Tag: senate

The Freedom Caucus: Accountability or Hindrance?

Juan Ayala | United States

“[The Freedom Caucus] can’t tell you what they’re for. They can’t tell you what they’re against. They’re anarchists, they want total chaos.” – Former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

“…to solve immigration reform, House Republicans have to break precedent and bring a bill to the floor that offends the Freedom Caucus.” – Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 

“..the Freedom Caucus has ruined the Republican Party” – Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

So, just who is this growing group of conservatives and why should you care?

The Freedom Caucus: A Background

In 2009-2012, President Obama carried out his agenda through the stimulus package and poured money into the economy through government subsidies. Out of this “pork barrel spending,” the Tea Party was born. The caucus consists of candidates that were angry with what they thought were big government bailouts. Thusly, they became part of this grassroots movement to accomplish what they believed establishment Republicans were not.

According to the group’s Twitter, they support an open and accountable government, constitutionalism, and rule of law. Senators in the caucus include Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Some notable Representatives in the caucus include Thomas Massie and Justin Amash.

Relationship to Trump

The Republican Party is split over those who are openly criticizing Trump and those who let his rhetoric go by the wayside. The leaders of the Caucus are “brave, tough cookies” for Trump, as he puts it. Others like South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford have a lesser relationship with Trump. Sanford boasted an 80% positive rating with Trump’s voters and many see him as a constitutional conservative. However, his criticism of Trump led to the President releasing negative tweets about him the night of his primary. Many GOP strategists believe that these untimely tweets cost Sanford the race.

How the Caucus Operates

Congress is messy. The procedures and work schedule are an extremely difficult aspect of Congress and the Freedom Caucus doesn’t make it any easier.

Imagine you need 100 people to agree on an issue in your local community about implementing Common Core; you have 40 people in favor and 40 against. The final 20 want it abolished, to get rid of sex education and also want one of their members on the local school board. You have to give them 2/3 of what they’re asking for their support and need 51 people to agree to pass any measure, so a compromise must occur. Clearly, it’s damn near impossible to get there.

The previously mentioned 20 in the example would be the House Freedom Caucus, a group of four-dozen or so hardline conservatives (out of 199 Republican-held seats). Their presence can hinder a bill’s progress. Most notably, they killed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was supposed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump infamously blamed them for the death of the AHCA. They have also opposed most immigration reform bills.

Remember, these are voting members of Congress and their opinions can very much impact anyone’s life.

The Growth of the Caucus

There is no official membership list. The founders, Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), court candidates. Contributing to an individual’s campaign is a key part of the Caucus. Following the 2018 midterms, the Caucus adds to its ranks Ben Cline (R-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX). They expect another five to six members to join their ranks.

New Progressives, Hardline Conservatives & The Future

On camera, Congress is always ready for a 30-second sound bite. It’s the content that gets clicks, retweets and presumably also why Ocasio-Cortez was seated on a committee that also has Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan on it. The far-right and far-left are emerging in the House. Consequently, there will be an already uphill battle to achieve a consensus on commonsense approaches.


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Is Trump’s Wall What’s Best At The Border?

Mark West | United States

In the midst of our nation’s longest partial government shutdown, President Donald Trump gave an Oval Office address making his case for the necessity of a wall along the United States’ border with Mexico. The next day President Trump stormed out of a meeting with Congressional leaders, still at odds over how much money should be dedicated in the upcoming budget for border security. President Trump took immediately to Twitter to lodge his complaint:

If you ask the President, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are to blame for the shutdown, even though he pledged to take the mantle for it during their meeting in late December. President Trump has gone as far as threatening an emergency declaration in order to build a border wall, which raises a host of controversies on its own.

A standoff like this leaves libertarians stuck between a wall and a hard place. The wall being their opposition to President Trump’s wall on the Mexican border and the hard place being their support for the government being shut down, even if only partially.

Shutdown aside, we must asses what began this impasse to understand why it is the political albatross we are facing today.

President Trump descended the escalator to announce his intention of running for President in 2016 with a promise to build a big, beautiful wall. As the campaign progressed, his promise morphed with a guarantee that Mexico would pay for the wall he wanted built on the border. Mexican officials have publicly rejected this part of the deal from its inception.

Fast forward to early 2018 when the Democrats came to President Trump with a deal offering to exchange $25 billion in wall funding for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. The deal seemed set until signals reached the Senate that President Trump wasn’t going to sign the deal and the bill failed as Republican Senators voted it down to avoid facing primary challenges.

Another bump of the jump button and we arrive at our current budget battle that has shut the government down as President Trump wants $5.7 billion for border barriers while the Senate budget only allotted around $1.6 billion. Apparently, the chasm dividing our government is $4.1 billion.

This last gasp at keeping a promise that probably shouldn’t have been made led to the President’s necessary aim of convincing us that our border is in an emergency situation and the only solution must include a new wall.

