Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opposes same-sex marriage, but his tactics for doing so are unique. For example, last month he offered a completely unfeasible suggestion to simply erase any mention of marriage from the laws and establish all its protections through various contracts. But he really isn’t interested in taking any steps to help that along. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network this weekend, he expressed hope that by continuing to allow individual states to decide, the debate on same-sex marriage might continue unresolved for several decades:
PAUL: Where marriage is adjudicated, whether it’s at the federal level or at the state level, we’ve always had marriage certificates and we’ve had them at the state level. If we keep it that way, maybe we can still have the discussion go on without make the decision go all the way one way or all the way the other way.
I think right now if we say we’re only going to have a federally mandated one-man, one-woman marriage, we’re going to lose that battle because the country is going the other way right now. If we were to say each state can decide, I think a good 25, 30 states still do believe in traditional marriage, and maybe we allow that debate to go on for another couple of decades and see if we can still win back the hearts and minds of people.
Polls have consistently trended in only one direction on the question of same-sex marriage, so there is little evidence Paul could “still win back the hearts and minds of people.” Indeed, people who know somebody who is gay or who understand sexual orientation are more likely to support marriage equality. Paul doesn’t seem to care about justice or even morality in how he would resolve this issue — he just doesn’t want to lose.
Thirteen Republican senators have pledged to filibuster a senate debate about new gun safety measures, insisting in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) that they will “oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance.” The threat, which Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) first made last week without seeing the bill, comes just days before the body prepares to consider the first comprehensive gun legislation in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The package will expand restrictions against gun trafficking, invest in school safety and provide for universal background checks of all gun purchases.
But one top Republican, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), is speaking out publicly against the group, questioning the wisdom of promising to filibuster legislation that lawmakers have yet to finalize:
After Mr. Coburn was asked multiple times an identically worded question about whether he would join Mr. Paul’s effort to block gun legislation as he traveled around Oklahoma in recent days, Mr. Coburn bristled at the idea that Mr. Paul would threaten to filibuster a bill before its contents were made final.
“Is that about filibustering a bill to protect the Second Amendment, or is that about Rand Paul?” Mr. Coburn said at a town-hall meeting at the Oklahoma Sports Museum in Guthrie, Okla., on Wednesday. “I’ve done more filibusters than Rand Paul is old,” Mr. Coburn said, but he added that he doesn’t announce such moves before he understands the bill.
Coburn is working on compromise legislation that would expand background checks to all gun purchases, but would not require private sellers to keep a record of the transaction, which gun safety advocates say would ensure that checks are being properly conducted and allow the entire chain of custody to be reconstructed in the event the gun is later recovered in a crime.
Should the Republicans proceed to filibuster on the motion to proceed to the gun package, Reid could take advantage of a new Senate rule “by promising each party two amendments on the legislation.” “Under that scenario, Paul and his allies would still get a chance to raise their objections on the floor for hours on end, but they couldn’t stop the Senate from starting debate on the bill,” Politico reports.
Model international actors Iran and North Korea came together to block the adoption of a treaty regulating the $70 billion dollar arms trade at the United Nations on Thursday, no doubt endearing them to the National Rifle Association.
The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has been in negotiations for the past two weeks, the second attempt to gain a unanimously agreed upon text. The final draft was put before the delegates on Wednesday, with the assumption that it was set to cruise to an easy approval. That assumption was trampled once the Iranian delegation rose to break the required consensus for the treaty’s passage. Iran’s disapproval opened the door for North Korea to join in blocking the treaty. Syria also took umbrage at the text, leading to it and Iran reportedly both objecting to the lack of reference in the treaty’s final draft to foreign occupation or “crimes of aggression.” The President of the Conference quickly suspended the debate before a final vote could be held, leaving the door open to bringing the Iranian and North Korean delegations around, but the chances remain slim.
