“The phone records of innocent Americans do not relate to terrorism, whatsoever; and they are not reasonably likely to lead to information that relates to terrorism. Put simply, the phone calls we make to our friends, our families, and business associates are private and have nothing to do with terrorism or the government’s efforts to stop it.” — Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
— Primary day in North Carolina: Voters in the Tar Heel State will head to the polls today to cast their votes in their respective party primaries. Among the most watched races is the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, where Greg Brannon is hoping to pull state House Speaker Thom Tillis into a runoff. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) visited the state yesterday to stump for Brannon. “As we stand here, the debt clock is spiraling out of control,” Paul told a crowd gathered in Charlotte. “Send us a champion. Send us a hero. Send us a dragon slayer,” he added, referring to Brannon. Public Policy Polling’s final survey, released yesterday, shows that Brannon has picked up steam, but Tillis is hovering at the 40 percent mark needed to avoid the runoff.
— Americans reject Obama’s “change”: The latest Pew Research survey shows that Americans have, by and large, rejected President Obama’s brand of change. “Some 65 percent of Americans want the next president to pursue policies and programs that are different from President Obama’s. Just 30 percent want someone who will pursue similar initiatives, and only 5 percent are undecided,” Adam O’Neal writes at Real Clear Politics. “Obama’s policies remain slightly more popular than President Bush’s. Seventy percent of Americans wanted a leader who would pursue different policies at the same point in Bush’s presidency (April 2006). Only 23 percent wanted a president who would act similarly (7 percent were undecided).” The still stagnant economy and negative opinions about Obamacare are driving Americans to reject President Obama’s agenda. The sour mood on those issues is driving the upcoming mid-term election to Republicans, who now hold a 4-point lead in the generic congressional ballot.
— Supreme Court passes on right-to-carry: The Supreme Court declined to hear Drake v. Jerejian, a Second Amendment challenge to New Jersey’s requirement that residents present a “justifiable need” in order to obtain a permit to carry a firearm. Essentially, a resident has to prove some compelling reason to a superior court judge in order to obtain a permit, which are rarely granted. The Supreme Court rejection of the case means that the lower court opinion, which kept the law in place, stands.
— House Intel to markup NSA-friendly bill: Don’t be confused by what you hear, the only NSA reform bill — USA FREEDOM Act — is in the House Judiciary Committee and will be marked up Wednesday. The House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI), however, will markup its own bill — FISA Transparency and Modernization Act — on Thursday. The FISA Transparency and Modernization Act simply doesn’t go far enough. The measure doesn’t actually end bulk data collection, as its supporters claim, and it doesn’t require intelligence agencies to get a court order from the FISA court to gain access to phone records. The USA FREEDOM Act ends bulk data collection, closes loopholes that could be exploited by intelligences agencies, provides transparency, and reforms the broken FISA court. The Center for Democracy and Technology has more on the key differences between the bills, including the handy chart below.
— Rick Santorum dismisses Rand Paul, backs minimum wage hike: Rick Santorum, who has a history of big government votes and general douchebaggery, says that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) won’t get the Republican nomination in 2016. “I don’t think that will happen,” Santorum said on CNN’s Crossfire. “Because the Republican Party is not a libertarian party. It is a conservative party. And it will nominate a conservative, not a libertarian.” Eyeroll. Santorum also chided Republicans for not backing a minimum wage increase, demonstrating both ignorance to basic economics and why he too won’t be the Republican nominee in 2016.
— House members drop taxpayer money on car leases: Jamie Dupree reports that 63 members of the House of Representatives are spending a total of $38,444.20 each month to lease cars. The money comes from Member’s Representational Allowances (MRA), the taxpayer-funded budget for each congressional office. Rep. Richard Nugent (R-FL) tried to ban the practice last week through the FY 2015 Legislative branch appropriations bill, but his amendment was rejected in a 196 to 221 vote. Dupree has the full list of members who are using taxpayers dollars to lease a car in a city that is completely accessible by the subway.
— $30 million buried in farm bill to prevent salmonella in catfish: The last time there was a suspected salmonella outbreak connected to catfish, George H.W. Bush was president, the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins squared off the in the World Series, and Nirvana was just becoming a thing. In other words, this was a while ago. And yet, Congress still funded a program through the farm bill to the tune of $30 million to regulate and inspect catfish. “This is just one of many other questionable, Quixotic projects embedded into regulatory agencies’ budgets. No doubt each one has an active lobby that would remind the public of a terrible menace and and make small but meaningful contributions to keep the dragon slaying funding continuing,” writes Richard Williams, vice president for policy research at the Mercatus Center, at US News. “At the end of the debate, no doubt the members of Congress congratulated themselves; they kept support for one aspect of agribusinesses and funded a small but important lobby for at least one representative and one senator. In return, they probably agreed to vote to fund other dragon slaying projects elsewhere.”
