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House Liberty Caucus at Young Americans for Liberty national convention

31 Jul


Thomas Massie on waste, fraud and abuse

19 Nov

Massie tells the audience he is a constitutional conservative, not a libertarian, and cites two clauses in the Constitution that are not libertarian.




On the EPA:  “Can you guarantee people that if they like the wood stove they have, they can keep it?”

Thomas Massie on Congress

18 Nov

Massie speaks to the Arlington County Young Republicans tonight at Hard Times Cafe in the Clarendon neighborhood.

Magical Thomas Massie

22 Aug
Buzzfeed is closer to the truth that they know. The amazing Thomas Massie went to MIT and built his own off-the-grid house himself:


22. Thomas Massie as Harry Potter.

Thomas Massie as Harry Potter.
Harry Potter Witches And Wizards Of Congress

And there is no Hermione in congress. Because she is perfect.

Harry Potter Witches And Wizards Of Congress

So just remember: Congress is magical.

So just remember: Congress is magical.
Harry Potter Witches And Wizards Of Congress


America’s Libertarian Moment

19 Aug

A longtime libertarian policy wonk talks about whether the philosophy can save the GOP — and why he still doesn’t think Rand Paul can win the presidency.
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Associated Press
Libertarianism is on the march. From the rapid rise to prominence of first-term Senator Rand Paul to the state-level movements to legalize gay marriage and marijuana, the philosophy of fiscal conservatism, social liberalism, and restrained foreign policy seems to be gaining currency in American politics. But it’s nothing new, of course. (New York Times Magazine, 1971: “The New Right Credo: Libertarianism.”) A lonely band of libertarian thinkers have been propounding this philosophy since the 1960s, when the late thinker Murray Rothbard published his first book, Reason magazine was founded, and, in 1974, Rothbard teamed up with Charles Koch and Ed Crane to found the Cato Institute, one of Washington’s most influential think tanks.
David Boaz, Cato’s executive vice president, has been with the organization since 1981, giving him a good perch to put the current libertarian vogue in perspective. In an interview this week, we talked about the political currents propelling libertarianism into the political mainstream, the Supreme Court’s libertarian turn, whether Paul will be our next president, and much more. This is an edited transcript of our conversation.


Is there a libertarian moment happening in America?

Libertarian ideas — and I’m never using a capital L [i.e., referring to the Libertarian Party] when I say that; in this case I don’t even mean consciously libertarian, so not just the people who read Reasonmagazine and Murray Rothbard and call themselves libertarians — libertarian ideas are very deeply rooted in America. Skepticism about power and about government, individualism, the idea that we’re all equal under the law, free enterprise, getting ahead in the world through your own hard work — all of those ideas are very fundamentally American. Obviously, from a libertarian point of view, America nonetheless has done a whole lot of things, from slavery to Obamacare, that offend some number of those libertarian values, but the core libertarian attitude is still there. And a lot of times when the government suddenly surges in size, scope, or power, those libertarian attitudes come back to the fore.
I think that’s what you’re seeing. I think you’re seeing a growth of self-conscious libertarianism. The end of the Bush years and the beginning of the Obama years really lit a fire under the always-simmering small-government attitudes in America. The TARP, the bailouts, the stimulus, Obamacare, all of that sort of inspired the Tea Party. Meanwhile, you’ve simultaneously got libertarian movements going on in regard to gay marriage and marijuana. And I’ll tell you something else that I think is always there. The national media were convinced that we would be getting a gun-control bill this year, that surely the Newtown shooting would overcome the general American belief in the Second Amendment right to bear arms. And then they pushed on the string and it didn’t go anywhere. Support for gun control is lower today than it was 10 or 15 years ago. I think that’s another sign of America’s innate libertarianism.
This year you have a whole series of scandals that at least call into question the efficacy, competence, and trustworthiness of government. The IRS, maybe theBenghazi cover-up, and the revelations about surveillance. All of those things together, I think, have lit a fire to the smoldering libertarianism of the American electorate.
None of which necessarily means that there’s a libertarian majority that will sweep Rand Paul to the White House or anything like that. But there are a lot of people who care a lot, and a lot more people who care some, about these things, and a majority of Americans think our taxes are too high, a majority of Americans think the federal government spends too much, a majority of Americans think it was a mistake to get into Iraq. A bare majority of Americans now favor gay marriage, a bare majority favor marijuana legalization, a huge majority think there should be a requirement to balance the federal budget. So if you’re a presidential candidate you don’t call yourself a libertarian and run on Murray Rothbard’s book, you run on those issues. And on those issues, you find a lot that a majority agrees with.
What is the significance of Rand Paul to this discussion?

