The Edge: Libertarians in Love

The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.

Libertarians in Love

The three libertarian heroes of the Senate revealed themselves as two nerds and a rebel when they were asked Wednesday night at a Young Americans for Liberty conference about how and when they first got active in politics.

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said that as a child, he didn't realize other families didn't talk about the Fourth Amendment at the dinner table. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said his "passion for liberty was ignited" in high school, and he won loud cheers for mentioning the names Friedman, Hayek, and von Mises.

But it was Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, in blue jeans and blazer, who stole the show. "So when I was in college, I was in the library every night, home in bed by 9 o'clock. I never drank any beer or smoked any pot," he deadpanned. "Oh, actually, no, no, that's Mike Lee's story! I'm stealing Mike Lee's story!"

Unclear how many of the 300 students had heard about Aqua Buddha. Either way, from their heartfelt chants of "Stand with Rand" and "President Paul," they knew a kindred spirit when they saw one. Democrats, be warned: There's a new Big Man on Campus.

Jill Lawrence


GRANTED ASYLUM IN RUSSIA, SNOWDEN LEAVES MOSCOW AIRPORT. After spending 40 days marooned in a Moscow airport transit zone, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was granted temporary asylum for one year that allows the fugitive to live and potentially work anywhere in Russia, The New York Times reports. With a passport-like document in hand, Snowden walked freely out of the airport today and left in a taxi, according to his lawyer, who refused to comment on Snowden's current location or plans. Reaction from Capitol Hill was swift. "Russia's action today is a disgrace and a deliberate effort to embarrass the United States. It is a slap in the face of all Americans," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Read more

  • Snowden's most recent leaks about the NSA, published yesterday in The Guardian, make it clear the spy agency will abuse its power again in the future, The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf writes. Read more

STUDENT-LOAN MEASURE PASSES EASILY IN HOUSE. The House voted 392-31 to pass a bill linking interest rates on federal student loans to the market, ending a long and at times tortuous debate after rates doubled automatically on July 1, The New York Times reports. The bill passed the Senate 81-18 last week and is on its way to the White House, where President Obama, who endorsed the measure, is expected to sign it. "It's a great victory for taxpayers, because taxpayers won't be forced to subsidize student-loan rates that are arbitrarily set by politicians," said Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind. The bill, as passed, will affect new, but not existing loans. Read more

HOUSE SPENDING BILL ABRUPTLY PULLED. Perhaps due to opposition from Democrats and some centrist Republicans who feared the cuts were too deep, House GOP leaders stopped debate Wednesday on a $44 billion measure that includes spending cuts to transportation and housing programs, The Wall Street Journal reports. "With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted three months ago," Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said in response. On the Hill today, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, urged Congress to pass a short-term continuing resolution in September while reiterating his desire to complete eight other spending bills the House has not finished. Read more

  • Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the decision by House Republicans to pull the bill may mean progress could come soon in the budget talks, The Wall Street Journal reports. Read more

ATF HAS ITS FIRST PERMANENT DIRECTOR IN SEVEN YEARS. B. Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota and the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, was confirmed Wednesday as the agency's full-time leader, The Washington Post reports. ATF has been without a permanent director for the past seven years, primarily because of the National Rifle Association's efforts to block past nominees. However, the NRA did not take a stance on Jones's nomination. The confirmation is being called a major victory for the Obama administration's attempts to advance changes in gun policy. Read more

EGYPT WARNS PRO-MORSI DEMONSTRATORS TO DISPERSE OR FACE FORCE. Egypt's authorities are moving closer to the use of force against supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, who have staged sit-ins in Cairo, after issuing a stern warning Thursday, The New York Times reported. A government spokesman appeared on state television, beseeching the protesters to "give priority to the interest of the homeland, to comply with the public interest and to quickly leave and evacuate." Morsi supporters said the sit-ins, which have now lasted weeks, would continue and again vowed to stay until Morsi is reinstated. Police are promising "safe passage and protection" to the protesters if they agree to end their two large sit-ins in Cairo. Read more

U.S. AND PAKISTAN SEEK TO REESTABLISH RELATIONSHIP. The U.S. and Pakistan are looking to rebuild a "full partnership" after years of bad blood, Reuters reports. The relationship between the two nations has soured in recent years because of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, the raid by U.S. Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden, and Pakistani support for Taliban insurgents fighting Western troops in Afghanistan. Secretary of State John Kerry said the two countries were serious about overcoming past grievances, and he invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to visit the U.S. for talks with President Obama. Kerry also said he thinks the drone-strike programs in Pakistan will end soon. Read more