You read that right, I said a new wall. One of the larger fallacies in this debate surrounds the belief that no barriers are on our border with Mexico. Approximately 650 miles of border wall exist and another 1,200 miles of the border is the Rio Grand River. Let’s not forget the Barry M Goldwater Range Air Force Base and Big Bend National Park portions of the border as well.

USA Today took a helicopter trip to scout out the border, beginning at the Gulf of Mexico and ending at the Pacific Ocean. I would encourage anyone interested in the debate to hop on the flight with them and check out the unique and diversified geography that makes up the border.

What this standoff should really be focused on is funding for an incomplete project that suffered from lacking funds and an appropriate definition. Why would a border wall project not be more defined? The Border Patrol wanted the leeway, and got it with an amendment in 2007, in determining what sort of barrier would work best in each topographical region along the border. I would argue that anyone who has looked at the entire border can understand that desire. A one-size-fits-all solution, like those red ball-caps, isn’t going to work.

However, calling the current border situation a crisis or national emergency seems like a bit of a stretch to me. I don’t believe the data supports it and without an appropriate cost-benefit analysis, it may also be unsupported fiscally as well.

First, illegal border crossing apprehensions have dropped 81% since 2000. Second, around half of immigrants living in the country illegally are VISA overstays. A wall will not send people back after they overstay their visas. Third, we do not have an accurate and independent cost-benefit analysis that can be reliably cited for argument’s sake.

I would like to see if Democrats would be up for additional funding for repair, renovation, and connecting of the current barriers where possible, but I would also like to see the new wall conversation die on a craggy, desert, path along the border.


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We Can’t Trust Trump to Stop the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019

Thomas DiGennaro | United States

Senator Feinstein of California has introduced Bill S 66 the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 which includes the following regulations:

Key Provisions:

  • Bans the sale, manufacture, transfer, and importation of 205 military-style assault weapons by name. Owners may keep existing weapons.
  • Bans any assault weapon that accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics including a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock. Owners may keep existing weapons.
  • Bans magazines and other ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which allow shooters to quickly fire many rounds without needing to reload. Owners may keep existing magazines.

Exemptions to Bill:

  • The bill exempts by name more than 2,200 guns for hunting, household defense or recreational purposes.
  • The bill includes a grandfather clause that exempts all weapons lawfully possessed at the date of enactment.

Other Provisions:

  • Requires a background check on any future sale, trade or gifting of an assault weapon covered by the bill.
  • Requires that grandfathered assault weapons are stored using a secure gun storage or safety device like a trigger lock.
  • Prohibits the transfer of high-capacity ammunition magazines.
  • Bans bump-fire stocks and other devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at fully automatic rates.

Updates to Assault Weapons Ban of 2017:

  • Bans stocks that are “otherwise foldable or adjustable in a manner that operates to reduce the length, size, or any other dimension, or otherwise enhances the concealability of a firearm.”
  • Bans assault pistols that weigh 50 or more ounces when unloaded, a policy included in the original 1994 ban.
  • Bans assault pistol stabilizing braces that transform assault pistols into assault rifles by allowing the shooter to shoulder the weapon and fire more accurately.
  • Bans Thordsen-type grips and stocks that are designed to evade a ban on assault weapons

This legislation would essentially force the rest of the nation to comply with New York and California regulations of semi-automatic rifles. In other words, a semi-automatic AR-15 with a detachable magazine would never be sold again at a gun store. This legislation will effectively ensure that future generations do not have legal means to obtain sufficient arms and munitions to keep a tyrannical government in check or to defend themselves against criminals.

This is it, ladies and gentlemen, this is the legislation we have long feared. This is the justification for the NRA and the Trump Administration caving on the bump stock ban, in order to appease lawmakers like Feinstein and prevent this type of legislation. But you give the mouse the cookie, be damn well sure they’re coming for the glass of milk.

The scariest part? It just may get through the Republican Senate and have Trump’s signature on it. Trump’s priority is building the wall, and the majority of Senate Republicans’ priority is to end the government shutdown. If Feinstein and the Democrats in Congress give Trump his wall and end the shutdown, we might just be looking at our worst fears come true. Isn’t that just the beauty of democracy? The left and right working together, coming to compromise. Compromise at the expense of the American people’s liberties.

The NRA has not released any statements regarding this yet. Trump made remarks supporting Feinstein’s proposals of Assault Weapon Bans, as well as advocating for the expansion of background checks, in February 2018. With the NRA’s and Trump’s support of bump-stock bans, red flag laws, expansion of background checks, and encouragement of lawmakers to pass more gun laws, I wouldn’t hold my breath on their opposition.

