United States Senate

Media Using Boston Bombers to Revive Gun Control Debate

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Well, that didn’t take long. The media is already pointing out that the Tsarnaev brothers, who are suspected of planting the bombs at the Boston Marathon and getting involved with a shootout with police, were not licensed to own firearms:

The two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings, who police say engaged in a gun battle with officers early Friday after a frenzied manhunt, were not licensed to own guns in the towns where they lived, authorities said on Sunday.

In the confrontation with police on the streets of a Boston suburb, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were armed with handguns, at least one rifle and several explosive devices, authorities say.

But neither brother appears to have been legally entitled to own or carry firearms where they lived, a fact that may add to the national debate over current gun laws. Last week, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill to expand background checks on gun purchases, legislation that opponents argued would do nothing to stop criminals from buying guns illegally.

Let’s hold on just a second here. The Tsarnaev bothers didn’t legally obtain the firearms used during a shootout with police in a state with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. For example, Massachusetts has banned so-called “assault weapons” and has limited magazines to 10 rounds (similar proposals failed last week in the United States Senate). Massachusetts also prohibits anyone under the 21-years-old from owning a handgun. Dzhokhar, who was apprehended on Friday evening, was 19.

Ted Cruz Questions Chuck Hagel’s Patriotism

After hours of debate yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, along strict party lines, with a 14-11 vote.  Hagel is expected to narrowly be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate as soon as Minority Ranking Member Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) says all holds placed on the nomination are cleared.   While reasons such as financial disclosure and – in the case of Senator Graham - information on Benghazi have been given for holding Hagel’s nomination, such holds are essentially due to Hagel’s heterodoxy on foreign policy.

The Inexcusable Brennan Hearing

In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious.  It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.

As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens.  The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.

The Republicans Will Be Watching Us

The following was authored by Ron Davis, a conservative activist from Georgia and founder of FireSenator.com and FireJohnny.com.

The GOP will be watching the U.S. Senate race in Georgia very closely this year.  Johnny Isakson, disliked by many Republican voters, is expected to win the election in November and return to the U.S. Senate for another six years.

In the past few years, Georgians have been awakened to Isakson’s liberal tendencies, but they are scared to vote against him.  No viable candidate will challenge Isakson in a primary election, and he will win the general election because voters refuse to vote for a non-Republican out of a fear of being represented by a Democrat.

Isakson has spent his time in Washington – even his time in the Senate during the Obama administration – working to increase government spending and to justify the continued growth of our federal government.  Johnny Isakson is clearly not a good choice for the conservative voter.

There is a conservative on the ballot this year, his name is Chuck Donovan.  He wants to cut spending, reduce our federal debt, and limit our financial obligations.  I am convinced he would work tirelessly, without compromise, to meet these goals.

Not too many years ago, the GOP had a chance to stand against big government and increased spending.  That opportunity was squandered by the likes of Isakson, which caused them to lose the majority in Washington.  If we vote to re-elect those that wasted their opportunity to limit government the first time around, how ludicrous is it to think they will do better if given another opportunity?

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).

Top 10 Longest Senate Filibusters

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke for 21 hours and 19 minutes between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning because Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wouldn’t raise the vote threshold to amend the Continuing Resolution (CR) from a simply majority (51 votes) to 60 votes, giving Senate Democrats the ability to strike language defunding ObamaCare without Republican support.

The filibuster, which has existed for more than 200 years, has long-been used as a tool to slowdown or prevent passage of legislation with which members disagree.

Below is a brief look at the top 10 filibusters in Senate history. While Cruz’s control of the floor wasn’t technically a filibuster in the true sense, as he couldn’t stop the already scheduled cloture vote on the motion to proceed, it would rank fifth on the list.

10. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) — 8 hours, 39 minutes (2003)

Rand Paul to Seek Re-Election to the Senate

It’s no secret that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is considering at a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He’s been making the rounds in early primary states, including Iowa and New Hampshire. But the Kentucky Republican made it clear over the weekend that his only concrete plan for 2016 is his re-election to the Senate:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Friday that he would seek reelection in 2016, even as he’s widely seen as having interest in a presidential run that year.

Paul informed reporters of his decision before a local GOP dinner, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

The first-term senator did not rule out a presidential bid in 2016, but said that, for now, he is only certain about running for another Senate term.

“For now, we know for sure is we’re going to run for the U.S. Senate,” Paul said at the Woodford County, Ky., Republican Party Reagan Dinner, according to The Daily Independent in Ashland, Ky. “The other decision can come later.”

This has been the source of some speculation. Kentucky election law would prevent Paul from running for both the Senate and President at the same time, though The Hill notes that lawmakers in the Commonwealth may consider changing that statue. Paul filed for re-election to the Senate in April 2011, though that was seen as a move to play down speculation that he would run for the Republican nomination in 2012.

GOP’s Path to a Senate Majority

There is little chance that Republicans will lose the House next year. There doesn’t seem to be much worry there. In fact, many Republican strategists believe that they may even pick up a few seats.

What has evaded them over the last two cycles is control of the Senate. Some bad candidates and poorly run races prevented them from gaining seats that they would have otherwise won. And while it’s far from a sure thing, Republicans have a an opening for 2014 that could lead them to a majority in the Senate, according to Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report:

Democrats are defending seven states that President Obama lost in 2012 and Republicans need a net gain of six to reclaim the majority. That also means in the very unlikely event that Democrats somehow knock off Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the only Republican senator up for re-election in an Obama state, the GOP could be in the majority without her by sweeping the Romney states currently held by a Democrat.

Republicans do have to worry about nominating candidates who are less popular than Romney and, in some states, deal with Democratic incumbents who are more popular than President Obama.

But Republicans have considerable room for error.

President Obama lost six of the seven states with a Democratic senator by an average of 19 percentage points. Some of the states were uglier than others for the President, including West Virginia (Obama minus 27 percent), Arkansas (minus 24 percent), South Dakota (minus 18 percent), Louisiana (minus 17 percent), and Alaska and Montana, which he lost both by just under 14 percent.

Senate Moves Forward on Internet Sales Tax

Power-hungry states are one step closer to being able to tax Internet purchases. Late yesterday afternoon, the United States Senate cleared a procedural hurdle that would allow state governments to tax online retailers, essentially making them tax collectors, even if they don’t have a presence in their borders.

The Senate overwhelmingly voted to limit debate on the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act,” sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), setting up a final vote on the measure in the chamber within the next few weeks. Many states want the extra revenue to spend on pet-projects and vote-buying schems. President Barack Obama has, unsurprisingly, also endorsed the online sales tax.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the Marketplace Fairness Act, which was never the subject of a committee hearing, “discriminates against Internet-based businesses by imposing burdens that it does not apply to brick-and-mortar companies.” The Wall Street Journal also points out that the driving force behind the bill is traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

George Will Hails Rising GOP Star Justin Amash

The libertarian-wing of the Republican Party is gaining more and and more attention every day. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is already well-known for his stands for free markets and civil liberties, but Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is also getting attention.

In his Sundy column at the Washington Post, George Will, a conservative columnist with a libertarian streak of his own, praised Amash and floated the idea that the Michigan Republican may join the growing ranks of liberty-minded senators:

He absorbed a libertarian understanding of opportunity from the example of his father, who began his very successful business career by buying stuff from small wholesalers and selling it door-to-door. Amash graduated magna cum laude with an economics degree from the University of Michigan, then earned a law degree there. “Some of my views,” he says mildly, “were a little bit different from my Republican peers.” He began reading Friedrich Hayek and other representatives of the Austrian school of economics, and less than four years after he left Ann Arbor, he was in Michigan’s Legislature, where in his one term he cast the only “no” vote on more than 70 bills.

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