Rand Paul is clearly the most significant libertarian-leaning American political figure in a long time. There are a couple of issues I disagree with him on, but when you look at issues that cut across left-right boundaries, like his interest in reduced spending, less regulation, reining in our adventurous foreign policy, protecting America’s rights against surveillance — that’s a combination of issues that libertarians have waited a long time to find together in one candidate. I think he can have a lot of appeal. A lot of libertarians, including those who came out of the Ron Paul movement but also others, are very interested in seeing how far his political ambitions might take him.
How does libertarianism figure into the war of ideas that’s going on in the Republican Party? Is the GOP poised to embrace libertarianism?
I think they’re poised to debate it. Rand Paul is going to be in the middle of the people debating the future of the Republican Party. Rand Paul has said he doesn’t call himself a libertarian; he calls himself a libertarian Republican, small L-capital R, and he does sometimes say that the party needs to move in a more libertarian direction to broaden its appeal to young people and independent voters.
One of the things Ron Paul’s campaign showed was that a lot of young people who were not Republicans were interested in these ideas. But [as a Republican politician] you either have to get those people into Republican primaries or you have to get the nomination for that to do you any good.
Rand Paul’s supporters believe as soon as he starts to look like a contender, the establishment is going to see him as a threat and try to destroy him.
There are all sorts of Washington establishments who are going to want to take down Rand Paul. The spending establishment is certainly not going to like what he’s talking about. The Republican political establishment doesn’t particularly want to change. And certainly the national security establishment is extremely eager not to debate our policy of global interventionism. They have always sought to rule out of bounds any challenge to it.
They tried it in the Republican primary in Kentucky [in 2010]. The neocons organized one of their emergency committees to stop Rand Paul in the primary. I think they will continue to do that.
And yet some libertarians have started to criticize Rand Paul for going squishy as he tries to appeal more to the GOP mainstream.
If you want a pure libertarian to run for president, you’ve got the Libertarian Party. If you think the Libertarian Party’s candidates aren’t pure enough, you can write in Murray Rothbard. When we talk about a U.S. senator running for president, you are talking about the real world of politics. Nobody is going to be a doctrinaire Ayn Rand libertarian. Rand Paul has rounder edges than his father. He has a number of other advantages over his father: He’s not 77 years old; he’s a not a House member, he’s a senator; and he has rounder edges in the way he presents libertarian ideas. There may even be issues on which they actually disagree, though I’m not sure I can think of one.
Well, Rand Paul says he would audit the Federal Reserve, not end it as his father promised to do.
Does he, in his heart, believe in ending the Fed? I believe he does. But the next president is not going to get rid of the Fed. If we can audit the Fed — and, more important to me, we can rein in the incredible powers the Fed seized in 2008 and put some governor in control of the creation of new money — we will have accomplished a lot.
Rand Paul is also strongly against abortion rights, which many libertarians disagree with. What is the libertarian position on abortion?
I don’t think there is a libertarian position on abortion. There was a study done by a graduate student at UCLA that found that about two-thirds of people you would identify as libertarian are pro-choice. From a philosophical perspective, libertarians generally believe the appropriate role of government is to protect life, liberty, and property. The question is, is forbidding abortion a way of protecting life, or should it be viewed as a restriction of liberty? There’s a plausible libertarian case on both sides. People who are consciously libertarian are more respectful of the other position on abortion, in my experience, than most pro-lifers and pro-choicers. I do not think there is an official position.
The Supreme Court had a remarkably libertarian term, and Cato had a very successful year at the Court, isn’t that right?

