PAUL ISSUES WARNING TO REPUBLICANS: 'WE NEED A DIFFERENT KIND OF PARTY'
Rand Paul Compares Republican Party To Domino's Pizza
PAUL ELIAS | AP | 03/19/2014
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Republican Sen. Rand Paul's criticisms of President Barack Obama and other government leaders over recent surveillance disclosures were warmly received on Wednesday at the University of California, Berkeley.
Paul, who is considering a presidential bid and is seen as one of several GOP front-runners ahead of 2016, held forth for 30 minutes on what he perceives to be abuses of government spy programs and a lack of oversight of the National Security Agency.
"I find it ironic that the first African-American president has without compunction allowed this vast exercise of raw power by the NSA," said Paul, noting that other black heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr. were targets of illegal government spying.
Paul called for the creation of a bipartisan congressional committee to address allegations raised by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that CIA agents secretly searched Senate computers.
He said he hoped that such a commission would be similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s, referring to the special Senate panel that exposed CIA abuses and pushed through laws limiting the intelligence community's powers.
Dressed in blue jeans, white Ralph Lauren shirt with logo, red tie and cowboy boots, Paul spent much of his time trying to connect with his college-age audience, warning several times that their phones and computers were easily accessed by government snoops.
"I believe what you do on a cellphone is none of their damn business," he said to applause.
HE COMPARED THE REPUBLICAN PARTY TO A DOMINO PIZZA'S AD CAMPAIGN IN WHICH THE COMPANY ADMITS TO HAVING MADE BAD DOUGH IN THE PAST BUT PROMISING CHANGE IN THE FUTURE.
"WE NEED A DIFFERENT KIND OF PARTY," HE SAID.
Paul was asked his thoughts on Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked thousands of pages of sensitive documents exposing embarrassing intelligence practices. Snowden is living in Moscow, afraid of criminal prosecution if he returns to the United States.
Paul said that he had "mixed emotions" about Snowden. On the one hand, Paul said Snowden broke the law, but that he shouldn't "be shot or stung up." On the other hand, Paul said Snowden helped expose "an intelligence community that's drunk with power, unrepentant and unwilling to relinquish power."
He said that "they're only sorry that they got caught. Without the Snowden leaks, these spies would still be doing whatever they please."
The event, which drew about 400 people, was organized by the campus Republican club, who filled the hall to capacity. Still, no protesters at this famously demonstrative campus were visible and he drew a large crowd of well-wishers on his way off campus.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
TEA PARTY GROUP SOMEHOW TRIES TO BLAME MCCONNELL FOR GAY MARRIAGE
WASHINGTON -- A tea party group released a new ad on Tuesday claiming that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is the reason Kentucky is "stuck with gay marriage," because he recommended a federal judge -- 22 years ago -- who recently ruled in favor of same-sex marriage rights.
The Senate Conservatives Fund, which finances tea party candidates including McConnell challenger Matt Bevin, is running the 60-second radio spot statewide for a week. In the ad, a man and a woman, both of whom display a remarkable knowledge of the judge's background, discuss how McConnell recommended U.S. District Judge John Heyburn to President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Last week, Heyburn ruled that Kentucky must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
Here's a transcript of the ad, called "Mistake":
Local News Broadcast: It is a ruling that has people talking across the commonwealth tonight. A federal judge has ...
Woman: Unbelievable! Liberal Judge John Heyburn just ruled that Kentucky has to immediately recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Man: Is that the same judge who overturned the ban on partial-birth abortions?
Man: Who recommended this liberal judge?
Woman: Mitch McConnell.
Woman: Uh-huh. Mitch McConnell called Heyburn an "excellent judicial appointment" and praised him for being “progressive.”
Man: “Progressive” means liberal. Now, why would McConnell recommend a liberal?
Woman: Political cronyism. Heyburn donated money to McConnell and served as a county chairman for his campaign.
Man: McConnell should admit right now that recommending Judge Heyburn was a mistake. He knew this judge wasn’t a conservative and promoted him anyway. Now we’re stuck with gay marriage.
Woman: Yeah. First it was funding Obamacare, then it was giving Obama a blank check to raise the debt ceiling, now it’s liberal judges. I’m voting for conservative Matt Bevin instead.
Man: Me too.
Even if one glosses over a few key facts -- that Bush supported Heyburn, that judges work independently of the senators who put them on the bench, and that other conservative senators have recommended federal judges who later issued rulings that those senators may not have agreed with -- the reality is that McConnell is about as socially conservative as they come. The five-term senator has a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee and a 0 percent rating from the pro-gay Human Rights Campaign. Last fall he scored a key campaign endorsement from the National Rifle Association.
McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore called the ad "absurd" and said it shows how desperate supporters of Bevin's struggling campaign are.