What hope do we have for halting the continued perversion of the Second Amendment? As usual, Firearms Policy Coalition is doing what they do best; taking action to defend the Second. They have announced their strong opposition to this bill, set up a link on their site to contact your congressional representatives to demonstrate your opposition, and are likely working on legal action to be filed if S 66 moves forward. This, of course, is in addition to their two legal suits against the bump stock ban, and against California’s violation of the Second and Fourteenth Amendment. We can also likely count on Senator Rand Paul getting up on the soapbox and filibustering the hell out of this bill.

If your Second Amendment rights are important to you, don’t bet it all on Trump, the Republican Senate, or the NRA. Make your voice heard to your representatives, and donate what you can to Senator Paul and FPC. Those dollars will surely be used more efficiently than your tax dollars.


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Government Overreach Increases Regardless of Party

Nickolas Roberson | United States

As of now, the Democrats control the House, while the Republicans control the Senate. With both parties in power, political gridlock will only increase. However, the legislation these parties do pass will only increase the already gluttonous influence and power of the United States government. Clearly, this increased government overreach is detrimental to citizens.

For over a hundred years, the government has been willing to violate our natural rights and liberties. For example, we have lawmakers limiting our 2nd Amendment rights with the bump stock ban and warrantless surveillance of citizens. With established political gridlock growing, these infringements will only increase in frequency.

Bipartisan Compromise

Why? In order for the established political parties to gain “true progress”, they must come to agreements and compromises and create bipartisan deals that work for both sides of the aisle. With their vastly varying beliefs, these parties will need to find common ground. After all, without this, nothing would get done in Washington. 

To the average citizen, this may sound like a good thing. Yes, the wheels of politics are able to move once again. However, they are by no means moving in a positive direction; they are instead furthering government overreach. Both parties want to ensure that they get what they want, no matter the monetary cost.

A Vehicle for Government Overreach

For example, after having control of the House for just two months, members of the Democratic party have already proposed a bill to eliminate the Electoral College. Additionally, Democrats proposed a bill that would criminalize the private sale of firearms, a clear violation of our 2nd Amendment right. Due to a Republican-controlled Senate, these bills will most likely not pass.

However, if they propose similar bills that contain legislation pertaining to both parties’ agendas, government overreach will continue. For instance, a bill may set aside tax dollars to fund the border wall, but also provide taxpayer-funded healthcare to American citizens. Both parties fulfill their wants in this situation, pushing them to fulfill more extreme legislature that fits in their agendas. Thus, an ever-growing spiral of increasing government overreach and power will form. Our rights are at risk; compromise is not always beneficial.


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Congressional Term Limits Are a Necessity

Josh Hughes | United States

Of the incumbents that ran for the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms, 91% won. To put that into perspective, that number is actually lower than in recent elections. While not every representative that ran was a lifetime politician, too many are. The Senate is not much better, with 84% of running incumbents winning another term. This number is more representative of recent trends. Clearly, the 2018 midterm elections proved that Congressional term limits are essential in America.

Why Are Term Limits an Issue?

There are dozens of senators and representatives who have served at least 20 years in Congress. The longest-serving member of the Senate is currently Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont who has been in office since 1975. Don Young from Alaska assumed office in 1973 and is the most tenured member of the House.

Plenty of fine congressmen have served these long terms. However, there are still issues with the idea of lifetime politicians. In a democratic republic like the U.S., the only way for the government to be for the people is for it to be of the people. This does not mean bureaucrats and Washington cronies, but rather sensible, everyday Americans. Someone who has been in office nearly a half-century is unlikely to still know the rapidly-changing interests of the country.

An incumbent is far more likely to be elected than a challenger. This prevents new members and ideas from entering the political realm at the federal level. It only serves to disadvantage the country. A fresh group every few years with new takes and policies would be more beneficial; the same ideas do not work in vastly different cultures and climates.

How to Create Term Limits

What Congress would willingly limit its own power? The reality is, this one probably will not. However, under Article V of the Constitution, the states can add an amendment to the document. A 2/3 vote from the states is needed to propose the amendment and hold a convention, and a 3/4 vote is needed from state legislatures to ratify the amendment.

Grassroots campaigns such as the “U.S. Term Limits” movement are operating to raise support for this issue. This campaign has garnered millions of signatures via its petition and even has support from members of Congress.

A Fair Amendment

A proper term limits amendment should limit congressmen to 12 years in office. This could occur entirely as a senator or representative, or as some combination of the two. Those already over 12 years would be ineligible to run again, once their term is over. Twelve years gives each congressman enough time to be influential without falling out of touch from American interests. This ensures that nearly every decade will have a new set of congressmen, ensuring fresh faces and ideas.

Many people already back the idea of congressional term limits. In fact, 15 states already have laws in place that limit the terms for state legislatures. It is not an impossible task to apply the same thinking to the federal level. While this may not seem like something that will happen soon, the movement is constantly gaining support and momentum, and it would not be surprising to see important changes in the near future.


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