Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been making headlines with his comments on the Senate floor. Calling citizens liars, acting on behalf of the Koch brothers was round one, followed by a denial that he’d ever said that.
While generally despicable, this sort of commentary from Reid is not uncommon. Some might explain it away by pointing out that he’s getting old, and has been in Washington for too long. This sort of situation definitely makes a case for term limits, however that’s a debate for another time.
No, perhaps it is time to revisit a time-honored portion of the Constitution that Senators and Representatives have enjoyed — arguably has kept quite a few, like Reid, from facing legal issues over statements they have made.
Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution protects them from facing legal action for statements that they make on the floor of either house. While it’s idealistic to think that the Framers intended this to prevent problems arising from unintentionally erroneous statements, that probably wasn’t the case. Even then, politics was a blood sport, so they wanted the freedom to beat each other verbally without any restrictions against lying about each other — or the public.
Reid, if one does not buy senility or insanity as an excuse, has been trying to elevate this practice of fibbing on the floor to an art form. His latest target was fellow member Tom Coburn, and Reid definitely is reaching for new depths with this one. Coburn is a medical doctor and is battling cancer.
Last month, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) announced that he will retire at the end of 2014, cutting short his second Senate term by two years. His decision was in part the result of his health struggles related the recent recurrence of prostate cancer. But Sen. Coburn also cited the dysfunction in Washington D.C., and particularly in the U.S. Senate, in stating: “As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere.”
John Ward’s HuffPost interview with Sen. Coburn last week sheds some light on exactly how Sen. Coburn intends to shift his focus:
“It’s time for me to go do something else,” Coburn said. “I know me. I’ve made lots of shifts in my life, and I know when it’s time. My faith comes into that. I pay a lot of attention to what I think I’m supposed to be doing. … And it’s just time for me to do something else. So I’m getting ready to walk through whatever door opens.”
“I don’t have any set plans whatsoever,” he said.
There are two exceptions to that statement. He has plans to play golf, a game he loves and has rarely been able to enjoy during his time in Washington. And he is going to lend his support to a growing effort in state legislatures across the country to call a convention to amend the Constitution with the aim of limiting the size and reach of the federal government.
During a recent appearance on a Nevada-based public television program, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that ObamaCare is a step down the path to a single-payer healthcare system for the United States:
Reid said he thinks the country has to “work our way past” insurance-based health care during a Friday night appearance on Vegas PBS’ program “Nevada Week in Review.”
“What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever,” Reid said.
When then asked by panelist Steve Sebelius whether he meant ultimately the country would have to have a health care system that abandoned insurance as the means of accessing it, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”
“We had a real good run at the public option … don’t think we didn’t have a tremendous number of people who wanted a single-payer system,” Reid said on the PBS program, recalling how then-Sen. Joe Lieberman’s opposition to the idea of a public option made them abandon the notion and start from scratch.
Eventually, Reid decided the public option was unworkable.
This isn’t really surprising. The idea that ObamaCare is a step down the path to a single-payer system is one that has been promulgated by both Democrats and Republicans alike.
It appears that the 2012 race for President is all but set. Mitt Romney will very likely win the Republican nomination and he will face Barack Obama in November. For those of us concerned about restoring liberty, the rule of law and the Constitution, and getting a grips on our debt and economic crisis; this is not a joyous prospect. Neither man has a record of leadership on those issues and in fact, both men have proven time and time again to be advocates of more government, more spending, and more debt. No matter who is elected President, I’m not optimistic that our serious issues, especially concerning the debt and the economy will be addressed. We need to look elsewhere to at least hold the tide against more spending and more debt. We need to really pour our energies into the Congressional elections and electing more Constitutional conservatives and libertarians.
Every even numbered year, we have the chance to change the entire makeup of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. Imagine what kind of difference we can make if we elected Constituional conservative majority in the House and give Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee some more company in the Senate this go around. The only way to do that is get involved. Find a Constitutional conservative candidate in the primaries and back them and volunteer for them. If there isn’t one in your district, consider running yourself. Granted, it maybe too late in many states to do this for 2012, but consider it for 2014.
Stephen Slivinski is senior economist at the Goldwater Institute. Previously he was director of budget studies at the Cato Institute, senior economist at the Tax Foundation, and a senior editor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Mr. Slivinski is the author of the book, Buck Wild: How Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, published in 2006.
