The United States Senate Judiciary Committee, in a 15-5 vote, approved The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a bipartisan package of federal criminal justice system reforms that have proven successful in states such as Texas and Georgia. The legislation, introduced by Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), with 17 bipartisan co-sponsors, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), now moves to the full Senate for consideration. Faith & Freedom Coalition Executive Director Timothy Head commented on the Committee vote.
“Senators Grassley, Cornyn, Whitehouse and the other bipartisan co-sponsors have shown vision and perseverance in guiding this critical set of justice reforms through the Judiciary Committee and we look forward to working with the full Senate and leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives to reform this bloated and ineffective federal criminal justice system. This vote is a critical first step in a process that will eventually result in state-proven policies finally being applied to our federal system.”
For more information on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 or to speak with a representative at the Faith & Freedom Coalition, please contact Lance Lemmonds at email@example.com.
Conservative political activist Ralph Reed says he does not like the Ryan-Murray budget, but it was the only possible outcome given the current makeup of the government.
Speaking to Newsmax TV one day after House Speaker John Boehner lashed out at conservatives who have opposed the legislation, Reed said, "If I were a member of Congress, I would probably vote no in this deal, and I have a lot of good friends…who are already on record saying that they will vote against it."
"But on the other hand," he continued, "there are people of good will and conservative principles like Paul Ryan who are not trying to oversell this. They're not saying this is a great deal. They're not saying this is a perfect deal. They're saying this is the best we can do with divided government and a liberal, Democratic-controlled Senate and a liberal Democrat president at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue."
Reed, who was the first executive director of the Christian Coalition in the early 1990s, started the Faith and Freedom Coalition in June 2009. He sought the Republican nomination for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 2006 but lost the primary election to state Sen. Casey Cagle.
Reed declined to comment directly on Boehner's remarks.
"I would just say that if we want to get a better budget, the only way to do it is to elect a Senate in 2014 and add a margin in House that will enable us to pass that incentive. I'd personally like to see us into balance a lot faster, three to five years, without raising taxes, through fiscal responsibility and reform of long-term entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."
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By Ralph Reed
The very tight and hard-fought Virginia governor’s race has now concluded, and for the first time since 1969 a gubernatorial candidate of the party holding the White House has won in the Old Dominion.
McAuliffe won by a very narrow margin, even though polls had shown him with a lead of seven to ten points. The reason? A superior conservative and GOP ground game, a failure of Obama voters to turn out for McAuliffe, and the meltdown of Obamacare over the past two weeks, which closed the race to a statistical dead heat.
Still, Cuccinelli lost a race that he once led. The question is why, and was it ever in the cards for him? There were many factors in the outcome, some of which Cuccinelli could have controlled, and others that were beyond his control.
First, the GOP was divided. Then–attorney general Bob McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling agreed heading into the 2009 election that McDonnell would run for governor first, then Bolling would run for governor in 2013 and McDonnell would back him. Cuccinelli was not a party to this arrangement and never felt bound by it. He chose to run for governor anyway, which was his right. But by changing the nominating process from a primary to a convention, his supporters backed Bolling into a corner (Cuccinelli likely would have won a primary as well), forcing him out of the race. Bolling refused to support Cuccinelli, many of his supporters and donors sat on their hands, and the GOP was hopelessly divided. This stood in stark contrast to the party unity that led to victory four years earlier, and it was a major factor in the outcome. If you want to win, it’s fine to have a heated intramural struggle (certainly Hillary Clinton and Obama did in 2008), but you must mend fences when it is over. The GOP needed everyone on the field to win, and that did not happen.
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Since 1964, federal law has protected Americans from discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin. The Senate is about to add a new, special right based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This is bad public policy and should be rejected.
What its supporters call the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, should really be labeled the "Trial Lawyers Full Employment Act." It burdens any business with 15 or more employees with new threats of litigation, frivolous law suits and additional compliance costs.
I oppose workplace discrimination in all its ugly forms and believe in respecting the individual's essential dignity. I have worked with and hired gay employees my entire career. But ENDA criminalizes hiring and promotion based on the subjective criteria of sexual orientation and gender identity — an often fluid standard that can be known only by violating an employee's right to privacy. Employers, including schools, would be required to allow men to show up for work dressed as women, or women as men. Personal objections aside, this is an unnecessary disruption of the workplace.