Yes, we filed briefs in 18 cases and were on the winning side in 15 of them. [Cato was also the only organization to file briefs on the winning side of the four highest-profile cases: affirmative action, voting rights, the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8.]
That’s maybe less a sign of the zeitgeist and more a sign that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, is a bit of a libertarian.
Of the 15 cases we won, Justice Kennedy was with us 14 times. If you look at his record over his 25 years on the court, you could argue he’s the most libertarian member of the Court. He’s made some egregious errors in that time. He was wrong on the Kelo case [in which the Court ruled that the state has the right to take private property for private development]. However, on a lot of civil liberties, personal freedom, and gay-rights issues, he’s been on the liberal side, and on a lot of business regulation, size of government, and federalism cases he’s been on the conservative side. And that means we often agree with him.
There was a lot of whiplash among partisans over the big Court decisions — progressives anguished about voting rights one day and thrilled about gay rights the next, and vice versa for conservatives. But from your point of view, a libertarian point of view, there was a consistency to be seen.
Yes, and not just the broad consistency of individual freedom versus the power of government, but on the narrower issue of treating people equally under the law. We would say that the issue of race in college admissions and the issue of equal marriage rights in the DOMA case are both applications of equal protection of the law. We actually had a similar experience 10 years ago, in 2003, when we were the only organization to have filed amicus briefs in support of Lawrence inLawrence v. Texas [the case that struck down sodomy laws] and Jennifer Gratz in her lawsuit against the University of Michigan [for its affirmative-action policy]. There were a lot of gay-rights and liberal groups on our side in the Lawrence case, and a lot of conservatives on our side with Jennifer Gratz. We felt that we were asking for equal freedom under law for both Gratz and Lawrence.
Is this part of the attraction of young people to libertarianism — that it seems to stand outside partisanship, in a pure, consistent way?
I think that’s true. I think having a consistent principle that organizes all these issues was very helpful for Marxism, and I think it’s also an attraction of libertarianism. It may also be that on a gut level, there are a lot of people who like not being a Democrat or a Republican. Millions of Americans — 59 percent, according to one poll — would tell you they are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and that’s a real loose definition of libertarian. We consider those people to be a large constituency that libertarians should be able to access. Especially for young people, saying, “Nobody tells me what to say, I’m not a partisan Democrat or Republican,” is attractive. To see Ron Paul, in the Republican primary debates, clearly challenging the things the rest of the Republicans were saying, but also clearly not a Democrat.

You mention Marxism. Some would extend the parallel and say libertarianism is another ideology that works in theory but not in practice.
I’ll tell you the difference. We’ve tried stunted and cramped versions of libertarianism in the world, and we’ve tried versions of Marxism that were less stunted and cramped because they had all the levers of power. I am willing to match England, the United States, Canada, and Hong Kong, which are all approximately libertarian societies, against the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba any day.
In my view, the farther you go toward actual, existing libertarianism, the closer you get to a society with prosperity, economic growth, social dynamism, and social harmony. More and more countries in the world are moving toward broadly libertarian principles. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of travel, freedom of movement, freedom of occupation. Sometimes we forget how different these things are than what went before. Economic and personal freedom, and the extension of the promise of the Declaration of Independence to more and more people — to black people, to women, to gay people — all of those things are trying libertarianism in real life, and I think it works pretty well.
Can someone like Rand Paul win a national election? Won’t he get painted as weak on national defense by his political opponents?
It’s not clear that a strongly libertarian, noninterventionist program could command a majority. But I think a mildly noninterventionist retrenchment, and [proposing to] do a better job of protecting people’s privacy, could be a viable political alternative. I do think the reaction to the NSA spying and Americans’ weariness with the wars in the Mideast is changing that game.
You say people want more freedom, but the counterargument is that people really want the welfare state. They don’t want Social Security and Medicare taken away or cut. Doesn’t that limit the political viability of libertarianism?
Certainly people on Social Security and people who anticipate being on Social Security are supportive of it.
Isn’t that everyone?
Well, I’m not sure people your age think of themselves as future Social Security recipients. You might be thinking, “I want someone taking care of my parents.” But people want economic growth. They want low taxes. They also like people to give them stuff. So part of the political argument is which side wins those battles. It changes. Reagan did say we have to rein in spending and government is the problem right now, and he won a big victory twice. It’s also true that he didn’t really touch Social Security or Medicare.
He tried to change Social Security, and he paid a big price for it politically and changed his tune.
That’s right. So those things are tough. For a libertarian policy wonk, that is a very frustrating thing. We actually have a plan that would work to put Social Security on a sound footing and eventually liberate people from being reliant on government, and we couldn’t even get a hearing in Congress for it. And Social Security is so much easier a topic than Medicare.
You mean in policy terms it’s an easier fix, not that it’s easier to attack politically.
Right, it’s a much easier problem to solve. With Medicare, the unfunded liabilities are far greater, transforming it into a privately funded system of accounts is much more difficult. So absolutely the entitlement state is a huge challenge for libertarians in any modern welfare state. But it’s also true that people don’t like paying what it takes to pay for these programs in Europe, and it’s getting to be that way here.