"This is the kind of ad voters expect to hear from people who are days away from boxing up their personal effects and auctioning off the remaining printer cartridges in the office," Moore said. "It is so absurd and pathetic that they ought to stop troubling radio listeners with the obligation of switching stations and admit they have no justification to attack Senator McConnell."
A request for comment from Bevin's campaign was not immediately returned.
One recent survey put McConnell a whopping 42 points ahead of Bevin in the Republican primary race. But McConnell's bigger threat is his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is in a dead heat with McConnell in the same poll.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
THE VICTIMS OF TED CRUZ’S NAKED AMBITION
Eugene Robinson | truthdig | Feb 17, 2014
In an election year, there are always winners and losers. Rarely, however, are there so many victims.
Legislative gridlock, which was already bad enough, has devolved into a cynical, poisoned status. With a few obvious votes, Congress could improve the lives of millions of people—the unemployed, the undocumented, the uninsured. But instead of being helped, those in need are punished for reasons that are nakedly political.
It says a lot about this shameful state of affairs that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., one of the most powerful and savvy officials in Washington, had to put his career on the line to win an increase in the federal debt ceiling. Failure to act would have caused a catastrophic default. No new government spending was involved; rather, the Treasury simply needed to pay for spending that Congress has already authorized. Raising the limit was a no-brainer.
Yet Sen. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, WHO CONTINUES TO REDEFINE THE WORD “SHAMELESS,” ALMOST LED THE NATION INTO CALAMITY BY FORCING REPUBLICAN SENATORS TO GO ON RECORD IN FAVOR OF THE INCREASE. SINCE THE GOP BASE HAS BEEN TOLD—WRONGLY—THAT REFUSING TO HIKE THE CEILING WOULD SOMEHOW HELP GET THE DEBT UNDER CONTROL, SENATORS WHO VOTED TO DO THE RIGHT THING RISKED A TEA PARTY CHALLENGE.
McConnell, who already faces a tough primary contest, sucked it up and did his duty. Cruz grinned and smirked during the vote, then presumably made preparations to receive a flood of tea party campaign cash for his anticipated presidential run.
At least Congress managed to avoid inflicting grievous harm on the entire nation. A number of subgroups are not so fortunate.
The Americans most obviously suffering because of the unwillingness of Congress to do the right thing are the 1.7 million jobless workers who have lost their long-term unemployment benefits.
Democrats keep proposing legislation to extend those benefits, as has regularly been done in tough economic times. Republicans say they agree but insist—contrary to common practice—that the extension be paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Again, Republicans are wary of angering the party’s conservative base. It’s not so much a matter of increasing the deficit—a three-month extension would cost only $6 billion, and Democrats have proposed offsets—but that far-right dogma considers such payments a moral hazard that encourages idleness. Never mind that recipients of unemployment benefits, by definition, were employed until relatively recently and can demonstrate that they are actively looking for jobs.
The working poor are suffering unnecessarily as well. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 is far too low. In the past, Republicans have joined Democrats in voting for needed increases. In an election year, however, struggling wage-earners are out of luck.
The 11 million men, women and children who are in this country without documents are also victims of the calendar. President Obama and the entire congressional leadership agree that there is an urgent need for immigration reform.
The Senate has already passed a comprehensive bill that increases border security and offers the undocumented a path toward citizenship. Many observers believe there are enough votes in the House to pass the Senate bill and send it to Obama for his signature. But because of the looming election, that proposition isn’t being tested.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would face a revolt in the conservative GOP caucus if he allowed a comprehensive immigration bill to be passed by Democrats and a few moderate Republicans. Boehner has established the precedent that he can use this maneuver to avert certain disaster—it’s how he got a “clean” debt ceiling increase through the House. But his members will not abide being painted as “soft on immigration” in an election year.
Also unfairly punished are the millions of uninsured Americans seeking coverage through the Affordable Care Act. Despite the Republican Party’s best efforts, Obamacare is working. But it would work better if Congress would cooperate with Obama in making a host of technical adjustments to the program.
This sort of after-the-fact tinkering has been required for every big social program. But Republicans have so demonized Obamacare that collaborating in an effort to make it function more effectively would be, for the far-right base, tantamount to treason.
IT’S ONE THING TO SEEK AN ADVANTAGE AT THE POLLS. IT’S ANOTHER THING TO MAKE INNOCENT PEOPLE SUFFER FOR YOUR AMBITION. GUILTY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS—AND I’M SPECIFICALLY INCLUDING YOU, SEN. CRUZ—SHOULD HANG THEIR HEADS IN DISGRACE.
ARE WE WATCHING THE GOP ON THE VERGE OF COLLAPSE?
AlterNet / By CJ Werleman | February 12, 2014
Mark Twain wrote that “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” For the Republican Party, 2014 may end up sounding a whole lot like 150 years ago, and we might be seeing the end of the conservative party, as we know it.
