TIME White House

Obama Pays Tribute to Senate’s ‘Lion’ at Edward M. Kennedy Institute Opening

Barack Obama
Susan Walsh—AP President Barack Obama speaks at the dedication of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, in Boston on March 30, 2015.

Vice President Biden, Sen. John McCain and others also among the speakers

President Barack Obama used the opening of an institute dedicated to the legacy of the late Teddy Kennedy on Monday to ask a crowd of U.S. Senators and other dignitaries why Washington officials couldn’t be more like the man known as the lion of the Senate.

Obama, who was joined by the First Lady, Vice President Biden, and Republican and Democratic Senators at the opening dedication ceremony for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston, said he hoped the new facility would inspire and educate visitors. “We live in a time of such great cynicism about our institutions. We are cynical about Washington and about government most of all,” Obama said. “This place can help change that. It can help light the fire of imagination.”

The institute aims to teach visitors about the importance of the United States Senate and motivate younger generations to engage in the political process. The cornerstone of the sprawling white institute, designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, is a full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate chambers where Kennedy served for 47 years.

Vice President Biden said he had a front row seat to the nearly five decades Kennedy spent in the Senate where he fought passionately for some of the most divisive and important legislation of our nation’s history. Biden said he hopes that the institute and the celebration of Kennedy’s legacy will help future generations learn to listen and find consensus among their adversaries and hopefully begin to fix the broken system of government. “All politics is personal,” Biden said. “No one in my life understood that better than Ted Kennedy.”

Kennedy’s reputation as a bipartisan deal-maker was reflected at Monday’s ceremony by the number of Republicans, including former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Sen. John McCain, joining Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey in singing Kennedy’s praises.

Sen. McCain of Arizona recalled a particularly fiery exchange he and the late Senator had on the floor of the Senate once, after which Kennedy gave him a hug and the two shared a laugh about it. The Senate, McCain said, has missed his late colleague. “No, the place hasn’t been the same without him, but if we learn the right lessons from the late Edward M. Kennedy’s example we can make it better,” McCain said. “We can make it a place where every member can serve with pride and love.”

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a champion of progressive policies to benefit the working and middle class, shared a story of how Ted Kennedy’s fight for bankruptcy reform inspired her to enter politics. “Senator Kennedy changed my life,” Warren said. “And he changed what I understood about public service.”

“This institute will give millions of people an opportunity to be inspired. That is the perfect way to honor the memory of Ted Kennedy,” she added.

TIME Military

The Budget Trick That Made the Pentagon a Fiscal Functioning Alcoholic

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Erik Simonsen / Getty Images The Pentagon's $391 billion, 2,443-plane F-35 program is the costliest in history.

Bookkeeping gimmick creates a `co-dependency'

If the Pentagon needs more money—and that’s debatable—the Republicans have chosen the worst possible way to do it in the budgetary roadmaps both the House and Senate have recently approved.

That’s because they’ve kept in place the budget caps in place for defense and domestic discretionary spending for the proposed 2016 budget. While that keeps domestic spending in check, they’ve opted to fatten up the Pentagon’s war-fighting account by about $90 billion, which isn’t subject to the budget limits. Even President Obama, under heavy pressure from the Joint Chiefs, has blinked and said military spending should be boosted above the caps set in 2011. But he wants domestic spending increased as well.

The idea of special war-fighting budgetary add-ons makes sense, because while the Pentagon’s base budget trains and outfits the U.S. military, it doesn’t pay for it to wage war. But such Overseas Contingency Operations accounts are supposed to go away when the wars end, as they have in Afghanistan and Iraq (the current U.S.-led small-scale air war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, like the 2011 air war over Libya, can be funded out of the base budget). But the Republicans have basically perverted a responsible approach to funding the nation’s wars into an annual, multi-billion-dollar slush fund subject to even less congressional scrutiny than regular military budgets get.

CSBAThe Pentagon budget increasingly is being inflated with war funding that has little to do with funding wars.

“There’re a lot of different opinions about whether there should be an overseas contingency account or not, and whether it’s a slush fund or not,” then-defense secretary Chuck Hagel said last September.