The political battle is to get people to recognize that the cost in taxes and lost economic growth is more than they are willing to pay for an expanded welfare state. The current welfare state is a tougher argument. In Europe, they are running into walls. They’re going to have to do something, and some of them have. Sweden has significantly reined in their welfare state. They figured out that they can’t afford it.
Are there other libertarian-leaning politicians you’re interested in besides Rand Paul?
One of the problems for libertarians is they aren’t much interested in politics. The three most libertarian governors of past decade — the brilliant lawyer William Weld, the true citizen-politician Gary Johnson, and the eccentric entertainer Jesse Ventura — all walked away from politics. In the House you have Justin Amash [of Michigan] and Thomas Massie [of Kentucky] — I once did a study that determined that Kentucky was the least libertarian state in the country by several criteria. Then they elected Rand Paul and Thomas Massie, so maybe I have to reconsider.
There are a few other members of Congress who say they are inspired by Ron Paul. Then there are people on the conservative side like [Pennsylvania Senator] Pat Toomey, who is a strong fiscal conservative, even though he would probably vote wrongly in my view on things like gay marriage and the Iraq war. Jeff Flake is a very good fiscal conservative. Mike Lee has interesting ideas on the Constitution and the role of the federal government.
I keep hearing about libertarian Democrats out West, like [Senator Jon] Tester and [former Governor Brian] Schweitzer in Montana — they’re good on privacy issues and gun rights. [Oregon Senator] Ron Wyden is doing a great job on privacy even though I disagree with him about other things. [Texas Rep.] Beto O’Rourke spoke at a conference of ours on drug policy in Latin America. I assume on other issues he’s a standard big-government Democrat, but he does want to change the drug war. [Colorado Rep.] Jared Polis is a guy who I think is very interested in personal freedom and civil liberties issues.
Is Ted Cruz a libertarian?
No, Ted Cruz is a two-fisted Goldwater conservative. He’s very strong on national sovereignty issues in a way libertarians tend not to be, aggressively so. He defended the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas state Capitol, which to me smacks of entangling government and religion. He is very strongly against gay marriage. I am glad to see him standing up against Obamacare and showing up on filibuster night to spell Rand Paul for a little while. He’s a smart guy. But I wouldn’t call him a libertarian.

What should a libertarian candidate be running on? I would say fiscal conservatism and social tolerance. Get the government out of people’s lives. Why do you care who marries someone else? But that’s one thing that Rand Paul can’t run on in a Republican primary. He’s not in favor of marriage equality.
He says he would leave it up to the states to define marriage.
That was a defensively softer-edges libertarian position until the Supreme Court cases. Six years ago, that was a libertarian position because it meant you were not in favor of a federal amendment [banning gay marriage nationally]. These days, it’s pretty clear there’s not going to be a federal amendment banning marriage equality. What there may be is a Supreme Court decision striking down marriage bans [in the states] on equal protection grounds. So Rand Paul is still behind the curve on that issue. He’s where President Obama was about a year ago, so it’s not like he’s stuck in the 1950s.
And the social conservatives see his position as opening the door to gay marriage in the states.

From their point of view, they’re still pushing for a federal marriage amendment, but that’s not going to happen. And didn’t Rand Paul do a radio interview after the Supreme Court decision where he talked about people marrying dogs? [Ed. note: Paul later said he had been joking.] He’s trying to do a balancing act. He doesn’t think you can win the Republican presidential nomination without the religious right, or at least not with them united against him, You don’t have to get all of them. And he probably believes, along with Karl Rove, that you can’t put together a 51 percent Republican majority without making sure Christian conservatives show up and vote.
What about the many religious voters there are in America? What does libertarianism have to say to them?
If somebody’s Catholic values inform what they believe, on welfare or marriage or whatever, that’s their business. They can say in public, “God says we should take care of our neighbors” — that’s fine, that’s legitimate. What’s not legitimate to me, and goes against the American Constitution, the American tradition, is to entangle government policy with religion. We don’t have an established church. We don’t have a religious test for public office. That’s why I am against things like school prayer — that is an establishment of religion. And if your best arguments for banning gay marriage are, in fact, religious, then I think you can expect a limited reception in the courts, because the courts want to know what does the Constitution say. They’re not going to care what your religion says.

read the rest at The Atlantic Wire

Freshmen GOP Lawmakers Revel in Maverick Power

8 Aug

By PATRICK O’CONNOR

ASHLAND, Ky.—U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie lives off the electrical grid in a solar-powered home on a 1,200-acre farm in the Appalachian foothills. The first-year congressman and engineering graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology built the house from lumber he logged and milled.
The Kentucky Republican also lives off the grid politically. Just a few weeks after his election, he helped spearhead an unsuccessful coup against House Speaker John Boehner and has since voted regularly against party priorities.