In 1864, prior to the end of the Civil War, a faction of radical Republicans believed President Lincoln was incompetent, and therefore unelectable. These anti-abolition extremists broke away from the establishment under the name Radical Democracy Party, while Lincoln and establishment Republicans created the National Union Party with the intent of attracting War Democrats and Border State Unionists who would not have ordinarily voted for the Republican Party.
The party nominated incumbent President Lincoln alongside a Democrat - Andrew Johnson. The rebranded establishment ticket went on to win the 1864 election in a landslide, and the radicals were brought back to the fold under the Republican Party brand shortly thereafter.
THIS WEEK, THE TEA PARTY ALIGNED SENATE CONSERVATIVES FUND CALLED ON HOUSE REPUBLICANS TO FORCE OUT SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER IN AN EMAIL THAT READ, “UNLESS WE INSTALL A NEW LEADER WHO WILL ACTUALLY GO ON OFFENSE, DEMOCRATS WILL NEVER FEAR US AND WE WILL NEVER HAVE ANY LEVERAGE.”
WE MAY BE WITNESSING THE GENESIS OF ANOTHER TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT FRACTURE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, FOR WHAT WAS ONCE A HAPPY COALITION OF SECULAR AND SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES, UNITED TO DEFEATING OBAMA AND LIBERALISM, HAS TURNED INTO AN OPENLY HOSTILE CIVIL WAR FOR CONTROL OF PARTY, AND BY ALL MEASURES THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT/TEA PARTY FACTION ARE WINNING IN THEIR OBJECTIVE OF PURGING WHAT THEY BELIEVE ARE REPUBLICANS IN NAME ONLY.
The highest ranking Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, is under siege from the far right with lobbying groups Freedom Works, Madison Project, and the Senate Conservatives Fund spending up big in an effort to tear down the senior Senator from Kentucky. Fox News contributor and Red State blogger Erik Erickson writes, “Defeating McConnell is essential to asserting the Tea Party’s dominance over the Republican Party.” In latest polls, McConnell’s opponent leads by 4 points.
AFTER SUFFERING A HEAVY DEFEAT IN THE 2012 ELECTION, ESTABLISHMENT REPUBLICANS BELIEVED THE SURE FIRE WAY TO WRESTLE CONTROL OF THE PARTY BACK FROM THE CLUTCHES OF THE UNELECTABLE CHRISTIAN RIGHT/TEA PARTY WAS TO RAISE ENOUGH WALL STREET AND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CASH TO CRUSH THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE MOMENT. BUT THAT PLAN HAS GONE AWRY GIVEN THE FEDERAL ELECTORAL COMMISSION REVEALED THAT TEA PARTY AND SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE GROUPS RAISED NEARLY THREE TIMES AS MUCH AS GOP ESTABLISHMENT GROUPS IN 2013.
THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT/TEA PARTY FACTION IS USING THIS WAVE OF FUND RAISING TO OUST INCUMBENT ESTABLISHMENT POLITICIANS WHO FALL EVEN SMIDGEN SHY OF IDEOLOGICALLY PURE. IN FACT, THE RADICALS ON THE FAR RIGHT HAVE BECOME SO AUTHORITARIAN AND CULTISH THAT THEY WOULD RATHER TAKE OUT AN INCUMBENT GOP OFFICEHOLDER IN PRIMARY CHALLENGE THAN BEAT A DEMOCRAT IN THE GENERAL. Ron Christie wrote in the Daily Beast, “This could be the cycle pitting those who believe that winning is important coming head to head against those who believe holding firm to principle is important. It would be a sad day for our democracy if winning elective office and holding firm on principle weren’t one and the same. Those in the GOP leadership would be wise to bridge the gap of trust between their base before conservatives form a circular firing squad that kills their chances at victory in November.”
NOT ONLY ARE MODERATE OR ESTABLISHMENT REPUBLICANS BEING PURGED IN THIS INTERNAL CIVIL WAR, BUT ALSO MANY ARE VOLUNTARILY LEAVING THE PARTY THEY BARELY RECOGNIZE ANYMORE. In the past two weeks alone, three high profile Republicans have renounced the party. Former Polk Country Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chair wrote, “My opinion is the "Duck Dynasty Wing" of the Republican Party has taken over the GOP, and they're not about to retreat in their war on science and common sense.” Former Nevada state senator and gaming commissioner has been a Republican for 73 years, but two weeks ago she told the Reno Gazette-Journal, “It’s grown so conservative and Tea Party-orientated and I just can’t buy into that. I’ve left the Republican Party and it’s left me, at the same time.”