While not perfect, the treaty had still managed to appease the concerns of many advocates for stronger treaty-language. In particular, a hard fought clause regulating the import and export of ammunition and munitions made its way into the final text. Given the United States’ past hesitance in moving forward on the treaty — including its insistence that the ATT Conference work through consensus — and its current support, the late hour block from Iran and North Korea comes off as slightly ironic. The irony is even more pronounced when one considers that the Iranian delegate, in explaining his objection to the treaty, denounced the U.S.’ influence in shaping the treaty. “The right of individuals to own and use guns has been protected in the current text to meet the constitutional requirements of only one State,” Iranian ambassador Mohammad Khazeee said.
The treaty will now likely move to the General Assembly, however, where it will find the two-thirds necessary to finally pass next week. Given the crazy rhetoric present the last time it almost passed, the eventual passage of the ATT will be sure to provoke even more inflammatory opposition now. In opposing this version of the treaty, the National Rifle Association was much quieter about its lobbying effort, including a push for provisions exempting so-called “civilian firearms” from the treaty’s effects. There is no sign of that influence in the final draft of the ATT. However, the NRA still seems set to come out with a win on this one. Either the treaty is delayed, allowing more time to take it down for good, or it passes with the individual protections it supports hard-coded into the final document.
Their domestic influence will be marshaled once more though once the treaty is signed. At that point, the ATT will go to the U.S. Senate for ratification, where several Republicans have already made abundantly clear their skepticism regarding the very idea of regulating the arms trade. For years now, conservatives have used the supposed threat that an Arms Trade Treaty would entail as a fundraising tool or way to burnish their right-wing credentials. The Heritage Foundation has been slamming each successive draft of the ATT, and will now likely begin a campaign alongside the NRA to doom it in the Senate.
Minutes before President Obama delivered an emotional speech asking lawmakers to pass sensible gun safety measures in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, word came from Capitol Hill that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had signed onto a letter pledging to block votes on any of Obama’s proposals for gun legislation.
Obama delivered his speech surrounded by a group of victims of gun violence, including three parents of Newtown victims. All had come to Washington to demand that Congress take action to stop gun violence. Obama’s speech called on average citizens to ask for the same:
The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we’ve moved on to other things, that’s not who we are. That’s not who we are.
And I want to make sure every American is listening today. Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked. And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.
If there’s one thing I’ve said consistently since I first ran for this office: Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change. And that’s why it’s so important that all these moms and dads are here today. But that’s also why it’s important that we’ve got grassroots groups out there that got started and are out there mobilizing and organizing and keeping up the fight.
Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) office was the first to announce that Rubio had signed onto the filibuster pledge, a joint effort by the offices of Lee and Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). In an earlier statement, Lee claimed that Obama was using “the tragedy at Newtown as a backdrop for pushing legislation that would have done nothing to prevent that horrible crime.”
There’s no question that some parts of Obama’s gun violence prevention proposals would elicit strong opinions in the Senate, but by promising to filibuster them, Rubio, Lee, Cruz, and Paul are actually blocking the “robust and open debate” that they claim to be seeking. A majority of Americans support background checks and bans on high capacity ammunition, two of the proposals in Obama’s package, but thanks to the filibuster they might never see a debate on the floor.
In his speech on Thursday, Obama pushed for proposals including universal background checks, stricter penalties for people who buy guns with the intention of selling them to criminals (straw purchasers), an assault weapons ban, and a limit on high-capacity magazine clips.
Amid all the budget talk in Washington last week, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s (R) was easy to lose in the shuffle. Paul’s budget failed miserably when put to a vote, but it did garner support from conservative groups and key Republican politicians, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Republican budgets have a knack for giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy while slashing social services — including entitlement programs — and Paul’s managed to go even farther. The budget, Paul estimates, would balance in five years, and it provides generous tax cuts to the rich while saving more than $9 trillion by gutting entitlements and the social safety net. And while the lopsided vote may make it seem even too radical for Republicans, it contains many proposals GOP presidential candidates were pushing in the 2012 primary elections:
1. Privatizes Social Security and Medicare: Paul’s budget would raise the Social Security eligibility age and gives workers the option of private accounts, an idea that would demolish workers’ savings during economic downturns. An October 2008 retiree, for instance, would have lost $26,000 in a private Social Security account during the Great Recession, according to one study. Paul’s plan would also privatize Medicare, going a step farther than even Paul Ryan’s House Republican budget did and driving up the cost of health care for seniors even more.
