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4 Southern GOP senators defy Trump on border emergency; North Carolina’s Thom Tillis makes about face to support president

Rubio, Paul, Wicker and Alexander break with Trump in voting to overturn emergency declaration

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — With the support of four Southern Republicans and all four Southern Democrats, the U.S. Senate has voted to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to find money for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis

But one GOP senator who had come out publicly in favor of overturning the declaration — Thom Tillis of North Carolina — reversed course and voted no, after intense lobbying from the White House and an avalanche of criticism from Trump partisans back home.

Trump has vowed to veto the resolution overturning the declaration, which passed by a 59-41 margin in the Republican-controlled Senate on March 14. The House passed it in late February by a vote of 254-182.

However, opponents of the declaration do not have enough support in either House to override Trump’s veto, which will be the first of his presidency.

The four Southern Republicans who broke the with president were Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

All four Southern Democrats in the Senate also voted yes — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Doug Jones of Alabama.

Frustrated by the unwillingness of the Democrat-controlled House to vote money for the border wall, Trump declared a national emergency on February 15, which will allow him to shift $8 billion from other federal programs and use it for wall construction. Most of the money will come from appropriations for military construction and drug interdiction.

Alexander

In a floor speech before the vote, Alexander said he objected to Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to provide border wall funding after Congress failed to appropriate the money.

“The problem with this is that after a Revolutionary War against a king, our nation’s founders gave to Congress the power to approve all spending so that the president would not have too much power. This check on the executive is a crucial source of our freedom,” Alexander said.

Rubio

Rubio said he agreed with Trump that an emergency exists at the border but said he objected to shifting money out of the military construction budget to finance the border barrier.

“This would create a precedent a future president may abuse to jumpstart programs like the Green New Deal, especially given the embrace of socialism we are seeing on the political left,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

Paul and Wicker also cited constitutional considerations as the reason for their vote to overturn the declaration.

Wicker

Paul

“I stand with President Trump on the need for a border wall and stronger border security, but the Constitution clearly states that money cannot be spent unless Congress has passed a law to do so,” Paul said in a statement.

Wicker said he regretted “that we were not able to find a solution that would have averted a challenge to the balance of power as defined by the Constitution.”

“The system of checks and balances established by the Founders has preserved our democracy. It is essential that we protect this balance even when it is frustrating or inconvenient,” he said in a statement.

Tillis made a splash when he published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on February 25 saying he would vote to overturn the emergency declaration because it would set a precedent that “future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms.”

Tillis faced an avalanche of criticism from the president’s supporters in the Tar Heel State and was facing the likelihood of a primary challenge in his 2020 re-election race.

“A lot has changed over the last three weeks — a discussion with the vice president, a number of senior administration officials … a serious discussion about changing the National Emergencies Act in a way that will have Congress speak on emergency actions in the future,” Tillis said.

Republican senators had considered changing the National Emergencies Act to make it more difficult to declare emergencies in the future, but the plan faltered when House Democrats came out against it.

Tillis said he concluded that the crisis at the border was sufficiently serious to warrant the emergency declaration.

“We have narcotics flooding our country, poisoning our children and adults of all ages, and a lot of it has to do with the porous border and the seemingly out of control crossings,” Tillis said.

But Democrats back home pounced on Tillis for his change of heart.

“Tillis again reminded the entire state who he is — a spineless politician who won’t keep his promises and looks out for himself instead of North Carolina,” said Democratic Party spokesman Robert Howard in a statement.

Rubio and Paul do not face re-election until 2022; Wicker’s current term lasts through 2024.

Among the Democrats who voted against Trump, Jones is the only one who is running for re-election in 2020. Warner isn’t up for re-election until 2022, and Manchin and Kaine’s current terms last through 2024.

Jones is considered among the most vulnerable Democrats up for election in 2020, in a state where Trump remains popular.

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Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul will oppose President Trump on border emergency vote

Rand’s defection means resolution to overturn Trump’s emergency declaration can pass Senate

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CFP) — U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky will break with Donald Trump and vote to overturn the president’s declaration of a national emergency to find money to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

Paul is the fourth Republican senator to come out in favor of a resolution overturning the declaration, enough defections to get the measure through the Senate and force Trump to veto it.