IN THE WEEKS THAT FOLLOWED THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN, IT APPEARED ESTABLISHMENT REPUBLICANS WERE FINALLY READY TO STAND UP TO THE EXTREMISTS, BUT MODERATES ARE EITHER FOLDING OR EXITING THE PARTY ALTOGETHER. Mike Lofgren, who spent 28 years in congress as a Republican wrote in his book The Party is Overthat the far right “have managed, through their shrillness, dogmatism, inflexibility and belligerence, to become the center of gravity of the party. The Republican Speaker of the House, the constitutionally designated third-ranking elected official in the government, does not issue orders to them; he takes orders from them, as all of America saw during the debt-limit negotiations and the payroll tax fight.”
THE FACT CHRISTIAN RIGHT STALWART MIKE HUCKABEE LEADS IN A HYPOTHETICAL POLL AGAINST FELLOW 2016 GOP HOPEFULS SAYS MUCH ABOUT WHICH DIRECTION THE IDEOLOGICAL WAR IS HEADING, TOO.
THIS IS A WAR ESTABLISHMENT REPUBLICANS CANNOT WIN FOR NOT ONLY IS THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT/TEA PARTY FACTION THE MOST RELIABLE AND AGITATED VOTING BLOC WITHIN THE PARTY, BUT ALSO THEY’RE NOW OUT RAISING CHAMBER OF COMMERCE-SPONSORED ESTABLISHMENT CANDIDATES THANKS TO A CABAL OF HYPER-RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS, THE CLUB FOR GROWTH, AND THE KOCH BROTHERS. Since August, the Koch’s Americans for Prosperity has spent more than $27 million on ads, which puts it on pace to outstrip its overall $38.5 million spent on the 2010 election.
Theda Skopcol, who is a government and sociology professor at Harvard, writes that THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT/TEA PARTY FACTION IS MORE LIKELY THAN NOT TO WIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY’S CIVIL WAR. “UNLESS MODERATE REPUBLICANS CAN DEFEAT THEM, THEY WILL TRIUMPH BY HANGING ON LONG ENOUGH.”
It’s worth noting that there barely remain any open shirted “moderate Republicans.” Almost two-thirds of House Republicans voted against bipartisan efforts to reopen the federal government and prevent the U.S. defaulting on its loan obligations. The non-partisan Mann and Ornstein write in Its Worse Than it Looks, “The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
AS THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT/TEA PARTY FACTION CONTINUES TO EXERT ITS GROWING POLITICAL PUNCHING POWER, THERE WILL BE NO ROOM FOR THOSE MODERATES WHO FAIL TO MEET IDEOLOGICAL PURITY LITMUS TESTS. THIS IS NOT JUST AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, BUT ALSO AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO OUR DEMOCRACY, AS THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT/TEA PARTY SEEKS TO TRANSFORM AMERICA’S SECULAR STATE INTO A TYRANNICAL PRO-CORPORATE THEOCRACY, AND NULLIFY THE ENTIRE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists, warns, “I think that THE WIDER PUBLIC HASN’T GRASPED THE IDEOLOGICAL ROOTS, NOR THE FACT THAT THE DESTRUCTION OF GOVERNMENT – AND THEY HAVE FOUND THE WEAPON TO DO IT – HAS LONG BEEN PART OF THEIR GAME PLAN, AND IS SOMETHING THAT THEY REJOICE IN, RATHER THAN SEE AS A TEMPORARY EVIL. THEY SEE GOVERNMENT AS SOMETHING THAT, LARGELY, HAS TO BE ABOLISHED, AND THEY HAVE FOUND THE WEAPON, THE MECHANISM, TO ESSENTIALLY DO JUST THAT.”
When establishment Republicans realize the unwinnable war is lost, they’ll be faced with one of three options: either declare allegiance to the theocratic, neo-confederate, social conservative base or join the likes of fellow Republicans who have voluntarily departed the party to become Democrats or independents, or rebrand under another party name like Lincoln had in 1864. In other words, the party is over.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
HOW THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT AND TEA PARTY MAKE THE GOP UNHINGED
AlterNet / By Amanda Marcotte | February 13, 2014
As the 2014 election season gears up—and various politicians start floating the possibility of a 2016 presidential run—the question of what Republicans need to do about the religious right is only getting more serious. It’s become apparent that the religious right is an electoral albatross for Republicans. The invention of the “Tea Party” reflected this desire to bamboozle the press into forgetting that the Republican Party is controlled by a bunch of right-wing Christians, by floating this narrative that this new insurgence of conservative energy was somehow more about economic conservatism than social conservatism.
That narrative has basically collapsed in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Tea Party’s main impact is encouraging Republican primary voters to back even more embarrassingly Bible-thumping candidates than usual, from Ted Cruz to Christine O’Donnell. It’s impossible to ignore that the biggest result of the supposed Tea Party revolution has been to refocus Republican energies on attacking abortion rights and expanding the war on women to include attacks on previously non-controversial issues, such as insurance coverage of birth control and maternity care. Turns out the “Tea Party” was the same old religious right people know and loathe.
The religious right is increasingly a problem for the Republican Party. But it’s not one they can get rid of without creating even more problems for themselves.
The 2012 election really demonstrated how much the religious right hurts Republicans in general elections. The various “rape philosophers” who lost elections after making offensive remarks about rape victims  were, by and large, expressing ideas about female sexuality and sexual violence they got by being stalwart warriors for the religious right. Todd Akin’s claim that “legitimate rape” didn’t result in pregnancy is a fairy tale told by Christian conservatives to convince themselves that exceptions in their preferred abortion bans for rape are unnecessary. Richard Mourdock’s claim that rape happens  because it’s God’s plan was more of the same.
But this was a continuation of the trend of candidates in competitive elections losing because they say wacky things they learned as Christian conservatives. Sharron Angle’s weird religiosity—including a similar tendency to describe rape as a blessing in disguise —led to her defeat in a previously competitive 2010 election against Harry Reid. (She beat out a more moderate Republican in the primary, in part because of the Tea Party insurgency.) Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell tanked her election after talking about Christian right obsessions like witchcraft and sexual “purity.” The trend continued right through 2013 when Ken Cuccinelli lost his bid to be governor of Virginia because of his hostility to reproductive rights and his outdated campaign to recriminalize sodomy in Virginia.
This isn’t a problem in conservative districts where ficus trees could win as long as they were the official Republican nominees, but as these examples show, the religious right severely limits the Republicans’ ability to expand beyond that, especially when it comes to bigger elections with a broader base of voters—like the presidential election. Because of that, it seems the smart thing to do would be to quit running the Todd Akins and Ken Cuccinellis and go for candidates who don’t have the stench of misogynistic fundamentalism about them.
But early 2014 evidence shows that Republicans have decided to keep on keeping on with the Jesus lunacy. The official Republican response to the State of the Union address was given by Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Most of her speech was composed of empty platitudes without even a whiff of what kind of policies Republicans would offer instead, with one exception: abortion. Even though Obama hadn’t mentioned it in his speech, McMorris Rodgers wielded her young son with Down’s syndrome as evidence for belief that abortion is never acceptable. The message was clear. Republicans not only refuse to give up on the religious right—they’re keeping the religious right and its obsessions front and center.
It seems stupid, but if you think about it, what other choice do they have? As the McMorris Rodgers speech indicated, there’s a dearth of ideas outside of waging war on women in the current Republican Party. Right now, Republicans are primarily defined by what they’re against and they don’t seem to befor much of anything: Against minimum wage rises, against healthcare reform, against government interventions to improve the economy, against everything Obama does no matter what (including taking pictures of his dog ), against food stamps, against against against. They may occasionally make gestures toward the hint of an idea that they might want to replace the policies they’re against with some other policies, but no one really believes this. House Republicans spend more time passing pointless repeal bills of the ACA than they do passing bills that do anything at all.
Say what you will about the religious right, at least they are for something. Sure, what they’re for is eradicating safe abortion, making contraception hard to get, aggressively punishing gay people for the crime of existing, injecting creationism into schools, redirecting tax money toward their pet causes, and stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, but at least they have a mission. The larger Republican agenda of getting out of the way so that capitalist forces can squeeze as much wealth as they can from 99% of the population to enrich 1% of the population is never going to be an agenda people can support—well, people besides billionaires, that is—but a lot of people are active members of the religious right and are willing to vote and fundraise and agitate on these fronts.
Without the religious right, the Republicans would be reduced to saying, “Vote for us. For reasons. Which we can’t really explain.” In other words, the rest of Cathy McMorris Rodgers' speech. The parts that weren’t about pandering to the religious right, that is.
This is the paradox of the modern Republican Party: In order to get the votes of the kind of people who would support them, they have to turn everyone else off. Sure, some people who currently vote for Democrats or refuse to vote at all would decamp to the Republican side if Republicans dropped the religious right, but the number of voters they have to gain from this is fewer than the number they have to lose if the religious right decides to stop voting altogether.
So next time you wonder why they keep running all these fools who can’t stop saying nutty stuff about Jesus and controlling other people’s sex lives, just remember: Those nutty Christian fundies are the only loyal votes they have left. If they threw them out, they might be standing around with a big bag of nothing.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
HIGH COST OF CRUZ'S EGO TRIP
By Dana Milbank | Washington Post | 2/15/2014
Very few Americans know how close the country came to catastrophe this week.
THE FINAL TALLY SHOWS THAT THE SENATE VOTED BY A WIDE MARGIN WEDNESDAY, 67 TO 31, TO BREAK SEN. TED CRUZ’S FILIBUSTER OF AN INCREASE IN THE DEBT LIMIT, THUS AVOIDING A DEFAULT ON THE UNITED STATES’ FULL FAITH AND CREDIT.