2. Institutes a flat tax: Paul would replace the current progressive tax system with a flat tax rate, effectively providing the wealthiest Americans with a massive tax cut while raising taxes on many middle- and lower-class families. This is a feature of all flat tax plans, and Paul’s would cut the tax rate paid by more than half, slicing it from 35 percent to just 17 percent.
3. Eliminates investment taxes: Paul’s plan finds a way to grant the wealthy an even bigger tax cut by also eliminating all taxes on capital gains, dividends, and other investment income. Republicans like Paul are convinced that cutting capital gains tax rates boosts economic growth; however, evidence does not support that notion. Instead, studies have found that low tax rates on investment income are the biggest driver of growing American income inequality.
4. Abolishes the Dept. of Education: Paul would eliminate in total the departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, ideas conservatives have long pushed. The Department of Education alone manages federal student loan programs, funding for low-income schools, programs to help special needs students, and many other services. Eliminating it, to say nothing of the other agencies, would risk that “poor, special education and minority students would be underserved by public schools even more than they already are.”
5. Cuts Medicaid and the safety net: Paul would block grant funding for Medicaid, food stamps, the children’s health insurance program, and other nutrition assistance programs, essentially gutting America’s social safety net. While Republicans — including Paul Ryan — love the idea of leaving such programs to the states, the reality is that such reforms leave the programs more susceptible to budget cuts. The 1996 welfare reform law block granted that program, which has done nothing but fail to help families in need since.
Which is why Democrats need to take his effort to outflank them on drug policy very, very seriously. In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace this morning, Paul laid out an uncharacteristically sensible view of how the nation should approach drugs:
PAUL: The main thing I’ve said is not to legalize [drugs], but not to incarcerate people for extended periods of time. I’m working with Sen. Leahy. We have a bill on mandatory minimums. There are people in jail for 37, 50, 45 years for non-violent crimes. And that’s a huge mistake. Our prisons are full of non-violent criminals.
I don’t want to encourage people to do it. I think even marijuana is a bad thing to do. I think it takes away your incentive to work and show up and do the things you should be doing. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t want to promote that. But I also don’t want to put people in jail who make a mistake. There’s a lot of young people who do this, then later on in their 20s they grow up and they get married and they quit doing things like this. I don’t want to put them in jail and ruin their lives.
Look, the last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use and I really think, you know, look what would have happened. It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids. particularly in the inner city, they don’t get lucky, they don’t have good attorneys, and they go to jail for these things, and I think it’s a big mistake.
Later in the same interview, Paul — a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2016 — is quite explicit about what he hopes to get out of staking out a sensible view on criminal justice: “someone like myself, I think, could appeal to young people, independents and moderates, because, many of them do think it is a mistake to put people in jail for marijuana use and throw away the key.”
So if Democrats cede this issue to the likes of Rand Paul, they will give up a powerful opportunity to engage with young voters — and potentially empower one of America’s most dangerous politicians in the process.
Of course, there is another, even more important reason why Democrats should work to liberalize America’s drug laws — Rand Paul is right that ruining people’s lives if they commit common youthful transgressions is immoral. But if Democrats cannot be moved to think sensibly on drugs because it is the right thing to do, the least they could do is think sensibly on drugs because it is in their selfish political interests to do so.
Senate Republicans are using the debate around the Fiscal Year 2014 budget to push as many of their far-right ideas as possible, including now a move to have the United States completely withdraw from the United Nations.