Speaking at a Republican dinner Saturday in his hometown of Bowling Green, Paul cited constitutional objections to Trump’s plan to shift money to wall construction that has been earmarked by Congress for other purposes.

“We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it,” Paul said, according to a report in the Bowling Green Daily News. “If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.”

Paul is the second Southern Republican senator to announce support for the resolution, joining North Carolina’s Thom Tillis in bolting from the party line.

Trump, frustrated by the unwillingness of the Democrat-controlled House to vote money for the border wall, declared a national emergency on February 15, which would allow him to shift $8 billion from other federal programs and use it for wall construction. Most of the money will come from appropriations for military construction and drug interdiction.

Under the law that governs national emergencies, Congress can overturn an emergency declaration with a majority vote in both houses. The House approved the measure by a vote of 245-182.

Only three of 101 Southern Republicans in the House opposed Trump’s declaration — Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Will Hurd of Texas, and Francis Rooney of Florida.

Republicans hold a 53-47 advantage in the Senate. With Paul, Tillis, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska publicly opposed, the resolution overturning the declaration will pass the Senate if Democrats unite against it.

Trump has vowed to veto the resolution and has more than enough support in both houses to prevent his veto from being overridden. The battle will then move to federal court, where opponents are challenging the legality of the emergency declaration.

Paul, who doesn’t come up for re-election until 2022, had been seen as a likely yes vote on overturning the declaration. A libertarian known for opposing his party leadership on constitutional issues, Paul reportedly argued with Vice President Mike Pence about the declaration at a recent GOP party lunch.

The Southern Republicans in the Senate still deciding about whether to oppose the emergency declaration include Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Paul, Cruz and Rubio were all presidential candidates against Trump in 2016. Alexander has announced he will retire in 2020.

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Kentucky governor: School cancellations over Arctic cold are a sign Americans are “getting soft”

Matt Bevin says young people are being told they can “curl up in the fetal position” when life gets hard

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

LOUISVILLE (CFP) — Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is under fire for publicly lamenting the decision of school officials across his state to close amid subzero wind chills, which he said was as a sign that Americans are “getting soft.”

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

“C’mon now, I mean, there’s no ice going with it or any snow,” Bevin said during a January 29 interview with Louisville radio station WHAS-AM. “What’s happened to America? We’re getting soft.”

The cold snap, which pushed temperatures down into single digits across Kentucky and wind chills below zero in some places, was accompanied by light snow in parts of the state, including Louisville.

While saying he was “being only slightly facetious” and conceding that it might have been “better to err on the side of being safe,” the governor, who grew up in New Hampshire, went on to express his concern about the message that the school closings were sending.

“It does concern me a little bit that in America, on this and a number of other fronts, we’re sending messages to our young people that if life is hard, you can curl up in the fetal position somewhere in a warm place and just wait ’til it stops being hard,” he said.

“That isn’t reality. It just isn’t.”

Bevin, who faces re-election in November amid sagging approval ratings, faced immediate blowback over the remarks, with legendary NBC weatherman Al Roker calling him a “nitwit” on national television and one of his Democratic challengers, Adam Edelen, calling him “dumb and mean.”

The Kentucky Education Association, which sparred with Bevin last year over his controversial plan to change the pension system for state teachers, tweeted that “we will always support decisions made for the health & safety of Kentucky’s children. Always.”

Doug Stafford, a well-known Republican political consultant and adviser to U.S. Senator Rand Paul, took to Twitter to tell Bevin to “hush.”

“No one wants to hear your old man stories about walking uphill both ways in that (cold) when you were a kid,” Stafford said.

Bevin made his remarks on the afternoon before the cold snap moved into Kentucky, as school districts in Louisville and across the state begin announcing that they would be closed the next day. All eight state universities also closed.

Bevin was elected in 2015, and his first term has been tumultuous, including a statewide teachers strike and sometimes testy relations with Republicans in the legislature. Just days before his Arctic weather musings, he made headlines by dumping Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton from his re-election ticket.