One thing that makes Newt Gingrich an attractive presidential candidate to many conservatives is his term as Speaker of the House and his role as the captain of the Republican Revolution of 1994. But a closer look at the history of the years between 1995 and when he stepped down as speaker in 1998 show that Gingrich was usually at odds with those pushing the Reaganite vision of a truly limited federal government. In fact, when the Republican Revolution succeeded at all it was often in spite of Newt Gingrich, not because of him. Unfortunately, too many conservatives have forgotten this or perhaps may not have known it at all.
Gingrich does indeed come across as an eloquent defender of limited government principles. In 1995, he envisioned the new GOP congressional majority presaging a cultural revolution in Washington, D.C. “The real breaking point is when you find yourself having a whole new debate, with new terms. That’s more important than legislative achievements,” Gingrich told a reporter on the first day of the 104th Congress. “We’ll know in six months whether we have accomplished that.”
Guess what? The race for the Republican nomination has been shaken up again. Many of us saw Herman Cain’s downfall coming, it was only a matter of time. But still the fact that he lasted this far into the race is concerning given his lack of experience and complete lack of knowledge on some of the most basic issues, including foreign policy.
It looks as though Newt Gingrich has been able to capitalize on Cain’s misfortune and, as noted earlier, seems like to receive an endorsement. Gingrich leads in six of the last nine national polls, hold a single-digit lead in Iowa, and double-digit leads in Florida and South Carolina. Mitt Romney still leads in New Hampshire, but Gingrich and Ron Paul are gaining steam.
A version of this post originally appeared on George Scoville’s blog.
Here’s President-elect Barack Obama in 2008:
We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politicians, lobbyists, or interest groups. We simply cannot afford it. This isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my new team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges…. We will go through our federal budget—page by page, line by line—eliminating those programs we don’t need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.
It was a refrain he repeated often on the campaign trail. For example, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, here’s 2008 candidate Senator Barack Obama making the promise during his town hall debate against 2008 candidate Senator John McCain at my alma mater Belmont University:
My, how times have changed.
Most politicians like to beat on their chests when it comes to eliminating government waste and unnecessarily programs. But when it comes to actually doing it, they sound a lot like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who had the audacity to claim last year that “the cupboard is bare,” adding that “[t]here’s no more cuts to make.”
The fact is that there’s plenty of cuts that could be made, and the federal government could save taxpayers billions of dollars just by eliminating duplication. That, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan federal audit agency.
The GAO report identified 26 areas of fragmentation, duplication, or overlapping federal programs that, according to the report “span a broad range of government missions and functions.” That is in addition to the 162 areas identified in previous reports.
To give you an idea of how nonsensical the federal government is, the report, for example, found that 11 different agencies did autism research from FY 2008 to FY 2012. The funds awarded to these agencies totaled nearly $1.2 billion.
Another example is overlapping disability and unemployment payments. Simple reforms to address this problem would save taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next 10 years.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who sponsored the law which requires the annual audit, said the areas identified in the report could taxpayers $45 billion over the next five years, adding to potential savings already identified by the GAO.
Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) may not be in for a cakewalk in his bid to serve the remaining two years of Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) term. His conservative primary opponent, former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, is gaining momentum.
Early polls indicated that Lankford was the odds on favorite to win the June 24 Republican Senate primary. An early February poll conducted by Harper Polling, for example, found Lankford with a 27-point lead over Shannon.
But the race looks like its shifting. Sarah Palin endorsed Shannon in mid-March and a poll from an outside group backing the insurgent conservative’s campaign showed that he had narrowed the gap to single digits.
Senate Conservatives Fund is hoping that it can keep the momentum in Shannon’s corner. The organization, known for challenging the status quo, announced on Thursday it is backing Shannon in the Republican primary.
“T.W. Shannon is a constitutional conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending and debt that are bankrupting our country,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of Senate Conservatives Fund. “T.W. Shannon believes in the principles of freedom that make this country great and will stand up to the big spenders in both parties to balance the budget and stop Obamacare.”
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is experiencing first hand one of President Barack Obama’s broken promises. The specialist that the cancer-stricken Oklahoma Republican has used isn’t part of the skimpy provider network under his government-approved, Obamacare health plan:
Cancer-stricken Sen. Tom Coburn revealed Tuesday that his health insurance under Obamacare doesn’t cover his oncologist, but said he still is receiving excellent care.
“I’m doing well from a health standpoint, got great docs,” Coburn said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday when asked about his health. “Fortunately — even though my new coverage won’t cover my specialist — I’m going to have great care, and I have a great prognosis.”
The Oklahoma Republican’s spokesman confirmed to POLITICO that since the senator enrolled in his health insurance plan under Obamacare, his coverage has been reduced and he lost coverage for his cancer specialist. Coburn will continue to pay out of pocket and see his oncologist, his office said.
Here’s the video: