Monday, 07 January 2013

Ron Paul's Liberty Movement Spreads in Congress

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The retirement of Congressman Ron Paul from the House of Representatives last week did not end the Texas libertarian's influence in Congress. And if the first week of the new Congress is any indication, his influence has only multiplied. 

Congressman Paul's battles to audit and ultimately abolish the Federal Reserve Bank have been picked up by his former colleague Paul Broun of Georgia, who scored 92 percent on The New American's “Freedom Index” in the last Congress. “I applaud Congressman Paul’s efforts. He was fighting for liberty,” Broun told The Hill newspaper, which covers Congress from Washington, D.C. The story, entitled “Georgia's Broun keeps Ron Paul's anti-Fed mission alive in new Congress,” details how Broun — like former Congressman Paul, a medical doctor — has continued the anti-Fed mantra of Ron Paul. “My plan is to pick up right where Congressman Paul left off,” Broun said on his congressional website, “I’m just going to stand on his shoulders and go forward in that same fight.” Broun's bill to audit the Fed, which is identical to Paul's bill in the last Congress, is H.R. 24. Broun has also introduced legislation to fully repeal the Federal Reserve Act and abolish the Federal Reserve Bank (H.R. 73) and a bill to withdraw U.S. membership in the United Nations (H.R. 75) — causes championed by Dr. Paul. 

The influence of Dr. Paul could also be seen in the vote on House Speaker January 3. Although Dr. Paul didn't vote against John Boehner as speaker two years ago, he was so frequently a lone vote of dissent against his own party he obtained the nickname “Dr. No” in the House. On January 3, some 13 Republican congressmen declined to vote for Boehner, many of whom got their start with the Ron Paul movement or were endorsed by Paul in the most recent election. 

Those 13 Republicans who voted against Boehner as speaker included veteran Representative Walter Jones (“Freedom Index” 97 percent), who was probably more influenced by Ron Paul than any other member of Congress, as well as freshmen Ted Yoho of Florida, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Steve Stockman of Texas. Yoho, Massie, and Stockman received an endorsement from Paul and a contribution from Paul's PAC in the past election. 

In addition, the new dean of the libertarian movement in Congress — Michigan's Justin Amash — voted against Boehner. Amash wrote that he was “proud to vote for Congressman Raúl R. Labrador for Speaker of the House of Representatives. Raúl would defend liberty and work honestly with Democrats on debt reduction. We must act now for the sake of our next generation.” Amash scored 92 percent on The New American's “Freedom Index” in the last Congress as a freshman congressman. Amash may be the closest ideologically to the retiring Dr. Paul, and he has taken over chairmanship of Dr. Paul's House Republican Liberty Caucus (of which Labrador is a member). Amash led the fight against the bill Congress passed in the wake of the “fiscal cliff” for its increases in federal spending. “The federal government’s refusal to live within its means is immoral. I cannot in good conscience support burdening our children and grandchildren with another $50 billion of debt,” said Amash.

Also voting against Boehner (and against the “fiscal cliff” bill) were several congressmen not explicitly connected to the Ron Paul movement, but among the most conservative members of the House: Rep. Broun, freshman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Louie Gohmert of Texas (Freedom Index: 83 percent), Tim Huelskamp of Kansas (Freedom Index: 82 percent), Raúl Labrador (Freedom Index: 89 percent), Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina (Freedom Index: 80 percent), and Steve Pearce of New Mexico (Freedom Index: 75 percent). Huelskamp, Labrador, and Mulvaney are members of the House Liberty Caucus formerly chaired by Dr. Paul.

And following in Rep. Paul's steps of not making waves in leadership votes are Paul-endorsed congressmen David Schweikert (Freedom Index: 85 percent) of Arizona and freshmen Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan and Randy Weber of Texas (who filled Paul's seat in Congress). These congressmen may form a larger coalition of constitutionalists in the House of Representatives that could become a key swing voting bloc in the new Congress. Republicans currently hold only a 17-vote majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 17-vote majority is key. As Roll Call reported January 6, the insurrection against Boehner had 25 votes until one backed out at the last minute. Because of a prior agreement among rebelling back-benchers to go forward only with a bloc of 25 congressmen or more, the move against Boehner disintegrated in the 30 minutes before the January 3 vote for speaker. But despite the failure of the anti-Boehner move, the Roll Call story demonstrates the potential of the Liberty Caucus swing votes.

And on the grassroots level, the Ron Paul faction in Congress seems destined only to increase in future elections. The congressman's presidential campaign last year led to the takeover of several state Republican Party committees. Establishment Iowa GOP Co-Chairman Bill Schickel in a failed party election January 5 to oust Ron Paul supporters from leadership positions — complained, “The words are fine about reaching out and opening the doors of our party, but when our chair, our executive director, our communications director, our finance director are all from the [Ron Paul-aligned] Campaign for Liberty that sends a message that is disenfranchising to many, many of our Republicans.” 

Photo of Ron Paul: AP Images