The account, whatever it’s called, has become a rhetorical device: pump it up, defense hawks say, or risk crippling national security. Of course, that’s flat-out wrong. If the nation believes it needs to spend more on the military, it should hold an honest debate on the topic and then vote accordingly, without budgetary chicanery.

Hagel’s successor, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, is warning that the military needs more money beyond the $499 billion permitted by the 2011 law. But he says that force-feeding the Pentagon like a foie gras goose doesn’t solve the problem. “Current proposals to shoe-horn DOD’s base-budget funds into our contingency accounts would fail to solve the problem,” he said Thursday, “while also undermining basic principles of accountability and responsible long-term planning.”

So as the defense-budget debate continues, here are some facts to keep in mind:

1. With the Pentagon’s base-budget caps in place, its funding would rise slightly in coming years. Accounting for inflation basically makes for flat spending through 2024. The U.S. military budget today, under those caps, is higher than the Cold War average. That’s because even as the U.S. military shrinks, the cost of each remaining weapon bought and troop recruited has soared.

2. The reason the Pentagon is having trouble living within those levels is that it has grown used to pilfering its war-fighting accounts to fund normal operations, including purchasing weapons. A recent congressional report said that the Pentagon spent $71 billion of its war accounts on non-war spending from 2001 to 2014.

3. The war-fighting accounts have accounted for 23% of Pentagon spending over the past decade. Like a functioning alcoholic, the U.S. military has gotten used to the constant buzz, and is petrified of being forced to put the bottle away.

But here’s why it should stop cold turkey and get back to basic budgets:

1. Without standard congressional scrutiny, the money will be spent with even less oversight than normal Pentagon spending.

2. Because it is an annual appropriation that has to be renewed each year, there is no way the Pentagon can wisely budget for it in advance, and spent it smartly when and if it gets it.

3. Finally, counting on such a loophole sends the wrong signal. Troops are being paid and weapons bought, in part, with the equivalent of payday loans.

It also leads allies to question U.S. commitments. “We’re putting things in the Overseas Contingency Operations fund like the European Reassurance Initiative,” says Todd Harrison, a defense-budget expert at the nonprofit Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank. “If we’re really trying to reassure our European allies in the face of a more-assertive Russia that we’re going to be there for them, why are we putting that into an account that’s only one year at a time?”

TIME Congress

3 Surprising Facts About Senator Harry Reid

Harry Reid
Douglas Graham—Roll Call/Getty Images Harry Reid on July 10, 2000

There's more to the retiring Senate Democratic leader than meets the eye

When Harry Reid retires in 2017, he will have served as the Senate Democratic leader for 12 years—longer than all but two other senators in the country’s history.

But while he’s well-known inside Washington, the Senate Majority Leader is a distant figure to many Americans. His dry speaking style and low-key persona has kept him from becoming a household name, even as he’s led Democrats and at times the Senate itself.

But whether you approve of the job he’s done or not, Reid is actually fairly colorful. Here are three things you should know about the man from Searchlight as he heads out the door.

His mother used to do laundry for a brothel

Reid had a tough upbringing, growing up in “tiny wood shack with a tin roof’ as the “son of a hard-drinking gold miner, who eventually shot and killed himself,” according to a TIME 2004 profile. In 2011, Reid called for Nevada’s brothel industry to be outlawed, recalling stories of his mother taking laundry in from some of the 13 brothels that his hometown had at one point.

“Nevada needs to be known as the first place for innovation and investment–not as the last place where prostitution is still legal,” Reid told the state legislature then. “When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world’s newest ideas and newest careers—not about its oldest profession.”

He once tried to choke a man who tried to bribe him

Reid was an amateur boxer and later paid his way through George Washington University as a night-shift Capitol police officer, so he knows how to crack heads, literally. That came in handy when he was chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1977 to 1981. While he worked there he received “repeated death threats from the mob,” according to his biography, and had at least one instance where a man attempted to bribe him. Bad move. Per a 2005 New Yorker piece:

In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, ‘Is this the money?’ Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, ‘You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!’ and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off. ‘I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me,’ Reid said, explaining his theatrical outburst. Gordon was convicted in federal court in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison.

