By Ryan Lau|USA
In a shocking turn of events late Tuesday night, United States Senator-elect Doug Jones narrowly defeated favorite Roy Moore in the Alabama special Senate election. (More detail of the live election coverage can be found here.) Though much of the coverage has thus far been centered around Moore’s defeat and the subsequent call for a recount, one neglected new reality may be considerably more important. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that because of this, the American people may now see the Senate move in a more liberty-oriented direction. More specifically, the Senate now, due to its extremely narrow margin, may move in a Rand Paul-oriented direction.
Throughout his first and the beginning of his second term as United States Senator from Kentucky, Republican Rand Paul has shown time and time again that he is not, at least not always, the elephant in the room. In fact, FiveThirtyEight data analysis shows that Rand Paul is the Republican that is third most likely to oppose a motion supported by President Donald Trump and that the Kentucky Senator opposes Trump’s favored motions 6.4% more often than he has been expected to. This margin is larger than any other Republican by several percentage points, which clearly shows his lack of approval for some, but not all, of the President’s actions.
How exactly does this impact the direction of the Senate? Well, naturally, to examine this effect, one must simply look at the immense power of the Senate Republicans who oppose Trump more frequently than Paul does. The only two that currently fit this category are Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME), and their actions alone have prevented a number of key pieces of legislation from passing. Most notably, their opposition has led to the Skinny Repeal of Obamacare being rejected by the Senate in July. Clearly, a small number of politicians opposing the line can have immense power; in this case, immense enough power to stop in its tracks arguably the most important piece of legislation brought to vote in 2017.
Indubitably, these actions by a tiny percentage of the Senatorial body took an economically-conservative dominated legislative body and drew it towards the center. However, this happened with a majority of four, as the Senate has been at a majority of 52-48. Two dissenting Senators may force a tie. However, Luther Strange, who was temporarily filling now Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Republican position, will soon lose his seat to Jones, a moderate Democrat. This will bring the majority down to two. At 51-49, one Republican Senator may now either maintain the majority or force a tie. Though any sole Republican theoretically now has this power, only one other shows a consistent record of dissent, and that, of course, is Paul.
Though McCain and Collins will not see any reduction in their power, one of the only other dissenting Senators will now see his voice heard. In the past months, a great number of bills were opposed party-line by Democrats with the addition of Paul. Among these bills include some of the exceptional gravity, such as the congressional budget put forth by the GOP this past October. As Luther Strange voted in the affirmative, the motion passed by a margin of 51 to 49. Now, had Jones voted in place of Strange, this vote would have been forced to a tie. Now, this is far from the only bill that would have been halted by a narrower Republican majority. In fact, Paul was the only Republican to oppose the initial Obamacare replacement bill, as well as President Trump’s nomination of Mike Pompeo for CIA director. Clearly, in both of these situations, there would be a high likelihood of a 50/50 split, given the replacement of Jones for Sessions and then Strange.
Rand Paul’s ideology does not closely reflect that of any other Republican. As a libertarian-leaning member of the Republican party, the Senator is considerably further right on an economic axis than anyone else in the Senate. This is unsurprising. What adds a layer of complexity, however, is Paul’s libertarian beliefs in regards to social issues. Paul sides more with Democrats on issues such as drug laws, as he does not support jailing individuals for use of marijuana for any reason, unlike the vast majority of Republicans. He also supports severe limitations on the power of the NSA and is a staunch non-interventionist, once again clearly breaking the party line.
On economic issues, Paul’s support of more conservative policies will most likely receive the support of the Republicans in the Senate. On his more libertarian-leaning social beliefs, he is unlikely to receive support from his own party but will serve as the sole vote necessary to prevent a Republican majority. Essentially, this means that now, both votes regarding the economic and social dimensions of politics will begin to sway in the direction of Rand Paul, specifically when they would otherwise be entirely partisan decisions.
As a libertarian, I am quite excited to see the increase in the volume of the voice of the only Senator that can be remotely considered to be a friend to the principles of liberty and individual rights. Finally, after decades upon decades of authoritarianism may finally be curbed. Though an imperfect outcome, the narrow majority will finally allow for some libertarian pieces of legislation to pass in both the social and the economic dimension. Rand Paul, it’s time to take back the Senate and send it in the direction of liberty.