.

After Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) voiced concerns over reports regarding the Central Intelligence Agency’s access to committee staffers’ computers, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters that, if it’s true the CIA used surveillance techniques to spy on Congress, “heads should roll, people should go to jail.”

According to Graham, one of the leading proponents of the NSA’s spying programs that happen to gather data on millions of telephone and internet users in America and abroad, “the legislative branch should declare war on the CIA” if the accusations prove to be true.

He also used his on air time to claim that CIA’s supposed surveillance method and their use of it against Congress “is Richard Nixon stuff,” and also “dangerous to the democracy.” While Graham may believe that what is bad if done against Congress is quite all right if done against common Americans, most of us beg to differ, considering that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution keeps government in check by barring the use of general warrants and protecting the individual’s right to privacy.

MI Senate: Democrat shakes up faltering campaign

Gary Peters

It’s no secret that Republicans are capitalizing on President Barack Obama’s unpopularity, but there aren’t many political observers who expected that Michigan, a purple-to-blue leaning state, would truly be in play in the 2014 mid-term election.

Though it’s far too early to say Republicans will pick up this seat, we’re now seeing early signs of panic from national Democrats. Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) is hoping that a campaign shake up will breathe some new life into his faltering bid for Michigan’s open U.S. Senate seat:

With Michigan looming as a now key Senate race, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters, who is locked in a tight battle with Republican Terri Lynn Land, has replaced his campaign manager.

Paul Tencher, who ran now-Sen. Joe Donnelly’s winning campaign for the Democrats in Indiana last cycle, will take over as the head of Peters’s campaign operation. Tencher will replace Julie Petrick, who is stepping aside for personal reasons, Peters said in a statement.
[…]
Peters’s shake-up of his team comes in the wake of a fairly lackluster few months for his campaign.

Peters has been dogged by recent issue ads from Americans for Prosperity (AFP) featuring Julie Boonstra, a Michigan resident and cancer patient who lost her health plan because of Obamacare. Peters’ lawyers subsequently threatened television stations running the ad and went after Boonstra’s credibility.

Rand Paul marks one-year anniversary of filibuster

See Video

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has released a video marking the one-year anniversary of his 13-hour filibuster of CIA nominee John Brennan. Though it didn’t stop Brennan’s confirmation, it did raise awareness to the Obama administration’s drone strikes policy and, almost single-handedly, changed public opinion on the issue. You see our coverage of the filibuster here and here. You can also watch the filibuster, if you have 13 hours to spare, in full via C-SPAN.

Today in Liberty: Judge strikes down Virginia’s gay marriage ban, House Dems want vote on minimum wage

“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” — James Madison

— Bonus daily quote: “I’m calling this storm Snowbama because it frees people from having to work.” — David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute

— Federal court strikes down Virginia’s gay marriage ban: U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen struck down Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in an opinion issued very late last night. Gay and lesbian individuals share the same capacity as heterosexual individuals to form, preserve and celebrate loving, intimate and lasting relationships,” Wright Allen wrote in the 41-page opinion. “Such relationships are created through the exercise of sacred, personal choices — choices, like the choices made by every other citizen, that must be free from unwarranted government interference.” The judge cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down the Commonwealth’s ban on interracial marriage and determined that marriage is a fundamental right. Wright Allen stayed her decision, pending appeal in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Jon Stewart blasts Obama’s corrupt diplomatic appointments

Jon Stewart on Obama's diplomatic appointees

Jon Stewart took aim at President Barack Obama’s diplomatic appointees in a segment on The Daily Show last night, mocking the White House for handing out ambassadorships to high-dollar campaign bundlers.

Stewart recalled his recent interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in which she disputed the notion that money has corrupted Washington, though she said that Republicans are responsible for giving in to special interests.

“It’s good to know that Democrats are impervious to that, because it means that we don’t have to worry about things that Democrats are in charge of,” Stewart said. “For instance, the ambassadors appointed by our Democratic president. Surely he chooses them, then, on their merits.”

Stewart then cut away to footage of a couple of President Obama’s diplomatic nominees who, in Senate confirmation hearings, told senators that they had never visited the countries to which they’ve been appointed to represent American interests.

“Let me ask this, have any of you f**king people been to EPCOT Center? Have you been anywhere?” Stewart said. “Is there rule that ambassadors can’t have set foot in the country they’re going to ambassador? Would it ruin the surprise?”