OBAMA TO NOMINATE JOHN KOSKINEN FOR IRS CHIEF. The White House announced today that President Obama will nominate John Koskinen to be the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, The Hill reports. Koskinen is a former official at Freddie Mac and "an expert at turning around institutions in need of reform," Obama said in a statement. "Every part of our government must operate with absolute integrity, and that is especially true for the IRS," Obama continued. "I am confident that John will do whatever it takes to restore the public's trust in the agency." Koskinen will replace acting Commissioner Danny Werfel, who was appointed in May following the resignation of Stephen Miller amid scandals charging the IRS with unfairly targeting political groups. Read more

HOUSE REPUBLICANS FLOAT PLAN TO PREVENT CARBON TAX. House Republicans have proposed an amendment to the Reins Act that would require congressional approval of any "major" federal regulations, including any rule that would put a tax on carbon emissions, The Hill reports. The proposal is part of an effort by GOP members to prevent carbon-tax proposals from entering the energy and climate-change conversation, despite White House vows to never propose a carbon tax. The amendment states that a carbon tax would harm economic growth and raise energy costs. The amendment would also force Democratic lawmakers to go on the record on carbon taxes. Read more

ALL 100 SENATORS SCHEDULED TO ATTEND BARBECUE LUNCH TODAY. In a sign that maybe icy relations between the two parties might be getting a little better, all 100 senators were scheduled to meet Thursday in the Old Senate Chamber for, depending who you ask, an informal luncheon or, as Democratic aides describe it, a "bipartisan caucus meeting," The Washington Post reports. Today's meeting is at the behest of senators from both parties, but Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., are cohosting the lunch with Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. Barbeque One, from Isakson's hometown of Marietta, Ga., was catering the rare bipartisan event. Read moremso-fareast-font-family:Calibri;mso-bidi-font-family:Calibri">

U.S. ECONOMY SHOWS SIGNS OF GAINING TRACTION. First-time applications for jobless benefits fell to a 5-1/2-year low last week, strengthening outlooks for an accelerated economic growth during the second half of 2013, Reuters reports. "The future growth outlook remains on a highly positive trajectory, keeping the September tapering timeline firmly intact despite the Fed's nod to below-target inflation," said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York. Stocks also shot up to all-time highs today as part of a global stock rally following a new factory report out of China. Read more


HOUSE PANEL CONVENES HEARING ON BORDER SECURITY. The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a full committee hearing on "Border Security Planning: Applying Overseas Lessons Learned to the Homeland" at 9 a.m. in 311 Cannon. Scheduled witnesses include retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales; Alan Cohn, assistant secretary in the Homeland Security Office of Policy for Strategy, Planning, Analysis and Risk; and Christine Wormuth, deputy Defense undersecretary for strategy, plans, and force development.

CONGRESSIONAL PANEL EXAMINES JOBS PICTURE. The Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on "The Employment Situation: July 2013" at 9:30 a.m. in G-50 Dirksen. Erica Groshen, commissioner of the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics, is scheduled to testify.


"I had dance partners. Sometimes they liked to polka and I liked to waltz. They liked to tango and I liked to line dance" –Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on negotiating farm-bill legislation in 2002 (National Journal)


I, ROBOT. Loitering on social-media websites has practically turned into a national pastime, but the experience could be similar to what MIT anthropologist Natasha Schüll refers to as "the machine zone," The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal reports. Schüll studied the phenomenon, which includes repetitive actions and a hypnosis-like experience, in gamblers. Madrigal suggests that a less serious version happens when we engage in repetitive behavior on websites. (To be clear, if you're responding to people on Twitter or Facebook, you're not in the zone. Madrigal writes that the affliction is "characterized by a lack of human connection.") Web companies could help disrupt the zone by adding alerts after someone has, for example, scrolled through 100 tweets or clicked 100 Facebook photos, but many social-media companies measure their users' engagement using time spent on the sites. Read more



DREAMING OF BEING MIDDLE CLASS? Researcher Anat Shenker-Osorio writes for The Atlantic that many Americans self-identify as "middle class" even when they are, economically speaking, nothing of the sort. People on either end of the wealth index are programmed to cognitively associate themselves as middle class because popular depictions of the rich and the poor often don't match reality. "Not finding popular depictions of wealth and poverty similar to our own lived experiences, we determine we must be whatever's left over," Shenker-Osorio explains. The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn ponders in an interview with Nathaniel Hendren, a researcher with The Equality of Opportunity Project, whether the ever-elusive American Dream really exists at all in most of America's ZIP codes. Read more


Subscribe to The EdgeSee The Edge Archive