But 15 minutes after the voting should have ended, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had apparently secured only two of the five Republican votes he needed to join all 55 members of the Democratic caucus to pass the measure. He raised three fingers in the air and worked his way among his members but was met with folded arms and shakes of the head. Looking queasy, he patted his thigh nervously and drummed his fingers. In the hubbub, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) knocked a full glass of water and coaster from McConnell’s desk to the floor.
DEMOCRATS, WATCHING THE SPECTACLE, TOOK THE EXTRAORDINARY STEP OF ORDERING THE SENATE CLERK NOT TO READ ALOUD THE ONGOING VOTE TALLY TO AVOID SETTING OFF A MARKET PANIC; BECAUSE THE HOUSE HAD ALREADY LEFT ON A TWO-WEEK RECESS, A FAILURE OF THIS VOTE WOULD HAVE LEFT LITTLE CHANCE OF AVOIDING DEFAULT ON FEB. 27, WHEN THE TREASURY WAS TO RUN OUT OF FUNDS.
WATCHING THE CHAOS FROM THE SIDE OF THE CHAMBER WAS THE MAN WHO CAUSED IT: CRUZ, HIS HANDS IN HIS PANTS POCKETS AND A SATISFIED GRIN ON HIS FACE. THE TEXAS REPUBLICAN STROLLED TO THE CLERK’S TABLE TO CHECK ON THE VOTE COUNT AND WAS MET WITH A LOOK OF DISGUST FROM SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TENN.). AND THE FEELING WAS WIDESPREAD: MOMENTS AFTER CRUZ WALKED INTO THE REPUBLICAN CLOAKROOM, FOUR SENATORS EMERGED FROM IT AND CHANGED THEIR VOTES TO “AYE.”
CRUZ REEMERGED FROM THE CLOAKROOM, CHEWING GUM, HIS HANDS AGAIN IN HIS POCKETS. HE SMIRKED AS HIS COLLEAGUES FINALLY OVERCAME HIS FILIBUSTER AFTER A 59-MINUTE STRUGGLE.
CRUZ’S EGO TRIP HAD COME AT A HIGH COST. HE HAD FORCED MCCONNELL, SEN. JOHN CORNYN OF TEXAS AND OTHER REPUBLICANS TO CAST VOTES THAT COULD CAUSE THEM TO LOSE PRIMARIES TO WEAKER GENERAL-ELECTION CANDIDATES, AND HE HAD RISKED GETTING HIS PARTY BLAMED FOR A DEFAULT.
The Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page dubbed Cruz “the Minority Maker” for making his GOP colleagues “walk the plank” on a “meaningless debt ceiling vote.”
But Cruz doesn’t care about all that. Leaving the chamber, he told reporters McConnell’s fate would be “ultimately a decision . . . for the voters in Kentucky.”
His actions suggest Cruz has put himself before his party and even the nation’s solvency. And in this sense his actions are typical of the 2016 GOP presidential field. Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Rand Paul are mucking up the gears of government in ways that will earn them favorable attention in the primaries.
Rubio, of Florida, is pushing legislation that would undo Obamacare in such a way that would cause chaos in the insurance market and likely leave tens of millions of people without health coverage and cost the government billions.
Vying with Cruz to be the most reckless of the 2016 aspirants is Paul, of Kentucky, who in recent days has injected the 1990s Monica Lewinsky scandal into the national debate as a means of discrediting Hillary Clinton. He also claimed her failure to send “reinforcements” to diplomats in Benghazi before they were attacked “should limit Hillary Clinton from ever holding high office.” Multiple investigations have confirmed that secretaries of state do not make decisions about security at each diplomatic post.
Now, Paul has politicized his court challenge to the NSA surveillance program. It would have been an important legal case, but Paul pushed aside the constitutional lawyer who had drafted the legislation and abandoned efforts to get a Democratic senator to be a co-plaintiff; instead, he added President Obama’s name to the list of defendants, brought in the tea party group FreedomWorks as a plaintiff and hired failed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, another tea party politician, to be his lead lawyer.
TO NOBODY’S SURPRISE, PAUL AND RUBIO SIDED WITH CRUZ IN WEDNESDAY’S DEBT-CEILING FILIBUSTER. HAD THEY PREVAILED, AND HAD 12 OF THEIR GOP COLLEAGUES NOT BEEN MORE RESPONSIBLE, THE LIKELY DEFAULT WOULD HAVE ADDED FAR MORE TO THE NATIONAL DEBT THAN THE LEGISLATION DID. IT ALSO WOULD HAVE CAUSED MARKETS TO CRASH, THE ECONOMY TO SWOON AND AMERICAN STANDING TO DECLINE.
But for Messrs. Paul, Rubio and Cruz, those aren’t the top considerations.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
Rand Paul: GOP Needs 'Transformation' To Become 'A New Republican Party'
The Huffington Post | by Samantha Lachman | 02/14/2014
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had some prescriptions for the Republican Party in an interview with Glenn Beck on The Blaze that aired Thursday.