It is also a dagger aimed at the heart of religious freedom for millions of Americans. The bill's so-called religious exemption is vague and inadequate. Based on previous court rulings, faith-based charities may be subject to harassment and junk lawsuits. Like Obamacare's nearly identical "religious exemption," which turned out not to protect most faith-based employers, it is as porous as Swiss cheese.
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By Ralph Reed
The partial government shutdown has not gone as planned for President Obama and Democrats in the Senate. Generals usually refight the last war, and politicians tend to view each legislative battle or election through the prism of the past. Thus did conventional wisdom posit that Republicans in Congress would get hammered by the public for making funding of the government conditional on Obama’s agreeing to certain public-policy demands, just as Newt Gingrich and the GOP Congress in 1995–96 were blamed for that shutdown.
This has not been the case this time around. A new CNN poll found that while 63 percent of the American people blame the Republicans in Congress for the shutdown, 58 percent blame the Democrats, within the margin of error. By contrast, in the government shutdown of December 1995, respondents blamed Republicans by a two-to-one margin. In a new Pew Research survey, 44 percent said Republicans should give in and end the shutdown without demanding changes to Obamacare, while 42 percent said Obama should agree to changes in the Affordable Care Act — essentially a jump ball. All this should encourage conservatives in Congress to hold firm and not blink in the face of media and partisan criticism.
We now enter the end game as Congress wrestles with how to increase the federal government’s borrowing authority after October 17. The most immediate imperative is for Republicans in Congress to give social conservatives a stake in this fight. They should do this by reinstating the conscience clause included in the original continuing resolution; this exempted religious charities (such as Catholic and Evangelical colleges, hospitals, and inner-city ministries helping the poor) from the Obamacare mandate to cover health-care services that many find morally objectionable, such as abortifacients.
They should also reinsert the provision that would make funding of the government conditional on reaffirming the Hyde Amendment and ending all subsidies for the performance of elective abortions under Obamacare. There are also numerous direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies of abortion contained in Obamacare, not least of which are government-mandated abortion surcharges on policyholders who purchase policies on the health-care exchanges. According to a recent analysis by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, these subsidies, when combined with Medicaid expansion in states such as California and New York that cover elective abortions, will lead to as many as 111,500 additional abortions in the United States that are paid for with tax dollars. These subsidies should be eliminated by attaching language to any legislation that funds the government.
Both the conscience clause and the reaffirmation of the Hyde Amendment were in the first CR passed by the House, before the beginning of the fiscal year. After the Senate stripped them out, they have inexplicably never been added to any subsequent continuing resolution. This oversight should be fixed immediately.
The First Amendment is not open for negotiation. Evangelical Christians and faithful Catholics should not be persecuted by their own government with their tax dollars, forced to pay for services that many consider to be the taking of an innocent human life. That has never been the case in U.S. history, and certainly not since the Hyde Amendment was adopted by Congress in 1976. If Congress will not stand up for religious freedom now, when will it?
Finally, Congress should hold firm on delaying or defunding as many provisions of Obamacare as possible within the context of any legislation that funds or increases the borrowing authority of the federal government.
We cannot afford Obamacare. This is not just a fiscal issue. It is a moral issue, and Congress should say so without apology.
By Gary Marx
If there was any doubt that the Supreme Court of the United States continues to vastly overextend its powers in ways that are dismantling American democracy and liberty, this summer's decisions striking down a core component of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and remanding California's Proposition 8 should settle the question.
How great is this threat? Put it this way: No component of American liberty or democracy is inherently safe if, as it did earlier this week, the highest court in our land is permitted to trump Constitutional principles and the political will of the American people with a progressive political and social agenda rooted in neither.
Consider first the broad political support that brought DOMA to law and then sustained it as law these past 17 years. Too seldom mentioned in the post-ruling analysis, DOMA was a modest, uncontroversial piece of legislation that merely codified multiple existing federal laws defining (for the purpose of federal spousal benefits) marriage as being between a man and a woman.
The legislation passed both Houses of Congress with broad, bipartisan support, was signed into law by Democrat Bill Clinton and has been largely politically uncontested since. Importantly, DOMA solidified a broadly held view of the American people, held since our nation's founding and still today, that marriage is a critical societal institution that cannot be harmfully redefined to suit the agenda of special interest political causes.
Such also is the case with the Court's other ruling, which found that citizens of California lack legal standing to challenge the ruling of a San Francisco federal court that wrongly found Proposition 8 unconstitutional. In so ruling, the Supreme Court again trumped democratic rights and the political will of the people. In November 2008, in an Election Day referendum that drew over 13 million Californians to the polls, the voters of our nation's largest state properly defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
Like DOMA, that referendum also reflected the people's view that marriage should be subjected to reasonable definition and parameters, remaining as between a man and a woman. Also like DOMA, it too has now been tossed aside to satisfy the progressive agenda of a Court that increasingly discards the democratic will of the American people and does so as a necessary prerequisite to imposing its own ideologically driven agenda.
Further to the point that both rulings were rooted in progressive ideology, not any guiding philosophy of jurisprudence on marriage, the Court also showed itself utterly contradictory in the foundations of its rulings. Is marriage defined by the federal government or, consistent with federalist principles, at the state level? The Court demonstrated absolute incoherence on that important question, arguing in its DOMA ruling that marriage is to be governed by the states and, conversely, in its Proposition 8 ruling, that it is to be governed by the federal government.
The stakes in this current cause could not be much higher. When a portion of the Supreme Court can flippantly toss aside the political will of the people on issues that are rightfully empowered to the people to decide, as this Court now has done, we no longer reside in a nation guided by our people and laws. Rather, America becomes a nation where democracy is a mere visual effect used to spawn a perception of self-rule that no longer ultimately exists.
This is the bad news for liberty loving Americans. But the Supreme Court's rulings bring good news too. Contrary to the image depicted in mainstream media, the American people are awakening to the reality of its elitist, progressive courts – and it is a reality, as Justice Antonin Scalia properly argued in his dissenting view on DOMA, that is "jaw dropping". In striking down the will of elected Members of Congress and a President of the United States (with DOMA) and the people of California (with its Proposition 8 ruling), the Supreme Court has now served notice to liberty advocates that it is game on. That is a calling that the American people will surely answer.
Additionally and importantly, the rulings in no way settle much of anything as it relates to the future of traditional marriage. DOMA may be no longer, but we at the Faith and Freedom Coalition intend to work with its advocates and a growing grassroots movement of Americans who support its principles, to ensure its basic tenets are otherwise upheld. The rulings also will certainly further inspire the efforts of traditional marriage activists, who now vastly outnumber their opponents, to work to elect state and federal legislators who will defend the treasured and traditional definition of marriage while ensuring that the nation's courts no longer serve to trump the political will and wisdom of its citizens.
Calls that Republicans must “move to the center” reach a fever pitch every time the party loses a major election. No doubt the GOP needs to do a better job of appealing to women, younger voters and Hispanics, but it need not shed its principles.
The media trope that the Republican Party is a “Star Wars” bar scene of theocrats and religious zealots by now has become a threadbare cliche. The Huffington Post said after the 2012 elections that the GOP resembles “a rump parliament of Caucasian traditionalism: white, married, churchgoing — to oversimplify only slightly.”
The New York Times‘ Maureen Dowd claimed the Republicans lost because they “tried to force chastity belts on women and made Hispanics, blacks and gays feel like the help.”
We have seen this movie before. Similar calls for retreating from conservative principles echoed after defeats in 1992, 1996 and 2008. In 1993, the chairman of the Republican Party said after George H.W. Bush lost the presidency that the party should “not cling to zealotry masquerading as principle and the stale ideas of a dead and dying past.” Sixteen months after these comments, Republicans won control of the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years.
One wonders: Is our support for the institution of marriage as a sacred union between a man and a women a stale idea of a dying past? I think not. The Supreme Court’s recent rulings on marriage aside, 70 percent of Americans still live in states where traditional marriage is the law and 33 states have passed referendums codifying it as such. Only 13 states have legalized same-sex marriage, and a number of these were done by judicial fiat, such as Iowa, California (by a federal district court) and Massachusetts.
Our agenda ultimately is not beholden to either political party. We will support the values that made this nation great, regardless. However, if the Republican Party wants to return to majority status in Washington, it is impossible to do so without the support of self-identified evangelical Christians and faithful Roman Catholics.
In 2012, these voters made up fully 36 percent of the entire electorate. This constituency is larger than the union vote, the black vote and the Hispanic vote combined. If the GOP de-emphasizes its commitment to the sanctity of life and marriage and loses these voters, the big tent will become a pup tent.
Besides, in spite of the media’s predictable obituaries, a pro-family Republican Party is institutionally and demographically stronger than it has been in decades. Statistically speaking, the GOP was in far worse shape after previous defeats. After Herbert Hoover’s defeat by Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Depression, Republicans controlled 36 seats in the Senate and 117 in the House. After Richard M. Nixon and Watergate, the party’s brand was even lower than it is now. Even after Mr. Bush’s defeat in 1992 by Bill Clinton — the worst defeat for an incumbent president since Hoover in 1932 — Republicans stood at 43 in the Senate and 176 in the House.
Today, Republicans have 45 members in the Senate, 233 members in the House, plus 30 governorships compared with Democrats’ 20. There is no question that the Republican governors are among the most popular reformist, conservative, forward-looking governors in the country. They are reforming education and public-sector unions, and balancing budgets without raising taxes. The policies we have been told are repudiated and dead, and can’t be sold anymore, are more popular than ever at the state level. This trend extends to the state and local levels: Republicans elected more than 700 state legislators in 2010. They control both houses of 24 legislatures, compared with three for Democrats.
Besides, we have tested this formula of “moving to the middle” to appeal to moderate voters. The laboratory was California. A state that produced Ronald Reagan and other great conservatives moved to the mushy middle. They nominated candidates for statewide office such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meg Whitman, who were pro-choice, pro-homosexual rights and fiscally moderate. Today, it is fair to say that the Republican Party is on the verge of extinction in that state. Only 25 out of 80 in the California Assembly are Republicans, and only 11 of 40 in the state Senate. Yet these are the same policies and the same strategy being recommended as the Republican Party’s only hope at the national level.
As we face America’s changing demographics and growing Hispanic and Asian populations, conservatives must, of course, adapt. However, those who counsel moderation, trimming of sails and moving to the “middle” never succeed in winning minority votes. Conservatism is not anathema to minority voters. The high-water mark in the post-World War II period for a Republican presidential candidate in garnering Hispanic votes was George W. Bush, who won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. In analyzing these voters, he overperformed among self-identified conservatives. Forty percent of Hispanics self-identify as conservatives, 22 percent are evangelical, 25 percent are faithful Catholics, and 2 million of them are small-business owners. That is how you win their votes. George W. Bush won 75 percent of evangelical Hispanics. They are pro-life, pro-marriage and patriotic.
We have much work to do as conservatives. We need to broaden our appeal, build a better ground game, concede not a single constituency to the other side, and formulate public policy that meets the needs of people where they are. But we cannot and should not retreat from the time-honored principles that made America great and are the only hope to restore it to moral and economic greatness.
By: Larry Yudelson
Hundreds of conservative political activists were gathered in a hotel ballroom three blocks from the White House for the luncheon opening the fourth annual “Road to Majority” conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) were mentally preparing the short speeches each would soon deliver.
But first, Dara, Sammy, and Ezra Berger — students at the Moriah School in Englewood — opened the event by leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
Meet the 21st century version of the Christian Coalition — eager to put Orthodox Jews front and center.
The Faith and Freedom Coalition was founded by former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed in 2009 to bring together Christian evangelicals and Tea Party conservatives. Its convention last month included speeches from leading Republicans, including presidential contenders Jeb Bush and Rubio.
Amid it all, Dr. Alan Berger, Dara, Sammy, and Ezra’s father, an obstetrician by profession and a political advocate by avocation (and former candidate for mayor of Englewood), felt very much at home as an Orthodox Jew.
“We have shared conservative values,” he said. “We have a couple of differences between our groups in terms of religion, but we have a lot in common.”
