Morning Action: Rand Paul Takes Stand for the Constitution
SELLING ACCESS. Remember when President Obama’s grassroots arm promised half million-dollar donors would get White House access? It turns out the Obama White House made a similar promise to gun grabbing groups.
The White House knew its post-Newtown effort would require bringing key gun-control groups into the fold. So the White House offered a simple arrangement: the groups could have access and involvement, but they’d have to offer silence and support in exchange.
The implied rules, according to conversations with many of those involved: No infighting. No second guessing in the press. Support whatever the president and Vice President Joe Biden propose. And most of all, don’t make waves or get ahead of the White House.
In exchange: a voice in the discussions, a role in whatever final agreement is made and weekly meetings at the White House with Biden’s chief of staff, Bruce Reed — provided they don’t discuss what happens there.
GUNS. Democrats’ attempts to get conservative senators on board with their gun control proposals are currently not going the way they’d hoped:
Besides expanding background checks, the other measures would ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines carrying more than 10 rounds, make gun trafficking and the purchase of firearms for people barred from owning them federal crimes, and provide more money for schools to buy video cameras and other safety equipment.
All four measures were expected to pass the committee, perhaps Thursday. But their fate when the full Senate considers them, probably in April, was less certain. The trafficking measure by panel Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was thought to have the best prospects and the assault weapons ban by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., seemed to have the slimmest chance.
Democrats had hoped to reach a bipartisan deal on expanding federal background checks with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. But on Wednesday, Democrats set aside their efforts to win over Coburn after weeks of talks failed to resolve a dispute over requiring that records of private sales be retained.
RAND PAUL. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) had the attention of his fellow senators and a large swath of the American people as he stood for our Constitutional Fifth Amendment rights and opposed the use of drone strikes on American citizens:
[The] tea party favorite from Kentucky used an old-style filibuster lasting nearly 13 hours to take control of the chamber and block Senate confirmation of John Brennan’s nomination to be CIA director.
Paul’s performance, which centered on questions about the possible use of drones against targets in the United States, clearly energized a number of his GOP colleagues, who came to the floor in a show of support and to share in the speaking duties. And even as the night progressed, Paul appeared invigorated despite being on his feet for so long. Actual talking filibusters have become rare in the Senate, where the rules are typically used in procedural ways to block the other party’s agenda.
DINNER DATE. Last night there was a high profile, bipartisan dinner date going on, in an effort by the President to “reach out” to GOP Senators:
President Obama and congressional Republicans on Wednesday began a series of meetings aimed at chipping away years of accumulated mistrust and laying the groundwork for a major deficit-reduction deal.
Yet each side remains skeptical about the other’s motives, fearing this could be another round of posturing to set up arguments for the next election.
The effort began Wednesday night, when the president hosted 12 GOP senators for dinner at The Jefferson, a luxury hotel a few blocks from the White House.
GOP senators say Obama called over the weekend to feel them out as potential partners on a deal to reform entitlement programs and the tax code, which could turn off $85 billion in automatic spending cuts this year.
Lawmakers described the outreach as a dramatic shift in style and tactics by the president, who kept them at arm’s length in his first term.