More Spending Is Needed?

An image one of my Facebook friends either created or found.
An image one of my Facebook friends either created or found.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 3547, also known as The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014.  This bill appropriates a staggering 1.1 trillion dollars, including increasing discretionary spending by $24 billion.  As Heritage Action points out, “On top of increasing overall spending the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill irresponsibly increases funding for failing programs like Head Start, funds flood insurance subsidies, and pays for ineffective green energy projects. Additionally, an Obamacare funding loophole could provide subsidies to health plans that cover abortion.”

The final vote was 359 in favor and 67 opposed.  Unfortunately, my representative, Bob Goodlatte, voted for this increase in spending, as did the entire Virginia delegation.  Although a small group, there were a number of representatives willing to oppose this bill, including some of my favorite members of the house: Justin Amash, Paul Broun, Scott Garrett, and the return of Mark Sanford.

As our nation spirals further and further into debt, one would like to see Congress, especially the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, take a stand against increased spending.  At the end of the day, only three Democrats and sixty-four Republicans were willing to do so.

The Folly of Article V

Lately, many of my political friends have been talking about something called Article V.  For those unfamiliar with the term, it is a call for a constitutional convention to amend the U.S. Constitution.  Article V reads as follows:

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.”

Photo from Mark Levin's Facebook page
Photo from Mark Levin’s Facebook page

This idea had been promoted by a number of conservative pundits, especially Mark Levin who has written a book entitled The Liberty Amendments.  However, it should be noted that the states have never called for a constitutional convention under Article V.

The more I read about this idea, the greater my opposition to it grows.  What if the nation held a constitutional convention?  Would the result be more liberty and a more constitutionally bound federal government as people like Levin suggest?  Or would it serve as an opportunity to expand power even further in Washington?

The outcome is uncertain and one that would be nearly impossible to correct should the process go awry.

Do we really need any “liberty amendments”?  It seems to me that the federal government has already done a pretty good job ignoring its limitations already spelled out quite clearly in the 9th and 10th Amendments.

In case you’ve forgotten, the 9th Amendment reads,

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

And the 10th Amendment states,

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Friends, the Constitution already lists what powers the federal government rightfully ought to have.  Therefore, I’d much rather see my legislators in Richmond invoke these amendments to protect the people of this state as opposed to opening Pandora’s box of a constitutional convention where the outcome will almost certainly erode our freedoms further.

Now, I won’t claim to be an expert on this subject and all of us have been wrong before.  But, at this point, I think all Americans, especially those claiming to be either conservatives or libertarians, should be exceedingly wary of invoking Article V.

Mullins on Marcus

For those who don’t recall, during the 2013 gubernatorial elections in Virginia, Boyd Marcus, a strategist who worked for Republicans such as former Governor Jim Gilmore, offered his consulting experience to Democrat Terry McAuliffe over Republican Ken Cuccinelli.  Boyd Marcus explained his decision stating, “I’ve never before supported any Democrat, but this election Terry is the clear choice for mainstream conservatives.”

After his inauguration, Governor McAuliffe appointed Mr. Marcus to the Alcohol Beverage Control Board.

A few moments ago, Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins issued the following statement in response:

“Let me be the first to offer my congratulations to Boyd Marcus on his appointment to the Virginia ABC Board. It’s nice to know the exchange rate for 30 pieces of silver these days is about $122,000 per year plus benefits.”

Although I don’t read every press release that the RPV sends out, I don’t recall ever seeing one quite like this.

Berg Against Obamacare

In 2013, Dr. Mark Berg defeated a long-time delegate from the Winchester area in the Republican primary.  He ran on a platform of liberty and constitutionally limited government.  Now that he is serving in Richmond, he has proposed a piece of legislation, House Bill 338, which seeks to curb Obamacare in the state of Virginia.

In a press release sent out about fifteen minutes ago, the delegate and his staff explain the bill.

“Del. Mark Berg introduced HB 338 to guarantee that Virginia does not end up funding Obamacare implementation.  In the 2013 session of the General Assembly, SB 922 authorized the State Corporation Commission to perform plan management functions for participation in the federal health benefit exchange.  While it claimed to be contingent on full funding from the federal government, the legislation left the door open to partial funding from the state and federal government.

“HB 338 tightens the language to keep the state from paying the bills for the planned management functions in the future.  Del. Berg stated, ‘As we discuss how the state responds to the Affordable Care Act, it is crucial that we make sure the state is never required to gradually pick up the bill for these programs.  Allowing programs to gradually require state funding will put an incredible burden on the state budget.  Passing this bill will help protect the taxpayers and keep Virginia’s financial future secure.'”