The defiant posture of Mr. Massie and a dozen or more like-minded conservatives has changed the agenda in Washington. In a capital where partisan power is nearly evenly balanced, he and a small but committed group of new House activists have discovered that they have the ability to block not just Democrats but their own party’s leaders—and they are willing to use it.

“I’m going to hang in here like a hair in a biscuit,” said Mr. Massie, who has twice appeared on the TV show “Junkyard Wars,” as one of the competitors who build machines from scrounged objects. “I’m digging in for the long haul. This place is worse than I thought.”

Republicans hold just a 17-vote majority in the House, which means such a relatively small but cohesive bloc can derail just about any measure that doesn’t draw Democratic support. That already happened when Mr. Boehner was unable to bring the conservatives into line on a big farm bill, compelling unhappy Republican leaders to make wholesale changes in the legislation. Trouble also lies ahead on a proposed immigration overhaul, as well as efforts to fund the government and extend the U.S. borrowing authority this fall.

Mr. Boehner has told audiences in New York and Washington not to expect much activity from the House for the rest of the year. The speaker was forced to rely on Democrats, for example, to help pass disaster relief for superstorm Sandy, the Violence Against Women Act and an extension of Bush-era tax rates for people who make less than $400,000.

Mr. Massie, 42 years old, represents a potent strain of small-government conservatism. He and his colleagues, unlike some of their predecessors, didn’t come to Washington content to trim government. Instead, they believe wide swaths of what government does need to be reconsidered from the ground up to deal with deficits and a potential explosion in entitlement spending.

These lawmakers, who now are the front line of the tea-party movement, are unwilling to fall in line with GOP colleagues. They are, however, willing to vote against what is perceived as their own political interests, as some did in opposing farm subsidies popular back home.

“There are a bunch of zombies here,” Mr. Massie said in an interview, referring to lawmakers in both parties. “Most of them come here with the purest of intentions, but they just get bitten…I don’t know whether to hug ’em or hit ’em with a baseball bat.”

The White House has concluded that this conservative bloc is so formidable that it now is, in effect, seeking to work its agenda through the Senate instead of the House.

Mr. Massie is hard to pigeonhole, though he leans to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. He drives an $80,000 Tesla electric sedan with a license plate that says, “Friends of Kentucky Coal.” He wants lower taxes and less federal spending. He has sponsored or co-sponsored 61 bills, including ones to abolish the Federal Reserve and the new health-care law, as well as a measure to make legal possession of guns in a school zone.

He and his wife, Rhonda, grew up in Lewis County, Ky., population 13,870. They left after high school to attend MIT, where Mr. Massie, with the help of scholarships and financial aid, earned degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, known as the Oscar for inventors.

At MIT, the couple started a company in their apartment to sell a virtual-reality computer technology Mr. Massie created, using some of the 24 patents he developed.

In 2003, after building the company to a 60-person team that raised $30 million from investors, the Massies sold their stake and moved back to Kentucky to raise their four children on the farm where Rhonda Massie grew up. Mr. Massie’s father, a beer distributor, and his mother, a nurse, still live in Mr. Massie’s childhood home, about 15 miles away in Vanceburg, Ky.

Mr. Massie took a one-week course to learn how to build a timber-framed house on his farm, which he bought from his in-laws. He used a bulldozer to fell the 600 trees he used and assembled the solar electricity system himself. He later acquired 50 head of grass-fed cattle.

Mr. Massie said he began reading the Lewis County Leader, a local newspaper, where he learned county officials had proposed a levy to build a government office to lure a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Mr. Massie, who estimated the levy would have cost him $100, wrote letters to the newspaper and staged a protest that drew 150 opponents. Officials later dropped the idea, and Mr. Massie was soon drawn to politics by the small-government wave that washed across the U.S. in 2010. That year he ran his first political campaign and was voted the top elected official in Lewis County.