Berger was brought into the group by Jeff Ballabon, whose political accomplishments include heading President George W. Bush’s 2004 outreach to Orthodox Jews.
Last year’s conference had a full Shabbat program, including a minyan. That didn’t work out this year, Berger said, because of issues with the hotel. But that effort reflects a desire by Reed’s organization “to reach out to the Jewish people, mostly the more observant.”
The convention served Berger’s family kosher food. “They made sure everybody at the table had kosher food. They were so worried that nothing non-kosher would be near us,” he said.
It wasn’t just kosher food that made Berger feel comfortable. The organization “is very pro Israel.” he said. “They have the Israeli flag on stage at every event. When it comes to Israel, the whole room stands up and applauds.”
One area where Berger finds he disagrees with the Christian activists: “the definition of the beginning of life.”
“The conservative right will always talk about being anti-abortion,” he said. “In my personal travels, I’ve brought up a lot the issue of the exceptions. I’m an obstetrician. I present scenarios where we as Jews define life as beginning at birth, not conception. I personally don’t do abortions, but if a mother’s life is at stake, the mother’s life comes first.”
In his conversations, “I’ve gotten most evangelicals to agree that there should be exceptions. Having dialogue on the issue makes sure that all bills will have those exceptions.”
Berger’s political activism includes serving on the board of directors of Norpac, the pro-Israel political action committee; belonging to the leadership council of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and being a leader of the Northern New Jersey chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition. He also has donated tens of thousands of dollars to political candidates, most of them Republican.
Berger traces his political activism to the example of his rabbi when he was growing up. That was Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, the founding rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills in Queens.
“He always instilled in us the importance of having a connection to government,” Berger said. “He would say that had we had the connection to the president’s office and a lot of Washington back in the 1940s, maybe things would have been different.”
As a student at Yeshiva College in the 1980s, Berger served as president of one of the school’s student councils. In 2009, he ran for mayor of Englewood. He lost, winning only 30 percent of the vote against the Democratic candidate, but feels satisfied “that I was able to get people to listen to fiscal conservatism.” For him, the race was about conversations he had. “I spent no money, I put up zero signs.
“I knew I probably would lose,” he said. “It’s not always about the flashiest sign, it’s about getting to the people. I like talking one on one to people.”
Berger thinks the campaign was successful. He thinks he helped Governor Chris Christie do better than he would otherwise have done. (Berger said he got more votes than Christie did in Englewood.)
And he thinks his campaign has pushed the winner, Frank Huttle, to refrain from raising taxes, “because he knows I would be out there” opposing him.
For Berger, the conversations aren’t just to win over potential voters.
“You have to listen to the other side. I’m a right-wing conservative Orthodox Jew who politically has conversations with the left,” he said.
That includes meeting — and posing for pictures — with President Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton.
“You have to have respect for the office,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I want them to stay in office.”
And he was happy to attend a Norpac event supporting Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s campaign for Senate.
“I’m a realist,” he said. “Booker’s going to win. You have to work with both sides.”
Sometimes the conversations lead to relationships.
Berger and his brother Marc went down to Washington the day that Rand Paul was sworn in as senator from Kentucky. “We introduced ourselves and have had a friendly relationship with him. We never gave him a penny. We’ve just kept the dialogue going on to the point that when he was in Lakewood for a luncheon in June, we got a call that he was going to be there and went down to say hello,” Berger said.
The Lakewood visit was part of Paul’s quest to lead the Republican 2016 presidential slate.
“Many people in the community have written him off as his father’s son,” said Berger. Ron Paul, Rand Paul’s father, was notorious in Jewish political circles for opposing foreign aid to Israel (and everywhere else). The younger Paul, Berger said, “is willing to listen to what you have to say. He’s willing to disagree.”
As for the younger Bergers — who were accompanied not only by their father but also by their mother, Deborah — the trip to Washington gave them a chance to hear some speeches, and also to meet a whole slew of Republican politicians and presidential contenders.
“My kids got to meet everybody: Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush, John Bolton, Rick Perry,” Berger said. “I was able to get my kids into the green room and have a personal meeting with Rick Perry. He had a conversation with each of my kids individually.”