I’m sure that many of us would like to see Obamacare repealed as we believe it to be an unconstitutional overreach by the federal government.  Hopefully this bill will prevent it from becoming just another unfunded federal mandate imposed upon the state and her citizens.

You can find the full text of HB 338 here.

How Do Virginia’s National Politicians Respect Economic and Personal Liberty?

Guest post by Charles Frohman

Since 1989 the Liberty Index (http://www.scribd.com/doc/199483758/Liberty-Index-2013) has rated politicians based on fiscal issues such as cutting taxes and regulations, and personal social issues such as respecting privacy and due process, among other issues.  One might think Republicans may do better economically and believe Democrats would succeed on the social issues.  Let’s look at Virginia’s members of Congress and see how well they keep government out of our wallets and personal lives, remaining aware over the weakness of this and all surveys:   the limitation imposed by the available votes.

That is, votes were scheduled on only a limited number of issues under each category.  Had more votes been available on a wider range of issues, scores could have changed at least marginally.  Click the link above to look at the actual votes.  Meanwhile, for the votes the politicians actually submitted, they could have made better choices, as reflected in the overall low scores of Virginia’s politicians.  Remember these scores next time you vote at the ballot box.  Overall, House Republicans scored a solid 86, with their counterparts in the Senate disappointing with a 42, while Democrats in both houses came in at zero, on average.  In Virginia our top scorer was Congressman Griffith, representing southwest Virginia, at 84.  The rest of our congress-critters deserve primary challenges.

Name                           Econ Liberty   Personal Liberty         Average=Score

Senators

Kaine, Tim                              15                                       5                                  10

Warner, Mark                        15                                      24                                19

Representatives

Cantor, Eric                           95                                     26                                61

Connolly, Gerry                     20                                     35                                28

Forbes, Randy                        80                                    40                                60

Goodlatte, Bob                        95                                    50                                73

Griffith, Morgan                     90                                    79                                84

Hurt, Robert                          100                                    53                                76

Moran, Jim                                0                                    55                                28

Rigell, Scott                           100                                    53                                76

Scott, Robert                           10                                    68                                39

Wittman, Rob                         95                                    40                                68

Wolf, Frank                             85                                    47                                66

Again, click the link above to look at the limited number and range of votes on which our congress members are ranked.  But also wonder why when given a vote, they chose government control over personal liberty.  Virginia, the home of our nation’s founders, deserves better.

Charles Frohman, from Suffolk and now in Williamsburg, worked in DC politics for 2 decades including Governor Gary Johnson’s 2012 presidential campaign.  He is a regional fundraiser for the Our America Initiative, the only national grassroots movement for fiscally responsible activists who also are socially open-minded.  To reach Charles, email CFroh@yahoo.com.

Goodlatte On Immigration

Photo from Representative Goodlatte’s website

Recently, several news sources have reported that Representative Bob Goodlatte is changing his stance on immigration.  According to these pieces, Goodlatte is considering supporting some form of amnesty for illegal aliens.

For example, Politico says, “House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) says he sees ‘no reason’ why current undocumented immigrants shouldn’t gain legal status as long as Congress enacts tougher border-security and enforcement measures.”  They quote Goodlatte as saying, “‘If we can have a way to get [enforcement] up and operating, I see no reason why we can’t also have an agreement that shows how people who are not lawfully here can be able to be lawfully here – able to live here, work here, travel to and from their home country, be able to own a business, pay their taxes.'”

National Review points out that Representative Goodlatte’s website has recently been modified to remove his opposition to amnesty.  A line on his site from early 2013 which read, “we must not grant amnesty to individuals who have broken our laws” has apparently been removed and now discusses the issue stating, “we can all agree that our nation’s immigration system is broken”.

In response, less than a half an hour ago, the following statement appeared on Representative Goodlatte’s Facebook page.  “A few recent news articles have misrepresented my work and position on immigration reform. The need to reform our immigration laws is clear; however, I am opposed to amnesty and always have been. I do not support a special pathway to citizenship that rewards those who have willfully broken our immigration laws.”

It is curious to read these somewhat contradictory statements regarding Goodlatte’s stance immigration.  Will Representative Goodlatte end up supporting amnesty or some version thereof as the articles state?  Or will he oppose the plan as today’s statement indicates?

The RLC Scorecard

Today, the Republican Liberty Caucus released their scorecard for members of Congress.  Not surprisingly, Republicans generally fared much better than their Democratic counterparts.

Over all, according to the RLC, the Virginia delegation performed well in matters of economic liberty, but not as well in personal liberty.  Representative Morgan Griffith (VA-9), claimed the top overall score in the state with 84%, while Robert Hurt (VA-5) and Scott Rigell (VA-2) both were rated 100% on issues of economic liberty.