“I mean, it definitely couldn’t be because the new Norway nominee raised $850,000 for the Obama reelection campaign, or the Argentinean one raised $500,000, or the Icelandic one bundled $1.6 million. Because that would mean not only would Democrats be seen as corrupt, Nancy Pelosi told me personally that only Republicans are,” he added.

Boehner vs. Obama on Immigration: A story of two Star Trek games

Since the McCain-Kennedy bill was introduced in 2005, Congress has been playing games with immigration reform proposals almost non-stop. It turns out, those games are almost perfectly represented in Star Trek lore.

Speaker of the House John Boehner is playing is multi-dimensional chess.

TOS

This game is seen in the original Star Trek series and The Next Generation.

TNG

The rules are never explained in either series, but it is clearly a complicated game. Boehner similarly has to juggle many dimensions of the prickly issue of immigration in the face of opposition from several directions.

He has House conservatives threatening his speakership if he even says the word “immigration” in public, moderates who want a bill but maybe not before the election, libertarians who want to just pass a bill and make the issue go away, big donors who want reform yesterday for their corporate friends, fire-breathing grass roots activists shouting about “shamnesty”, and a cynically intransient Senate leadership who passed their bill but won’t consider anything less. He has to move his pieces on the upper and lower levels of the board very carefully if he wants to keep his seat, his job, and his party in power in both the short and long term.

Democratic donors turn eyes to the Senate

Just hours after DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) conceded that Democrats aren’t likely to win control of the House of Representatives this fall, Politico ran a story noting that many high-dollar donors are shifting their focus to the Senate races in which vulnerable Democrats are running:

With Democrats’ grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous — and the House all but beyond reach — some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can’t be won and go all in to save the Senate.

Their calculation is uncomplicated. With only so much money to go around in an election year that is tilting the GOP’s way, Democrats need to concentrate resources on preserving the chamber they have now. Losing the Senate, they know, could doom whatever hopes Barack Obama has of salvaging the final years of his presidency. 
[…]
Some Democratic operatives think a big chunk of that money should be going to Senate contests instead — and they’re beginning to make that case to wealthy contributors. One senior Democratic strategist who is involved in a number of Senate races said conversations with many of the party’s biggest donors about shifting their giving away from the House and toward the Senate had begun and that, “it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing the results.”

“After the health care rollout and with the start of the new year, Democratic donors are starting to focus on a critical choice they have to make: Donate money to pick up a small handful of House races or defend the Senate majority at all costs so that the president can get something — anything — done,” the strategist said.

Harry Reid: Vulnerable Senate Dems will campaign with Obama

Harry Reid

It’s already become apparent that vulnerable Senate Democrats are wary of being seen with President Barack Obama in their home states. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), for example, wouldn’t appear by his side during a visit to New Orleans in November, though she did make the trip with him on Air Force One.

More recently, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) skipped out on President Obama’s visit to her state. He did, however, go out of his way to publicly thank her “for the great work she’s been doing.”

Despite the these examples of politicians nervous about appearing beside an unpopular president, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) insists that vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection this year will campaign with President Barack Obama.

“Anytime the President of the United States appears supporting a candidate, it helps. You know, Ronald Reagan hurt me by coming to [Nevada] all the time,” said Reid during an pre-State of the Union appearance of CNN. “Barack Obama is personally a very popular guy. And people love this man. They love his family.”

“Of course, with what the Republicans have been doing, trying to denigrate him with what’s happened with the rollout of ObamaCare,” he said, “but things, even this week, his numbers are going up again.”

When asked whether he would encourage the most vulnerable Senate Democrats to campaign with President Obama, Reid said, “Yes, and they will.”

Gridlock in the Senate basically Harry Reid’s fault

If you listen to hardline Democrats in the Senate, Republicans are to blame for the gridlock that has slowed movement on legislation and, until recently, confirmation of President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive appointees.

Though it’s true that Republicans aren’t receptive to President Obama’s agenda, the root cause of the friction between the two parties ultimately lies at the feet of one person: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Not only has the Democratic leader severely limited minority rights in a chamber that thrives on tradition, Reid has also soured the atmosphere by limiting the number of amendments that senators can offer to legislation, which one of the reasons there has been so much tension between the two parties:

Republicans direct much of their ire at Reid, the hard-nosed majority leader who seeks to protect vulnerable Democrats from tough votes on hot-button issues like health care, the Keystone XL pipeline and abortion. More than any other leader before him, Reid has closed off the amendment process by an arcane procedural maneuver known as “filling the tree,” prompting howls of protest from GOP senators who complain they’ve been shut out of the process.


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