Though Paul insisted that it is "too early" for him to make a decision about whether to run for president in 2016, he did have suggestions for how his party could evolve to be more responsive to a changing electorate.
“I THINK REPUBLICANS WILL NOT WIN AGAIN IN MY LIFETIME FOR THE PRESIDENCY UNLESS THEY BECOME A NEW GOP, A NEW REPUBLICAN PARTY,” PAUL TOLD BECK. “AND IT HAS TO BE A TRANSFORMATION. NOT JUST A LITTLE TWEAKING AT THE EDGES.”
LATER IN THE INTERVIEW, PAUL SAID THAT HE COULD BE THE ONE TO PUSH THE GOP IN THE DIRECTION HE WANTS IT TO MOVE.
"THERE IS A STRUGGLE GOING ON WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY," HE TOLD BECK. "I WILL STRUGGLE TO MAKE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY A DIFFERENT PARTY, A BIGGER PARTY, A MORE DIVERSE PARTY AND A PARTY THAT CAN WIN NATIONAL ELECTIONS AGAIN."
He also mentioned that the GOP has to have "a better message and a better presentation" when talking to African-American and Latino communities.
Paul, who is frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 candidate, has previously discussed how the Republican Party needs to reach out more effectively to younger voters.
Sentiment: Strong Buy
JOHN MCCAIN TWEETS EDITORIAL BLASTING TED CRUZ AFTER DEBT LIMIT VOTE
The Huffington Post | by Sabrina Siddiqui | 02/13/2014
It's no secret that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) isn't the biggest fan of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whom he's called a "wacko bird" and "crazy." And in the wake of Wednesday's debt limit vote, a dramatic affair for Senate Republicans that was spurred by Cruz, McCain has made his feelings about his junior colleague clear once again.
"The Minority Maker" is the headline on A WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL PUBLISHED THURSDAY THAT MCCAIN DUBBED HIS LATEST "MUST-READ" ON TWITTER. "TED CRUZ HURTS HIS PARTY BY FORCING A MEANINGLESS DEBT-CEILING VOTE," READS THE SUBHEAD ON THE PIECE.
THE EDITORIAL CRITICIZES CRUZ'S INSISTENCE ON A 60-VOTE THRESHOLD FOR CLOTURE IN ORDER TO ADVANCE A HOUSE-PASSED BILL THAT WOULD RAISE THE DEBT CEILING FOR ONE YEAR WITH NO STRINGS ATTACHED. SENATE REPUBLICANS HAD BEEN HOPING TO PASS THE BILL WITHOUT DRAMA OR DELAY, AND EVEN WEIGHED THE POSSIBILITY OF GRANTING UNANIMOUS CONSENT FOR A SIMPLE-MAJORITY VOTE THAT WOULD ALLOW DEMOCRATS TO "OWN" THE DEBT LIMIT INCREASE.
BUT CRUZ'S REFUSAL TO GO ALONG WITH THAT TACTIC FORCED SEVERAL REPUBLICANS, INCLUDING GOP LEADERS MITCH MCCONNELL (KY.) AND JOHN CORNYN (TEXAS), TO VOTE IN FAVOR OF LETTING THE BILL ADVANCE, AFTER A SOMEWHAT CONTENTIOUS DEBATE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. MCCONNELL AND CORNYN BOTH FACE TOUGH PRIMARY CHALLENGES IN THEIR 2014 REELECTION BATTLES, AND THEIR OPPONENTS AND OUTSIDE CONSERVATIVE GROUPS POUNCED WITHIN MINUTES ON THEIR "AYE" VOTES.
THE JOURNAL AGREED THAT LAWMAKERS SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR VOTES, BUT THE EDITORIAL BOARD POINTED OUT THAT THE HOUSE HAD ALREADY PASSED THE DEBT CEILING BILL. CRUZ HAD NO OTHER STRATEGY BUT TO "SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT AGAIN, TAKE PUBLIC ATTENTION AWAY FROM OBAMACARE, AND MAKE REPUBLICANS EVEN MORE UNPOPULAR." THE PIECE CONCLUDES THAT IF REPUBLICANS FAIL TO RETAKE THE SENATE IN NOVEMBER, "THEIR RUMP KAMIKAZE CAUCUS" WILL BE TO BLAME.
McCain had planned to vote against cloture himself, but ultimately voted to let the bill go forward and praised McConnell after the vote. "I must say it was a very courageous act, especially on the part of Senator McConnell, who as we all know is in a very tough race," he told reporters.
Cruz had no regrets about forcing his colleagues to take tough votes before the public, and expressed his disappointment that Republicans let a clean debt ceiling hike pass the upper chamber.