He inspired a character in a Martin Scorsese film

Few bureaucrats can say that their work was fictionalized by Scorsese. In 1978, Reid held a hearing as chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission that was later used in the 1995 film Casino. Dick Smothers’ character spouted some of Reid’s statements during the scene where Robert De Niro’s character freaks out after the commission rejects his application for a license to operate a casino, according to Slate.

 

TIME Congress

Harry Reid’s Early Retirement Announcement Shows How Much He Likes to Plan Ahead

Harry Reid
Douglas Graham—Roll Call/Getty Images Harry Reid on July 10, 2000

The Senate minority leader will not seek reelection in 2016

By announcing early that he will not run for reelection next fall, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has freed up party resources that might have been spent on what would have been a tough race for other elections — a major reason behind his early decision, as he told the New York Times. That kind of planning ahead is not unusual for the minority leader.

Reid’s personal background might not peg him as a super planner: as TIME explained in a 2004 profile, he was once an amateur boxer, the son of “a hard-drinking gold miner.” (His mother’s pay came from taking in laundry from brothels.) But he devoted himself to finding stability, including through a conversion to Mormonism, and ended up the kind of person who famously carries around notecards on which to record every promise he makes, with the idea that he’ll later be able to record when he fulfills them.

One of the best illustrations of that forward-looking nature was explained in that same 2004 article, in which TIME’s Douglas Waller laid out how the Senator prepared for a filibuster:

Harry Reid is the kind of adversary who might just wear you down. Last year, for example, the Nevada Senator staged a one-day filibuster, standing on the Senate floor and talking for eight hours and 35 minutes straight to put majority leader Bill Frist hopelessly behind schedule on other bills that he wanted to rush through before the Thanksgiving recess. Reid planned everything carefully, down to his diet. So he wouldn’t be forced to go to the bathroom and lose his right to the floor, he ate only a slice of wheat bread and a handful of unsalted peanuts for breakfast, kept Senate pages from refilling the water glass at his desk and made sure he sipped only half of it during the day.

One thing he can’t plan, of course, is the one thing that many Washington-watchers will wonder most: who will take his place as the leader of the Senate Democrats.

Read the full 2004 story, here in the TIME archives: Herding the Democrats

TIME justice

Will Congress Reform the Criminal Justice System?

Civil rights activist Van Jones speaks onstage at '#YesWeCode: From The 'Hood To Silicon Valley' during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center in Austin on March 16, 2015.
Robert A Tobiansky–Getty Images Civil rights activist Van Jones speaks onstage at '#YesWeCode: From The 'Hood To Silicon Valley' during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center in Austin on March 16, 2015.

There's bipartisan backing, but that doesn't mean a bill will pass

Correction appended, March 27

Van Jones likes to call his Republican buddies “brother.” As in Brother Mark (Holden, the general counsel at Koch Industries), or Brother Matt (Kibbe, the CEO of the conservative group FreedomWorks). Jones, a Democratic activist and former Obama adviser, beamed as he strolled the halls of a cavernous Washington hotel Thursday, clasping shoulders and squeezing hands with one unlikely conservative ally after the next. And Jones wasn’t the only one basking in the warm vibes of bipartisanship.

If you mistakenly wandered into the Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform, you might have thought you had fallen into an alternate universe. Scores of liberal and conservative activists, policy wonks and lawmakers gathered for an all-day conference that seemed to defy all the old saws about Washington gridlock. Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich lauded Democratic Senator Cory Booker, who volleyed back praise for his Republican partners. Even Attorney General Eric Holder drew warm applause in a ballroom dotted with conservatives.

But as unusual as that may be in Washington, it’s becoming a routine sight when it comes to criminal justice reform. In recent months, a growing bipartisan alliance has formed around the need to change a prison system that critics say is broken and bloated. Thursday’s crowd was the clearest sign yet of the coalition’s breadth. “When you have an idea whose time has come,” said Jones, one of the hosts of the summit, “it winds up being an unstoppable force.”