As the county’s judge-executive, Mr. Massie scoured financial records and halted services he thought the county didn’t need. To save money, he installed a new water tank at the county jail himself.
When Mr. Massie ran for Congress in 2012, his maverick reputation had already reached Washington. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and other House Republicans donated more than $50,000 to Mr. Massie’s top rival in the GOP primary, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Mr. Massie used the donations to reinforce his portrayal of his opponent as beholden to Washington. “Once she wore the establishment hat,” he said, “it was all over.”

He won over college student John Ramsey, who had given $3 million of his inheritance to build a group that backs free-market, small-government conservatives in the mold of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. The group, Liberty for All PAC, spent more than $640,000 on Mr. Massie’s behalf, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political donations.

Mr. Massie won the seven-candidate GOP primary with 45% of the vote, and then beat Democrat Bill Adkins by nearly 30 percentage points.

House freshmen used to be a quiet breed. But consecutive elections have swept away older lawmakers and replaced them with newer faces, instilling younger members with a measure of power over party elders.
In Washington, Mr. Massie joined a handful of freshmen who won seats despite opposition from congressional Republicans. First-year U.S. Reps. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma and Ted Yoho of Florida both beat incumbent Republicans.

It took Mr. Massie just a few weeks to run afoul of party leaders. In late December, Mr. Boehner was negotiating with President Barack Obama to avoid a combination of pending tax increases and spending cuts that was nicknamed the fiscal cliff. As talks fizzled, Mr. Boehner asked the House to approve extending tax rates for all but million-dollar earners.

Mr. Massie, who was sworn in early after his predecessor resigned, opposed raising tax rates and voted to block it.

Mr. McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the House, bounded across the House floor to scold the newcomer, Mr. Massie recalled. Mr. McCarthy then turned to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, ringleader of the revolt, and said: “Jim, he doesn’t even know what he’s doing. He doesn’t know what you’re getting him into.”

After Mr. McCarthy left, other Republicans congratulated the freshman for standing his ground, Mr. Massie said. Mr. Boehner pulled the bill.

Mr. Massie’s reputation was cemented weeks later when he tried to deny Mr. Boehner’s re-election as speaker. Although the plot fizzled, 12 Republicans voted for someone else or abstained, the most defections by fellow party members for a speaker since 1923.

Mr. Massie and his allies are supported by a network that raises money and builds support outside the party structure. Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Heritage Action for America use social media and direct outreach to congressional offices to fan discontent among conservative voters nationwide over legislation they oppose.

“The internal forces here in Washington, D.C., don’t produce the right answer,” Mr. Massie said. “We need to rally people on the outside.”

In March, Mr. Massie and 15 other Republicans nearly upended legislation to fund the government. Some opposed the bill because it failed to cut funds for the health-care law. Others were annoyed that party leaders denied an amendment to prevent Mr. Obama from spending taxpayer money to play golf.
Democrats say the infighting helps them paint the GOP as out of step with voters, while tamping enthusiasm among conservative activists.

“You’ve got the far right worrying about the far, far right and pulling the entire party out-of-step with independents,” said Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
GOP leaders tried to bring the agitators into the fold. They scored a victory in March by persuading Mr. Bridenstine to support a budget blueprint that Mr. Massie and nine other Republicans opposed.

To win his vote, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) spent more than an hour with the freshman, trying to quell Mr. Bridenstine’s concerns about increased spending. During voting, House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R., Calif.) sat next to Mr. Bridenstine to prevent others from lobbying him against the bill. Mr. Bridenstine said the Ryan plan “was the best we could do” to stabilize the debt.

Republican leaders aren’t likely to try a similar effort with Mr. Massie. He told his staff to give his cellphone number only to his most fiscally conservative colleagues. Of Mr. McCarthy, the GOP majority whip, Mr. Massie said, “I run around tying shoes and Kevin runs around untying them.”

The rhetoric by House Republicans has cooled since party leaders put off until fall a fight over extending the U.S. borrowing limit. The controversies buffeting Mr. Obama have also galvanized Republicans, including the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service.

“The energy has dissipated some,” Mr. Massie said. Party leaders “have succeeded in peeling off some members.” He recently attended a session with Mr. Boehner in the speaker’s Capitol office. Mr. Boehner told the group to be patient. Change, he said, takes time.