Ratings for VA legislators are as follows:

Representatives

Name              Economic        Personal         Liberty Index

Cantor             95                   25                   61

Connolly         20                   35                   28

Forbes            80                   40                   60

Goodlatte        95                   50                   73

Griffith            90                   79                   84

Hurt                100                 53                   76

Moran             0                      55                   28

Rigell               100                 53                   76

Scott                10                   68                   39

Wittman         95                   40                   68

Wolf                85                   47                   66

 

Senators

Name              Economic        Personal         Liberty Index

Kaine              15                   5                      10

Warner           15                   24                   19

 

You may agree or disagree with the RLC and their scoring system, but it seems to me that Virginia is in need of more liberty-minded legislators in Washington D.C.  2014 will provide that opportunity as the state will be electing a senator and all eleven members to the House of Representatives.  Will Virginia voters support more liberty or less in the primaries and in November?  We shall see.

Reclaiming Shenandoah National Park

During the government shutdown in late 2013, the federal government closed down many public venues, much to the dismay of the citizens.  One particularly egregious incident involved the shuttering of a parking lot at Mount Vernon, the former home of George Washington, a privately owned and privately funded property.  These incidents have led many to question why the federal government owns so much land, to be used as political pawns according to their whims.

img_0925-e1326989450411In response, in the 2014 Virginia General Assembly session Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William County has introduced a bill (HB 16) to consider transferring ownership of the Shenandoah National Park to the state of Virginia.  As Marshall explains in an email sent out this morning, “My bill would create a commission to evaluate the possibility of bringing Shenandoah National Park back under Virginia’s control.  The commission ‒ which would be bicameral, bipartisan, and temporary ‒ would take a hard look at the feasibility of reacquiring Shenandoah National Park from the federal government, estimate the costs of the transaction, and work with Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources to develop an annual operating budget for the park.”

Personally, I am very much in favor of this proposal.  With the exception of parcels needed on behalf of national security, the federal government has no good claim to own or administer Virginia land.  Incidents like the one mentioned above prove that they are not responsible stewards of these properties.

Delegate Marshall adds, “Closures have destroyed the trust relationship on which the Commonwealth of Virginia relied when it first gave the federal government control of land that became Shenandoah National Park” and “Unlike the federal government, Virginia cannot ‘shut down,’ and we are required by law to submit balanced budgets.  All of Virginia’s agencies are ‘on duty’ 24/7.  Individually and collectively, the States are more than capable of running our parks in ways that best suit the needs of the nation, regions, communities, and citizens.  Virginians know that  preservation of the environment and natural resources are essential to economic development.”

Let’s hope that Delegate Bob Marshall is successful in returning Virginia lands to their proper owners, the people of Virginia.

Wexton…Not A Great Choice

Virginia has held several special elections recently and the next one, the race to replace Mark Herring, could decide control of the Virginia Senate.  Recently, Jennifer Wexton, the Democratic nominee in the 33rd, released an ad comparing the tea party to rapists and like-minded criminals.

Here is the ad in all its glory:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXu5d5-3G1w

Do Virginians want a senator who can’t seem to differentiate between a peaceful political movement and those who would commit acts of violence again women?

Based on this ad alone, I think it is safe to say that Jennifer Wexton is not a great choice for the Virginia Senate.

The Republican (Feudalism) Plan

Image from nobility.org
Image from nobility.org

Ask the average Republican voter or even activist if he or she is familiar with the party plan of the Republican Party of Virginia and I’d wager you’re likely to get a blank stare in response.  Much like a constitution or a set of bylaws, the party plan is the governing document for the state party.  Well, as Craig Orndorff, who runs the Race to Richmond, This Time, Roanoke, recently highlighted, the RPV has made several changes to their party plan.  You can read the entire document here.

Perhaps the most important modification deals with participation in party activities.  Point 2 in section A of Article 1 reads, “A voter who, subsequent to making a statement of intent, publicly supports a candidate in opposition to a Republican nominee shall not be qualified for participation in party actions as defined in Article I for a period of four (4) years.”

Now what difference does this change make?  Well, if it were in effect prior to the 2011 elections, Ken Cuccinelli would not have been the Republican Party nominee for governor in 2013.  Both Ken Cuccinelli and Bill Bolling broke party ranks to support independent Bill Janis for commonwealth attorney of Henrico over the GOP nominee.  As such, under this change not only would neither of the two men would have been eligible to run for any office under the Republican Party last year, but in addition they would have been excluded from all party functions until 2015.  Even Eric Cantor, the U.S. House Majority Leader, backed Janis and would not be eligible to be a Republican, much less hold his current post.