An amendment was filed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for just such a purpose, purporting to delete all spending related to the United Nations from the FY14 budget. Specifically, the amendment calls for a reduction of $7,691,822,000 in spending 2014 and 2023. That slash goes beyond even the most draconian of cuts proposed by House Republicans since they reclaimed a majority in 2010.
According to the Better World Campaign, the U.S. payment to the United Nations includes two main parts. The first includes the United States’ contribution to the U.N.’s regular budget and the other bodies under the U.N. umbrella, the second payment into the U.N.’s international peacekeeping efforts. Contributions from across the entirety of the Federal government into the various parts of the U.N. system equals the total that Sen. Paul is seeking to cut, according to 2011 calculations from the Office of Management and Budget.
Paul appears to be following in the footsteps of his father — former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) — in advancing the call to have the U.S. completely pull out of the United Nations. The elder Paul was the primary sponsor of the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act,” a bill introduced periodically from 1999 to 2009 that would ban the U.S. from membership in the U.N. Despite this antipathy towards the United Nations, Ron Paul recently turned to the U.N. system to help him gain control of a website bearing his name.
But the Republican senator from Kentucky is no stranger to using U.N. paranoia to burnish his right-wing credentials. In 2011, he sent a conspiratorial email to his supporters, warning of a supposed U.N. plot to confiscate and destroy U.S. citizens’ guns via a “Small Arms Treaty.” In reality, the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is only just now being developed and in no way will effect civilian ownership of firearms.
Paul’s office was unable to provide any indication of the support that the amendment was expected to receive, or when it would potentially hit the floor. Paul isn’t alone in his party in advocating a withdrawal from the U.N. despite its many benefits. In particular, the U.N. saves the U.S. millions in terms of providing security. “If the U.S. was to act on its own – unilaterally – and deploy its own forces in many of these countries, for every dollar the U.S. would spend, the U.N. can accomplish the mission for twelve cents,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said in an interview in 2009.
The U.S. public also disagrees with Paul on the necessity to withdraw the U.N. — a recent poll showed that eight in ten Americans believe that the U.S. needs to maintain a strong relationship with the United Nations.
Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced “The Life at Conception Act,” a personhood measure that would outlaw abortions by declaring that “human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward.” “The right to life is guaranteed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence and ensuring this is upheld is the Constitutional duty of all Members of Congress,” Paul said in a statement. Anti-abortion activists have tried to advance similar measures across the nation.
But on Tuesday, during an appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room, Paul — who is said to be eyeing a run for the White House in 2016 — seemed to waver from his belief that all abortion is tantamount to killing human life and should be illegal. Asked if the measure offers exceptions for rape or incest victims, the Tea Party star admitted that it includes “thousands of exceptions” and explained that medical decisions “in the early stages of pregnancy that would have to be part of what occurs between the physician and the woman and the family” — free of government interference:
BLITZER: Just to be precise, if you believe life begins at conception, which I suspect you do you would have no exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother is that right?
PAUL: I think that once again puts things in too small of a box. What I would say is there are thousands of exceptions. I’m a physician and every individual case is going to be different. Everything is going to be particular to that individual case and what is going on that mother and the medical circumstances of that mother…. There are a lot of decisions made privately by families and doctors that really won’t, the law won’t apply to, but I think it is important we not be flippant one way or the other and pigeon hole and say this person doesn’t believe in any sort of discussion between family and physician. [...]
BLITZER: It sounds like you believe in some exceptions.
PAUL: Well, there is going to be like I say thousands of extraneous situations where the life of the mother is involved and other things that are involved so I would say that each individual case would have to be addressed and even if there were eventually a change in the law let’s say people came more to my way of thinking there would still be a lot of complicated things the law may not ultimately be able to address in the early stages of pregnancy that would have to be part of what occurs between the physician and the woman and the family.
