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Bipartisan Bail Reform Bill Introduced in the Senate

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, has introduced bipartisan legislation to prod states to reform their bail systems, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The new bill, which Harris co-wrote with Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and was introduced yesterday, would spend $10 million annually for three years on grants for states that reform their bail systems.

Most courts in the U.S. require money bail, holding defendants in jail before trial until they pay. Advocates say cash bail is unfair to poor defendants who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

Under Harris’ bill — her first major bipartisan legislation — states would be eligible for a grant if they enact reforms such as replacing money bail with systems based on assessing a defendant’s risk to the community, releasing inmates before trial in most cases, or appointing public defenders at the earliest stages of pretrial detention.

In a New York Times commentary, Harris and Paul wrote, “Our justice system was designed with a promise: to treat all people equally. Yet that doesn’t happen for many of the 450,000 Americans who sit in jail today awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail.” They said their proposal encourages better data collection, empowers states to build on best practices, and holds them accountable.

Some states have already moved to change their approach to bail. New Jersey, for example, is shifting away from “money-based” pretrial justice through pretrial risk assessment in a system NPR describes in the latest episode of its “Planet Money” podcasts as a “model” for the nation.

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Rand Paul Unveils Obamacare Replacement Act

On January 24, Senator Rand Paul, MD (R-KY) introduced S. 222, the “Obamacare Replacement Act,” which his press release described as “a health care plan grounded in broadly supported conservative reforms that is ready for an immediate vote after Obamacare is repealed.” The bill, a comprehensive replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA, i.e., Obamacare), would repeal the individual and employer mandates and other ACA provisions, and provide a 2-year open-enrollment period under which individuals with pre-existing conditions could obtain coverage. Among its provisions, the bill would provide an income and payroll tax deduction for health insurance costs. The bill would also remove the maximum contribution limit for a Health Savings Account (HSA) and provide individuals the option of a tax credit of up to $5,000 per taxpayer for contributions to a HSA; if an individual chooses not to accept the tax credit or contributes in excess of $5,000, those contributions would still be tax-preferred.

Senator Paul’s issued the following Press Release:

Yesterday, U.S. Senator and physician Rand Paul introduced S. 222, the Obamacare Replacement Act, to provide Congress with a health care plan grounded in broadly supported conservative reforms that is ready for an immediate vote after Obamacare is repealed. Dr. Paul’s proposal would expand access to higher-quality, lower-cost health care for more Americans, regardless of medical history.

“Getting government out of the American people’s way and putting them back in charge of their own health care decisions will deliver a strong, efficient system that doesn’t force them to empty out their pockets to cover their medical bills,” said Dr. Paul. “There is no excuse for waiting to craft an alternative until after we repeal Obamacare, and the Obamacare Replacement Act charts a new path forward that will insure the most people possible at the lowest price.”

The Obamacare Replacement Act empowers the American people to: 1.) Choose inexpensive insurance free of government dictates; 2.) Save unlimited amounts in a health savings account (HSA) and have wider options for using those funds; 3.) Buy insurance across state lines; and 4.) Join together in voluntary associations to gain the leverage of being part of a large insurance pool.

Dr. Paul has led the charge to replace Obamacare at the same time it is repealed, and he has been joined in calling for simultaneous action by fellow Republicans including President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. You can see Dr. Paul’s entire plan laid out section by section HERE, and you can find summary information below. Dr. Rand Paul’s Obamacare Replacement Act, S. 222: Legalizes Inexpensive Insurance Plans:

• Ensures that Americans can purchase the health insurance coverage that best fits their needs.

• Eliminates Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement, along with other restrictive coverage and plan requirements, to once again make low-cost insurance options available to American consumers. Protects Individuals with Pre-Existing Conditions:

• Provides a two-year open-enrollment period under which individuals with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.

• Restores HIPAA pre-existing conditions protections. Prior to Obamacare, HIPAA guaranteed that those in the group market could obtain continuous health coverage regardless of preexisting conditions. Helps More People Save To Buy Health Insurance and Cover Medical Costs:

• Incentivizes savings by authorizing a tax credit (up to $5,000 per taxpayer) for individuals and families that contribute to HSAs.