Although not changed in the latest round of revisions, there are other troubling aspects of the party plan.  For example, who can participate in Republican primaries and conventions?  According to the plan, “all legal and qualified voters…who are in accord with the principles of the Republican Party, and who, if requested, express in open meeting either orally or in writing as may be required their intent to support all of its nominees for public office in the ensuing election may participate as members of the Republican Party of Virginia in its mass meetings, party canvasses, conventions, or primaries encompassing their respective election districts.”

Several years ago the RPV attempted to use a loyalty oath as a condition to vote in a primary.  Although legally unenforceable, the effort generated considerable backlash and it was withdrawn.  The whole idea is rather concerning.  In order to select a Republican nominee a voter has to pledge in advance to support the eventual Republican candidate whomever he or she happens to be and regardless of what positions he or she happens to hold.  Imagine, if you will, a single issue voter.  Let’s say she is a pro-life Republican.  On primary day she goes to the polls to support a pro-life candidate over a pro-choice one.  Regardless of the outcome, according to the party plan by voting in that primary she is honor-bound to support the Republican even if that candidate holds a position which is in stark contrast to her own.  Does that seem right to you?  What will be the effect assuming it is attempted to be enforced?  It seems that the loyalty oath is alive and well.

Now, this position is not unique to the Republican Party as the Democratic Party of Virginia included a similar statement in their 2010 party Plan.  “No person shall participate in a Democratic primary, convention or caucus who intends to support a candidate opposed to any Democratic nominee in that general or special election.”  Many of the locals know that it is very unlikely (but not impossible) for me to vote Democratic.  Will some party official stand at the door of the polling place on primary day, like George Wallace, denying me entrance?

In point three, the party seems to call for voter registration by political party, an idea I firmly oppose.

Moving through the RPV party plan, we reach point four.  It reads, “In addition to the foregoing, to be in accord with the principles of the Republican Party, unless otherwise stipulated by the appropriate Official Committee, a person otherwise qualified hereunder shall not have participated in Virginia in the nomination process of a party other than the Republican Party within the last five years.”

In plain English, this means that if you vote in the Democratic primaries, you are booted from the GOP.  It doesn’t matter that your tax dollars fund these primaries, you cannot voice your opinion in these contests…according to the Virginia Republican Party.  As someone who faithfully votes in as many primaries as he can, this plank is exceedingly worrisome.  I can think of at least three Democratic primaries in which I’ve voted; 2006 U.S. Senate, 2009 Statewide Virginia, and 2013 Statewide Virginia.  In addition, although I could not vote, I was a witness to the 2013 Libertarian state convention.  Does that count as participation too?  What if you live in an area of the state where only Democratic candidates can win?  Would voicing your opinion to select the best Democratic option exclude you from later expressing your opinion in Republican circles too?  Can a party forbid you to take part in a political process funded by your own tax dollars?  Although there is a clause to avoid this issue…as a one-time exception…being required to craft a written statement denouncing the other party very much seems over the top.

I find these issues worrisome and would expect that many of my conservative brothers and sisters would as well.  Why is it that the Republican Party is so concerned with making vassals of their base?  Shouldn’t they instead promote the Republican principles found in the Republican creed and make sure that Republican elected officials actually honor and uphold these values?  If the GOP wants to make a principled statement, why not strip party membership from delegates and state senators who supported the transportation tax hike last year…or work to remove them from leadership positions…or, at the very least, publicly chastise them?

With these rules, one has to ponder why the party just doesn’t force all primary voters, convention goers, and potential candidates to declare, “I will to my party be true and faithful, and love all which it loves and shun all which it shuns”?  In case you are wondering, that declaration is a modification of the Anglo-Saxon Oath of Fealty.  I wonder if the RPV wishes to reduce us to serfdom.  Is political feudalism alive and well within the Commonwealth?  Are we being transformed into red and blue vassals, stripped of any semblance of political free will?

Shouldn’t the RPV do a better job reaching out to voters and actually reducing the size of government rather than promoting restrictive regulations?  Rather than expanding the Republican Party, these rules (especially if actually enforced) will only serve to shrink involvement, which, in turn, will further reduce any chances of future Republican statewide victories.

As so many Virginia elections are either uncontested or one party has a virtual lock on a seat, participation in party nominating contests is an important tool for voters to have at least some voice in determining their representation.  Demanding loyalty or forbidding cross party voting in order to take part in party politics is a violation of a free and open political process and weakens the strength of our democratic process.  No group or individual should ever unquestioningly own your vote or your support.  We haven’t lived in the middle ages for centuries, so why should our partisan politics be so mired in the past?

If the Republican Party of Virginia desires to enact an oath I can get behind, it ought to sound something like this: “I will to my principles be true and faithful.  As long as the party and her candidates uphold these shared principles, I will support them.”