Paul describes himself as pro-life and has called on Congress to “end abortion on demand once and for all” and overturn Roe v. Wade. But in the answer above, he almost seems to adopt a pro-choice frame, inadvertently making the case for why the right wing’s efforts to declare a fetus a person (and outlaw abortion) undermines women’s health care and well being and invades the doctor/patient relationship.
In the latest sign that comprehensive immigration reform has unprecedented popular and political support, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) endorsed on Tuesday a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The Tea Party favorite is presenting his own plan for reform, and departs from the Senate gang of eight’s plan by opposing the expansion of E-Verify — an error-prone system used by employers to check the legal status of workers. That would be “forcing businesses to become policemen,” Paul said.
His emphasis instead is on making citizenship contingent on meeting certain benchmarks for border security. Since 2007, the security on the border has greatly improved as border crossings are at a 40-year low and the vast majority of the border meets one of Homeland Security’s highest standards of security.
Paul’s plan creates an even longer road to citizenship, beyond the decade proposed by the Senate gang of eight. In year two, immigrants would receive temporary work visas, though Border Patrol, an inspector general and Congress would need to sign off on an improved border situation before other reforms move forward.
“If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you,” Paul said, according to the Associated Press.
Four months ago, Mitt Romney’s immigration policy was to suggest “self-deportation.” The conversation is at a different point now — Paul acknowledged “we aren’t going to deport” the millions here — showing how fringe the anti-immigrant Republican wing has become.
Rand Paul’s advisers claim the Associated Press report is false, and the senator does not back a path to citizenship. His office said in a statement, “He does not mention ‘path to citizenship’ in his speech at all.” An adviser told the Washington Post, “What his plan is extending to them is a quicker path to normalization, not citizenship, and being able to stay, work and pay taxes legally.”
The headline has been updated.
This afternoon CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Paul to clarify his position, and the senator admitted he in fact supports an eventual path to citizenship: “It gets you in the line to enter the country legally to become a citizen like everybody else who wants to come from around the world to be a citizen.”
BLITZER: In other words you are not ruling out but supporting eventually after several steps are taken that these 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants will eventually if they do all the right things be allowed to become United States citizens.
PAUL: Interestingly yes, but at the same time not proposing something new.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opposes same-sex marriage, but he’s previously expressed some ambivalence about banning it at the federal level because of his interest in preserving states’ rights. At a press conference Tuesday, he offered a convoluted new solution for marriage equality that simply erases any mention of marriage from laws or provisions about benefits:
PAUL: I’m not going to change who I am or what I believe in. I am an old-fashioned traditionalist. I believe in the historical definition of marriage. That being said, I think contracts between adults — I’m not for limiting contracts between adults. In fact, if there are ways to make the tax code more neutral where it doesn’t mention the word marriage, then we don’t have to redefine what marriage is.
We just don’t have marriage in the tax code. If health benefits are a problem, why don’t we not define them by marriage? Why don’t we say, you have another adult who lives in the house, and a kid who lives in the house can be part of family coverage? Then you don’t have to redefine, and have people like myself, and people who live in the Southeastern part of the country, we don’t have to change our definition of what we think marriage is, but we allow contracts to occur so there is more ability to [make] the law neutral.
The premise of Paul’s plan conflates the government’s recognition of marriage with religion’s. Even in “the Southeastern part,” including his home state of Kentucky, various churches support marriage equality for same-sex couples. Given his disinterest in supporting same-sex couples — or even letting children learn that gay people exist — it’s unlikely he’ll attract a very large coalition to erase everybody’s marriages to allow for these random contracts. Even if he could, it would be incredibly easy to abuse such contracts, such as acquiring insurance benefits for a roommate who isn’t really considered “family.”
Moreover, Paul claimed this week that his epic filibuster was intended to defend young people, advocating for a more “tolerant” Republican Party because Millenials “simply have no desire to tell other people what to do or how to live.” Offering an untenable idea that impacts everybody to avoid taking an actually tolerant position falls far short of this principle.