• Removes the annual cap on HSAs so individuals can make unlimited contributions.

• Allows HSA funds to be used to purchase insurance, cover premiums, and more easily afford a broader range of health-related expenses, including prescription and OTC drugs, dietary supplements, nutrition and physical exercise expenses, and direct primary care, among others. Guarantees Fair Tax Treatment of Health Insurance:

• Equalizes the tax treatment of the purchase of health insurance for individuals and employers by allowing individuals to deduct the cost of their health insurance from their income and payroll taxes.

• Frees more Americans to purchase and maintain insurance apart from their work status.

• Does not interfere with employer-provided coverage for Americans who prefer those plans. Helps Individuals Join Together to Purchase Insurance:

• Expands Association Health Plans (AHPs) to allow small business owners and individuals to band together across state lines through their membership in a trade or professional association to purchase health coverage for their families and employees at a lower cost.

• Also allows individuals to pool together through any organization to purchase insurance.

• Widens access to the group market and spreads out the risk, enhancing the ability of individuals and small businesses to decrease costs, increase administrative efficiencies, and further protect those with pre-existing conditions. Allows the Purchase of Insurance Across State Lines:

• Creates an interstate market that allows insurers who are licensed to sell policies in one state to offer them to residents of any other state. Increases State Medicaid Flexibility:

• Enables states to fully exercise current flexibilities afforded to them through Medicaid waivers for creating innovative state plan designs. Empowers Physicians:

• Allows non-economically aligned physicians to negotiate for higher quality health care for their patients.

• Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow a physician a tax deduction equal to the amount such physician would otherwise charge for charity medical care or uncompensated care due to bad debt, limited to 10% of a physician’s gross income for the taxable year.

 

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27 Senators Rebel Against Arming Saudi Arabia, Obama and GOP Keep Pushing Sales

A SENATE RESOLUTION opposing a $1.15 billion arms transfer to Saudi Arabia garnered support from 27 senators on Wednesday, a sign of growing unease about the increasing number of civilians being killed with U.S. weapons in Yemen. A procedural vote to table the resolution passed 71-27.

The Obama administration announced the transfer last month, the same day the Saudi Arabian coalition bombed a potato chip factory in the besieged Yemeni capital. In the following week, the Saudi-led forces would go on to bomb a children’s school, the home of the school’s principal, a Doctors Without Borders hospital, and the bridge used to carry humanitarian aid into the capital.

Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, four months after Houthi rebels from Northern Yemen overran the capitol, Sanaa, and deposed the Saudi-backed ruler, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

In addition to providing Saudi Arabia with intelligence and flying refueling missions for its air force, the United States has enabled the bombing campaign by supplying $20 billion in weapons over the past 18 months. In total, President Obama has sold more than $115 billion in weapons to the Saudi kingdom – more than any other president.

After the White House failed to respond to a letter from 60 members of Congress requesting that the transfer be delayed, Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., introduced a resolution condemning the arms sale. Paul and Murphy said they had planned to pursue binding legislation if their resolution was successful.

“It’s time for the United States to press ‘pause’ on our arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” Murphy said. “Let’s ask ourselves whether we are comfortable with the United States getting slowly, predictably, and all too quietly dragged into yet another war in the Middle East.”

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., speaking in support of the resolution, said the “very fact that we are voting on it today sends a very important message to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that we are watching your actions closely, and that the United States is not going to turn a blind eye to the indiscriminate killing of men, women, and children.”

The Republican leadership strongly opposed the bill, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Whip John Cornyn, Armed Services Chairman John McCain and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker speaking against. Republicans claimed that the Houthi insurgency is an Iranian proxy, blamed President Obama’s foreign policy for emboldening Iran, and argued that the war is justified.

“Let’s be clear about what the arms sale is all about. It’s about giving a nation that’s under attack by Iranian-sponsored militia the arms it needs to defend its people and its territory,” McCain said. “Make no mistake, this aggression is fueled by the Iranians.”