Mr. Massie used the meeting to lobby Mr. Boehner on one of his favorite causes, telling the speaker to oppose legislation that would give states the authority to collect sales tax on Internet transactions. Mr. Boehner told him the bill would never reach the floor, Mr. Massie said.

Representatives of retailers Best Buy, Home Depot, Target and others had piled into Mr. Massie’s office in June to give him an earful about how online retailers now have a pricing advantage, according to participants in the talks.

The speaker recently promised his rank-and-file he wouldn’t allow a vote on an immigration bill unless a majority of his caucus supported it—a nod to Mr. Massie and others.

Mr. Massie also made a concession to party leaders when he backed a revised farm bill after GOP brass, bowing to conservative pressure, stripped money for food stamps.

But the Kentucky Republican and his allies were back at it last week, nearly passing a measure to defund the National Security Agency’s data-collection program.

Back in his district, Mr. Massie revels in his outsider status. He returns to Kentucky on weekends and during the week he stays in the basement of his aunt’s house in Virginia.

At a town-hall meeting this spring, he told constituents about a recent flight home from Washington. His 4th congressional district, which is heavily Republican and 92% white, favored former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2012 election by 29%.

The congressman took his seat in the last row of the plane when a man next to him jabbed him in the ribs. “Do you realize who’s on this flight,” the man said, gesturing to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, all fellow Republicans.

“I was sitting there,” Mr. Massie said, “hoping he doesn’t ask me what I do for a living.”


The original front page WSJ article can be read here.

NSA vote today

24 Jul

JULY 23, 2013 | BY RAINEY REITMAN @EFF.org

Tomorrow, Congress Votes on an Amendment to Defund Domestic Spying: Here’s How You Can Help

There’s a fight brewing in Washington around NSA surveillance, and pro-privacy Representatives from both parties are taking the battle to the budget. The House is gearing up for a vote on the Defense Appropriations Bill (basically, the budget for the Department of Defense) and a bipartisan coalition of Representatives will be introducing a novel amendment that attempts to strike at funding for one type of particularly egregious surveillance power of the NSA.
EFF thinks this amendment is an important step in curbing the NSA’s domestic surveillance and urges concerned citizens to call immediately to voice your support. You can call your Representative (look up your Representative by zip code here, or find the phone number here) or you can use the easy call-in tool at Defund the NSA, which lets you look up your Representative by zip code and gives you a sample script for the call.
Reps. Justin Amash, John Conyers, Jr., Thomas Massie, Mick Mulvaney, and Jared Polis are proposingan amendment that would curtail funding for the implementation of orders under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act unless the order is expliticly limited in scope.
The new limitation reads (emphasis added):
This Order limits the collection of any tangible things (including telephone numbers dialed, telephone numbers of incoming calls, and the duration of calls) that may be authorized to be collected pursuant to this Order to those tangible things that pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation described in section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861).
The current legal standard under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is that records obtained through this authority must be “relevant” to an “authorized investigation,” and for years the government has used asecret legal interpretation of this law to collect records in bulk on millions of Americans that are not subject to a particular investigation at all. This is the legal authority cited in the recently-revealed Verizon court order, in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court directed Verizon to provide “on an ongoing daily basis” all call records for any call “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls” and any call made “between the United States and abroad.”
Tomorrow’s vote brings together a broad coalition of Representatives who believe that this type of bulk collection of Americans’ communications records is contrary to the Fourth Amendment and must be stopped. Passage of the Amash amendment would send a clear message to the NSA and other intelligence agencies that the heyday of unchecked dragnet surveillance is coming to at an end.
Even as the Amash/Conyers Amendment is gaining momentum, some are rallying around a decoy amendment that would do nothing to rein in domestic surveillance. That amendment, championed by Rep. Nugent (R-FL), would not alter in any way the government’s use of Section 215 to obtain bulk communications records on millions of Americans. EFF is urging Representatives to oppose the Nugent Amendment.
Activists are already mobilizing support for the Amash amendment. Overnight, they’ve created a website—http://defundthensa.com—that calls on Representatives to support the Amash amendment. Because there are less than 24 hours before the vote, there is no time to send emails. If you want your Representative to support this amendment, you must call (or tweet) rather than email. Defund the NSAprovides phone numbers as well a simple suggested script. See their privacy policy.
While this amendment, alone, doesn’t rein in the NSA’s domestic spying program, it’s an important step. EFF thinks this is a pivotal moment in the fight against unconstitutional surveillance, and we’re asking our friends and members to call their members of Congress today.