— China plans for North Korea’s demise: There’s isn’t much faith in the Chinese government that North Korea is going to stick around. “Documents drawn up by planners from China’s People’s Liberation Army that were leaked to Japanese media include proposals for detaining key North Korean leaders and the creation of refugee camps on the Chinese side of the frontier in the event of an outbreak of civil unrest in the secretive state,” The Telegraph reports. “According to Kyodo News, the Chinese report says key North Korean leaders should be detained in special camps where they can be monitored, but also prevented from directing further military operations or taking part in actions that could be damaging to China’s national interest.” The Chinese government would protect North Korean leaders from anti-regime factions and the United States, but the plans are a sign that Kim Jong-un’s regime isn’t expected to last. It also highlights the tensions between the two countries, long considered allies. As The Telegraph notes, China recently warned North Korea ahead of a nuclear test that it would not “allow war or chaos to occur on our doorstep” and refused to export oil to the regime.
— Keystone XL emissions amounts to a fraction of cow farts: We don’t want to give radical environmentalists any ideas (we’re not going vegan, yo), but the estimated emissions from the Keystone XL oil pipeline are so minor when viewed in the bigger picture. “So, 18.7 million tons [that Keystone would emit] sounds like a huge number on its own, but consider that more than 10 times that much CO2-e gets released into the atmosphere each year from methane produced by cows,” Christopher Ingram explains at Wonkblog. “We could say that in terms of overall CO2-e emissions, Keystone amounts to a little over one tenth of U.S. cow flatulence.” Ingram notes that Keystone XL would amount to less than three-tenths of 1 percent of total emissions in the United States.
— It’s OK to hate government: In his latest column at The Daily Beast, Nick Gillespie argues against the Left’s narrative that those of who are skeptical of and otherwise hate government are somehow racists. “Salon’s Joan Walsh is quick to cry racism in the face of arguments or developments she doesn’t like, as are MSNBC hosts Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Ed Schultz,” Gillespie notes. “Jimmy Carter, who himself stooped to race-baiting during his 1970 campaign for governor of Georgia, has chalked up ‘an overwhelming portion’ of negativity toward Barack Obama to the fact that ‘he is a black man.’” He points out that libertarian-leaning activists and politicians have led the charge to end policies that hurt minorities. “Many—maybe most—Americans hoped that the election (and reelection) of Obama would put an end to racial division and enmity in a country that has never lived up to its stated promises of equality and individual rights. That surely hasn’t happened. But if the broad-based reactions to Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy tell us anything, it’s that these old men—combined, they are over 140 years old—remind us of where America was, not where it is today,” Gillespie explains. “And so too do efforts by one of the GOP’s leading presidential candidates, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to reach out to black and minority audiences. Paul, the son of Ron who has had his own problems related to race, is leading the charge to end mandatory minimums, do sentencing reforms, restore voting rights for felons, and more.”
— Why we’re losing our economic standing in the world: Dr. Ron Paul explains that the United States is losing ground to China because the policies adopted by Congress and the Federal Reserve prevent Americans from investing their own money in the economy. “News that China is soon to surpass the United States as the largest economy in the world is a stark reminder of how the American people are harmed by the welfare-warfare state, crony capitalism, and fiat currency,” Paul wrote in his latest column. “The only way to avoid continuing collapse is to finally reject an interventionist foreign policy, stop bailing out and subsidizing politically powerful industries, and restore a free market in money.”
Other items we’re reading this morning:
Little hope for Keystone vote (Politico)
Massachusetts to Scrap Its Broken, $179 Million Health Exchange (Reason)
Divided court OKs prayer before public meetings (Associated Press)
Conservatives Show Their Hypocrisy on Immigration (Reason)
Republicans have an 82 percent chance of winning back the Senate (Washington Post)
Warren Buffett’s tax bill — and his subsidy lobbying (Washington Examiner)
Obama White House using TV meteorologists to help roll out new climate change report (Washington Examiner)
The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease (Wall Street Journal)
Why We Need Guns (Cato Institute)
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