Last April, after protests shut down a number of school districts, Bevin drew the ire of teachers when he asserted that with schools closed, children had been sexually assaulted or “physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”

The governor later apologized for the comments, which prompted the Republican-controlled legislature to formally rebuke him.

Bevin is facing a GOP primary challenge from State Rep. Robert Goforth from London.

Three Democrats are also running for their party’s nomination to oppose Bevin — Edelen, Attorney General Andy Beshear, and House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins from Sandy Hook.

All the controversies have taken a toll on Bevin’s approval rating, which stood at just 38 percent in a December Mason-Dixon poll, making him the least popular chief executive among incumbent governors.

No Republican has ever won a second term as governor in Kentucky.

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President Donald Trump stumps for U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in Kentucky

President calls  Barr’s opponent in 6th U.S. House District an “extreme liberal” chosen by “Democrat mob”

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

RICHMOND, Kentucky (CFP) — President Donald Trump traveled to central Kentucky to excite his followers with a Make America Great Again rally in the commonwealth’s 6th U.S. House District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Barr is in a political dogfight with his Democratic challenger, political newcomer Amy McGrath.

At an October 13 rally at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Trump said re-electing Barr “could make the difference between unbelievable continued success and frankly failure where we fight for two more years with these people, with these obstructionists.”

He also blasted McGrath as an “extreme liberal” who was “chosen by Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters — that’s a real beauty — and the radical Democrat mob.”

“Amy supports a socialist takeover of your health care,” he said. “She supports open borders. She needs the tax hikes to cover the through-the-roof garbage that you want no part of.”

For his part, Barr lauded the president, calling him “a man of action.”

“Other people resist, but this president gets results,” he said. “Mr. President, I’m with you to fight for the American people.”

In addition to Barr, the Richmond rally drew all three of Kentucky’s top elected Republicans, U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Governor Matt Bevin, who faces what is likely to be a touch battle for re-election in 2019.

In response to Trump’s characterizations of her, McGrath released a one-sentence statement to the media: “Mr. President, you clearly don’t know me. Yet.”

According to McGrath’s website, she supports reforms of the existing Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, rather than its repeal, which Barr has voted for. She also supports the so-called “public option,” a government-run health insurance agency to provide an option for people who cannot get access through the ACA.

McGrath opposes Trump’s plan to build a physical wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, which Barr also supports, and has also criticized the administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents.

A day before Trump came to Richmond, former Vice President Joe Biden came to the district to campaign with McGrath.

McGrath, 43, who grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs of Northern Kentucky, is a retired Marine fighter pilot making her first bid for the political office against Barr in the 6th District, which includes Lexington, Frankfort, Richmond and adjacent portions of the Kentucky Bluegrass.

Barr, 45, has represented the 6th District since 2012. Prior to being elected to Congress, he was an attorney in Lexington.

McGrath has raised more than $3 million for the campaign, more than any other Democratic challenger in the South in 2018.

The race is rated as a toss-up by political analysts, although public polling has been sparse.

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Neighbor who attacked U.S. Senator Rand Paul gets 30 days in jail

Rene Boucher tackled Paul after a dispute over yard waste

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CFP) — A neighbor of U.S. Senator Rand Paul will spend 30 days in jail for an assault last November outside Paul’s Bowling Green home that left the senator with broken ribs.

Rene Boucher (Warren Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Rene Boucher, 60, who pleaded guilty in March to a felony charge of assaulting a member of Congress resulting in injury, was sentenced June 15 in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green.

He was also fined $10,000 and sentenced to a year of probation after his release, according to a statement from the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, which prosecuted the case.

The Bowling Green Daily News reported that Boucher apologized to Paul in court, saying, “I’m embarrassed and I hope (Paul) and his family will one day be able to accept my apology.”

“I lost my temper and I did not behave well, and I was wrong. I did not think I would be in a courthouse at the center of all this,” he said, according to the Daily News.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

Federal prosecutors had sought a stiffer sentence of 21 months in prison for Boucher. Paul, who did not attend the sentencing hearing, expressed some dissatisfaction with the lighter sentence in a statement: “The original 21-month sentence requested would have been the appropriate punishment.”