The Saudi government frequently describes the Houthis as an Iranian proxy in order to justify their bombing campaign. Numerous U.S. diplomats and experts on Yemen, however, have argued that Iranian support for the Houthis is very limited, and that the war in Yemen is a civil war, not a proxy war.

Coalition airstrikes are responsible for the majority of the 10,000 people killed in the conflict, and according to data collected by the Yemen Data Project, nearly a third of all Saudi air raids have hit civilian targets, including markets, factories, mosques, schools, or hospitals.

Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, praised the vote of the dissenting senators. “Today, for the first time since the war in Yemen began, 27 senators voiced the first cries of dissent against our government’s unconditional and unlimited support for the Saudi-led coalition,” Offenheiser said in a statement. “Concern in Congress regarding the situation in Yemen and the US’s heartless and disjointed approach to it will only grow stronger.”

The measure still may have a chance in the House, where Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., has introduced a companion resolution. In June, the House almost passed a measure banning the transfer of internationally banned cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, but the amendment was defeated 204-216.

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Bipartisan Drone Restriction Bill Proposed in Senate

The MQ-9 Predator drone is probably best known as a tool of American foreign policy. Since 2002 the Bush and Obama administrations have used unmanned aircraft such as the predator in missions that have (according to New America) resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and thousands of militants in the ongoing War on Terror.

However, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has used predator drones in American airspace, albeit with limited success. As my colleague Patrick Eddington pointed out in September last year, CBP has a poor track record when it comes to using drones. At the end of 2014 the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General found:

Although CBP anticipated increased apprehensions of illegal border crossers, a reduction in border surveillance costs, and improvement in the U.S. Border Patrol’s efficiency, we found little or no evidence that CBP met those program expectations.

In a blunt press release issued last year the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s office said that it  ”recommends that CBP abandon plans to spend $443 millionmore on additional aircraft and put those funds to better use.”

Two senators recently singled out border patrol drones for special treatment in proposed legislation that would restrict the government’s use of drones.

An amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 proposed by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Edward Markey (D-MA) would prohibit the government from using drones to “gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation or for intelligence purposes except to the extent authorized in a warrant.”

The amendment, which can be read below, does make exceptions to this requirement that would allow the government to use drones amid high risk of terrorism and exigent circumstances. It also makes an exception for border patrol:

Cato

The 3-mile provision is significant given that CBP is permitted to operate within 100 miles of the border, an area where around two-thirds of Americans (~200 million people) live.

Sens. Paul and Markey’s amendment would improve the FAA authorization bill if passed as written, but as lawmakers continue to grapple with the issues raised by drone technology they shouldn’t forget that flying robots on the border have proven to be inefficient and expensive as well as potentially intrusive.

 

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Head of pro-Rand Paul ‘Super PAC’ Indicted for 2012 Campaign Violations

WASHINGTON — In a further blow to the fundraising efforts of GOP presidential candidate , the Justice Department on Wednesday indicted the head of his main “super PAC,” on charges stemming from the 2012 campaign of Paul’s father, . of Louisville, Ky., was charged with covering up campaign payments to an… Continue reading Head of pro-Rand Paul ‘Super PAC’ Indicted for 2012 Campaign Violations

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What do Libertarian Purists do to Advance Liberty?

