August 4, 2013

Republican clashes getting personal

Disagreements in several areas are erupting into name-calling and less-than-flattering descriptions of political style.

By DAVID ESPO/The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Rand Paul, Ted Cruz
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Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz

Photos by The Associated Press

John McCain
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Republican Sen. John McCain

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has refrained from signing the letter circulated by Lee, Cruz and others, even though he faces a primary challenge from the right in his re-election campaign in Kentucky.

The second-ranking GOP leader, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, signed the letter, then removed his name. A spokeswoman, Megan Mitchell, said that after the senator reviewed the document, which he already signed, he "felt the best approach" was legislation advanced by Cruz to "actually defund Obamacare."

Differences among rank-and-file lawmakers make for bipartisan agreements, as on the immigration bill, but they also can make it hard for party leaders to negotiate effectively with the White House and Democrats.

Ironically, the consequences of a lack of party unity were clearly on display recently when Republicans were able to exploit a split between Obama and Senate Democrats over student-loan legislation.

AN ISOLATIONIST STRAIN

Among Republicans, disagreements over foreign policy and national security are "normal, kind of an ideological contest that's been with the party in the 20th century and will be in the 21st," said McCain, referring to an isolationist strain within the GOP that last flourished decades ago.

In the case of government surveillance, Republicans who might have swallowed their misgivings when President George W. Bush was in the White House are freer to express them.

Elected in 2010, Paul has been sharply critical of widespread National Security Agency surveillance in the wake of recent disclosures. But so, too, has Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a 35-year veteran of Congress.

He sided with Amash and others in both parties recently in voting to restrict the NSA's activities. Sensenbrenner noted that he was the principal author of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act, first passed in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks, and worked to reapprove the measure five years later.

Now, he said, the NSA is conducting surveillance far beyond what was envisioned, and "the time has come to stop it."

Once again, one Republican pleaded with others to think back only a few years. "Have 12 years gone by and our memories faded so badly that we've forgotten what happened on Sept. 11," asked Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

The disagreements extend beyond the Beltway.

Paul and Christie recently engaged in a running battle that befits a pair of rivals for the presidential nomination -- which they may someday be. They warmed up with a spat over national security, then moved on to spending.

Paul referred to the costs of repairing damage caused by Superstorm Sandy last fall, and said Christie and GOP Rep. Peter King of New York "are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense."

Two days later, Christie said he had "nothing personal" against Paul, then unloaded.

"I find it interesting that Sen. Paul is accusing us of having a 'gimme, gimme, gimme' attitude toward federal spending when in fact New Jersey is a donor state and we get 61 cents back on every dollar we send to Washington. Interestingly, Kentucky gets $1.51 on every dollar they send to Washington," he said.

"So if Sen. Paul wants to start looking at where he's going to cut spending to afford defense, maybe he should start looking at the pork barrel spending he brings home to Kentucky."

Pork?

Paul evidently prefers a different breakfast portion.

The following day, he called Christie the "king of bacon."

 

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