“No one deserves to be violently assaulted. A felony conviction is appropriate and hopefully will deter the attacker from further violence,” Paul said in the statement.

The attack occurred last November 3 in the upscale Rivergreen subdivision east of Bowling Green, where Paul and Boucher, who are both medical doctors, are neighbors. Paul was mowing his yard when Boucher tackled him to the ground, breaking several ribs.

Paul later contracted pneumonia, which can be a complication of rib injuries.

Boucher denied any political motivation for the assault, saying he attacked Paul in anger after the senator repeatedly piled yard waste near the property line between their homes. However, Paul said Boucher had never complained to him about the waste.

Boucher was originally charged with assault in state court, but because Paul was a member of Congress, federal prosecutors later took over the case, which was turned over to the Southern District of Indiana after the Western District of Kentucky was recused.

Russell Coleman, the U.S. attorney for the Western District, was formerly special counsel to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Paul’s Kentucky seatmate in the Senate.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s neighbor faces federal assault charge in November attack

Rene Boucher faces possible prison time for injuring Kentucky lawmaker

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoiltics.com editor

BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CFP) — A neighbor of U.S. Senator Rand Paul is facing a federal felony charge for tackling and injuring the Kentucky senator after a dispute over yard trimmings in November, according to the federal prosecutor handling the case.

Mug shot of Rene Boucher (Warren Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Rene Boucher, 58, of Bowling Green, has been charged with assaulting a member of Congress resulting in personal injury, according to an announcement from John Minkler, the U.S attorney for the Southern District of Indiana.

Boucher has signed a plea agreement in the case, but no date has been set for taking his guilty plea and imposing a sentence, the statement said.

The charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Boucher’s attorney, Matt Baker, told the Bowling Green Daily News that Boucher is remorseful for the attack will ask for probation at sentencing.

Boucher has also been charged with fourth-degree assault in a state court.

The case was transferred to Minkler’ office in Indianapolis after the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Louisville-based Western District of Kentucky recused itself from the case.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul

The statement from Minkler’s office shed new light on what happened on the afternoon of November 3 in a tony subdivision near Bowling Green, where Boucher and Paul–both medical doctors–were neighbors.

Boucher saw Paul “stack brush onto a pile near the victim’s property” and “had enough,” according to the statement. He then ran onto Paul’s property and tackled him.

The senator suffered multiple fractured ribs and later contracted pneumonia, the statement said.

At the time of the assault, speculation arose that Boucher’s assault on Paul might have been politically motivated. But according to Minkler’s statement, Boucher denied any political motivation, although he did admit to tackling the senator.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul attacked by neighbor at his Kentucky home, police say

Paul’s neighbor, a medical doctor, has been charged with assault, as motive remains unclear

BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky (CFP) — U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was “blindsided” and shoved to the ground while mowing the grass outside of his Kentucky home, and his neighbor has been arrested on assault charges, according to the senator’s office and Kentucky State Police.

Mug shot of Rene Boucher, 59, accused of assaulting Rand Paul

Paul, who was not seriously injured after the November 3 incident, later sent out a tweet saying he and his wife “appreciate the overwhelming support after Friday’s unfortunate event. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.”

He did not elaborate on any possible motive for the attack, nor did he discuss his relationship with Rene Boucher, 59, who is charged with fourth-degree assault in the case.

The attack took place on the afternoon of November 3 outside Paul’s home in a gated community near Bowling Green, where both he and Boucher have adjoining homes. State troopers called to the scene arrested Boucher, who “intentionally” assaulted Paul, according to police.

Boucher has worked as an anesthesiologist in Bowling Green. Prior to election to the Senate in 2010, Paul was an ophthalmologist in the western Kentucky city of 60,000.

State police told local media that the two men were acquaintances, although no additional details were provided. Given that Paul is a member of Congress, the FBI has also been contacted, state police said.

Boucher was later released from the Warren County Detention Center after posting bond. He has a court date on November 9.

The attack on Paul comes amid increased security concerns among members of Congress in the wake of contentious town hall meetings this year and the June shootings of four people during a Republican softball team practice in suburban Washington. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was critically injured in that attack.

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