"It should have been a very easy vote,” Cruz told reporters after the bill cleared final passage. "In my view, every Senate Republican should have stood together and said what every one of us tells our constituents back home, which is that we will not go along with raising the debt ceiling while doing nothing to fix the underlying out-of-control spending problem."
Sentiment: Strong Buy
TED CRUZ DEMAND ENSNARES GOP LEADERS IN DEBT CEILING VOTE
DONNA CASSATA | 02/12/2014 | AP
WASHINGTON (AP) — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz sat with eyes glued to his mobile device as the chaos he provoked ensnared his Republican leaders on the Senate floor.
Legislation to raise the nation's borrowing authority with no strings attached was short of the 60 votes it needed to advance — a threshold Cruz demanded — and without a few conversions, Republicans would be blamed for its failure. The stock market was watching.
After what seemed like an eternity, a grim-faced Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party leader who faces a tea party challenge back home, finally voted yes. An equally grim-faced Sen. John Cornyn, the party's No. 2 leader and Cruz's Texas colleague, changed his vote from no to yes.
Cruz showed no mercy in exposing Republican leaders to widespread criticism from their primary challengers over a procedural vote on the debt limit after their pronouncements about the imperative of spending cuts. It could have been a simple 50-vote requirement, with Democrats delivering the votes to lift the debt limit, but Cruz insisted.
Pressed after the vote about what he made his leaders do, Cruz was unapologetic.
"It should have been a very easy vote," he told reporters. "In my view, every Senate Republican should have stood together." He added that the verdict on McConnell "is ultimately a decision ... for the voters in Kentucky."
McConnell's GOP challenger, Matt Bevin, seized on McConnell's vote to criticize him. "Kentucky and America can literally no longer afford such financially reckless behavior from the likes of Mitch McConnell," Bevin said in a statement.
The Madison Project, a conservative group backing Bevin, accused McConnell of giving President Barack Obama "a blank check."
It wasn't the first time Cruz, a tea party favorite, had created massive headaches for Republicans. Last fall, he and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, precipitated the 16-day government shutdown with their demand that Obama gut his 3-year-old health care law.
The quest had the backing of the Senate Conservatives Fund and other outside groups that raised millions during the process — and spent a good chunk of it to boost GOP challengers such as Bevin and Chris McDaniel, who is running against Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran.
This week, the conservative groups Heritage Action and Club for Growth urged Senate Republicans to oppose lifting the debt limit. Determined to avoid brinkmanship, the House voted for a debt limit with no strings attache. After Wednesday's drama, the Senate followed suit.
Republicans are intent on avoiding the drama of market-rattling fiscal fights, especially in an election year in which the party sees a legitimate shot at adding Senate control to their majority in the House. They want Obama's unpopular health care law to be the main focus in the months leading up to the November election.
Cruz is unwilling to step back from the fight, even if it undercuts his party's strategy.
"Today was a classic victory for Washington establishment interests, and the people who lost today are the American people," Cruz said.
Republican Sens. Bob Corker and John McCain praised the courage of McConnell and Cornyn, who avoided days of uncertainty over whether the nation might default.
"People will see McConnell and Cornyn voted in a responsible way," Corker said.
They avoided public criticism of Cruz.
"I respect Sen. Cruz's rights to exercise his rights as a senator," said McCain, who had rallied other Republicans to switch their votes.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman of the Budget Committee, said she was glad Republican were responsible, adding, "It was painful to watch."
Sentiment: Strong Buy
SARAH PALIN SLAMS CHRIS CHRISTIE ON BRIDGE SCANDAL
The Huffington Post | by Ashley Alman | 02/12/2014
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) weighed in on the bridge scandal plaguing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) in a Tuesday interview with "Inside Edition."
Following Christie's repeated claims that he had no knowledge of his top aide's politically-motivated George Washington Bridge lane closures last fall, Palin told "Inside Edition" she always knew what her own top aides were up to.
“It's hard to be the CEO of an organization and not know what the closest people to you are up to," Palin said. "It's tough not to know. I know when I was mayor and manager of this city and then governor of the state, certainly you know what your top aides are up to.”
In a radio interview earlier this month, Christie insisted he was unaware of emails sent by his staff that called for "some traffic problems in Fort Lee" as retribution against a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse the governor in his reelection bid last fall.
"Let's make one thing clear: the most important issue is, did I know anything about the plan to close these lanes?" Christie said. "And the answer is still the same: It's unequivocally no. In fact, no one's ever accused me of that."
Palin has hardly shied away from criticizing her fellow Republican in the past. In a November interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Palin commented on Christie's "extreme" weight, saying, "it's hard for some people not to comment on it."
And in a November "Today" interview, Palin hesitated to throw her support behind Christie, who is largely regarded as a potential candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
"I would never put my faith and hope in any one politician," she said.
Sentiment: Strong Buy