I was recently asked what my philosophical purity does to advance . Why don’t I support ?
He’s playing the game to win, and he’s our best shot, right?
It depends on what war you’re trying to win.
For me, the battlefield isn’t politics, and it sure isn’t elections. They are tools. The battlefield is ideas, and “victory” is when those change a person’s mind.
When the larger war is tossed aside for short term gain, compromises are made, and ideas are diluted. This is particularly relevant in the arena of politics.
For example. If viewed from a strictly legislative lens, ‘s career in Congress was an absolute failure. He rarely introduced any legislation that got a committee vote, and not one of the bills he authored was signed into law.Rand and Ron Paul
But if the real war is over ideas, Ron absolutely crushed the competition. He was the most searched-for candidate in 2008 and 2012. He was the only GOP candidate in 08 who, when he didn’t get a chance to speak, his supporters held their own party and 3,000+ people showed up. He is one of the most recognizable names in politics today, even if people disagree with him.
Even with less than a quarter of the media attention Rand has gotten, he made more of an impact on American politics in 2012 than his son has had since. The numbers speak for themselves, but I digress.
Ron Paul’s goal wasn’t to be President, and his official campaign wasn’t the best organized. But he provided hope to millions, and they responded in kind.
Rand, on the other hand, is not advancing liberty, as much as I’d like to believe he is. Because liberty is an idea. It isn’t a compromise, it isn’t a shaky concept. Ron Paul challenged us to . Rand wants to audit it. Ron Paul wanted to bring our troops home, and brought tears to the eyes of thousands of mothers and more donations from active duty military than any other candidate. He even inspired the world’s currently most famous whistleblower. Rand is fine with small military action. Ron has always been non-interventionist.
Ron said end the drug war, Rand said decriminalize it. Ron said he liked third parties, Rand campaigned against them for the GOP. Etc, etc, etc.PBF1289730 - Dan Johnson - PANDA Takeback Tour 2014 - Atlanta, GA - 05.25.14 - Photo By Franklin (libertyshots@gmail.com)
Rand is running a legislative war. Ron was running the idea war. And the idea war changed the world.
Perhaps the better question is, in the war of ideas, why isn’t Rand inspiring the grassroots to fight for him?
Why didn’t groups around the world rise to support Rand Paul in the way Poland for Ron Paul and others did for Ron? Why were hundreds of “End the Fed” rallies held around the nation, and only a few “audit the fed” rallies held in DC? Why do college students by the thousands still turn out for Ron, yet Rand has rarely made a college appearance with a fully supportive crowd?
Politicians and politics don’t drive people, ideas do. Ideas change the world. Ideas have an impact. When I advise an activist client on how to create a movement, I tell them to aim high. Set your goal to end something, not minimize it. Talk about ending the drug war, not decriminalizing it. Talk about nonintervention, not sometimes intervention.
My (or anyone’s) philosophical purity advances liberty because liberty is advanced by ideas, not backroom deals. It is advanced by principle, not walking on the fence. It, like any idea, is only advanced once people believe they will have a better life with it.
They will only ever believe it if it’s going to make a difference. They will only ever talk about it if it’s going to make a big difference. And they will only ever fight for it if it will radically change their world.
I want to radically change the world.

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Americans Just Got a Little Bit of Their Freedom Back

Editor’s note: This is Chatter, our morning rundown of what you need and want to know around the world. Fortunately for us all, you can have Chatter emailed to you every day. Just sign up here! NEED TO KNOW: Americans got a little more free last night. A key part of the US Patriot Act that… Continue reading Americans Just Got a Little Bit of Their Freedom Back

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Rand Paul’s ‘filibuster’ Against The Patriot Act

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has commandeered the Senate floor to deliver a nearly 11 hours-long protest against the renewal of the US Patriot Act, which allows the spy agencies’ collection of Americans’ telephone data. Under Senate rules, Paul, was able to stay on the Senate floor and speak without interruption until midnight, when the next… Continue reading Rand Paul’s ‘filibuster’ Against The Patriot Act

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Obama’s Invasion of Texas: When Partisanship Becomes an Extreme Sport

There was a time in modern history when the GOP was a party of ideas—agree with them or not, its leaders were dominated by smart people who assembled ideologically consistent policies based on facts, statistics and history. But, as Bruce Bartlett, a former senior policy analyst for Ronald Reagan, recently said, “Now it’s the party of… Continue reading Obama’s Invasion of Texas: When Partisanship Becomes an Extreme Sport

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Sen. Rand Paul Blames Baltimore Protests Lack of Fathers, Lack of Moral Code

Presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul said the Baltimore protests about a lack of fathers and lack of morals. How about when an upper middle class white kid from a broken home goes on a shooting rampage and kills innocent people? Will Paul blame that on a lack of father and morals? No. They blame that on… Continue reading Sen. Rand Paul Blames Baltimore Protests Lack of Fathers, Lack of Moral Code