Maybe. But it’s never easy in Washington to channel a cause into actual change. A show of force is not a strategy. Despite general agreement about the problems riddling the justice system, it remains unclear how a collection of interest groups with divergent ideologies can marshal their money and organizing muscle to move bills through a fractious Congress—all before the 2016 presidential election puts the legislative process on pause.

The good news is the array of powerful figures who have united behind the idea. Activists and policy groups on the left (such as the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union) are working with traditional foes on the right (such as the Kochs, the American Conservative Union and Right on Crime) as well as nonpartisan groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums. In Congress, the cadre of lawmakers who have teamed up on criminal-justice reform legislation run the ideological gamut, from Democratic Senators Booker, Pat Leahy and Sheldon Whitehouse to Republicans counterparts Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Rob Portman and John Cornyn.

The unlikely alliances have formed in part because the problem is so obvious. The percentage of incarcerated Americans has ballooned 500% over the past three decades; the nation’s prison population, at 2.2 million people, surpasses that of any other developed nation. The one-in-three Americans with a criminal record struggle to reintegrate into society because of restrictions on housing, voting and employment—which in turn promotes recidivism. Liberals deplore a system that disproportionately punishes minorities and the poor for petty crimes, while many conservatives have long been appalled by the moral and fiscal issues associated with the soaring U.S. incarceration rate.

Whether the legislative branch has the ability to tackle these sprawling issues remains an open question. “The way Congress moves is at a glacial pace,” said Booker, a freshman Senator from New Jersey. “This is not going to change unless we push and fight and work together.”

A big part of the battle is figuring out the best place to start. In the Senate, one option is a bill sponsored by Whitehouse and Cornyn, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, which is designed to reduce recidivism and help nonviolent prisoners transition back into society after serving time. An earlier version of the bill sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2014 with the support of Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who now serves as the committee’s chairman. As chairman, Grassley’s support for the legislation is crucial. His reticence to reforming mandatory minimum sentencing is one reason why the Cornyn-Whitehouse bill is thought to have a better chance of success than a popular mandatory-minimum bill sponsored by Booker, Paul and others.

Grassley’s counterpart in the House, Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, is another Republican steeped in the tough-on-crime ethos that long reigned in the party. But the House GOP has a host of respected leaders who are on board with criminal justice reforms, from Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan to fellow Wisconsin conservative Jim Sensenbrenner, who advocates identify as a key player in any deal to get a bill through the House.

Gingrich, a co-host of Thursday’s summit, said the key would be to gather support in the Senate first. “If you build a big enough bipartisan majority in the Senate, it’s going to pass,” said Gingrich, who argued that as a cause, criminal justice had little in common with comprehensive immigration-reform, another recent bipartisan issue with plenty of hype and heavy hitters behind it, but which ultimately stalled in Congress.

Unlike immigration reform, “there’s no massive opposition to rethinking how we’ve been incarcerating people,” Gingrich argued, predicting that each 2016 Republican presidential contender would support some form of justice reform. “There’s a much, much bigger consensus.”

There’s also an urgency to capitalize before presidential politics grinds the legislative machinery of the capital to a halt. On a panel Thursday morning, Democratic commentator Donna Brazile predicted a comprehensive criminal justice bill could pass by the end of the year. “I think we’ve got to get it done in 2015,” said Kibbe of the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks, “before we get back in our corners and start fighting again.”

Correction: The original version of this story identified Families Against Mandatory Minimums as a left-leaning group. It is nonpartisan.

TIME Congress

Aaron Schock and Downton Abbey Said Farewell at the Same Time

Aaron Schock
Seth Perlman—AP In this Feb. 6, 2015, file photo, Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. speaks to reporters in Peoria Ill. According to a source, the Justice Department is investigating possible criminal violations by resigning Illinois congressman.

Oh, the irony

Rep. Aaron Schock gave his farewell speech to Congress Thursday at the same time that Downton Abbey producers announced the show would end after its next season.

The irony? The Illinois Republican is resigning amid a series of scandals that began when he spent lavishly to model his Capitol Hill office after the show.

We couldn’t help but notice some similarities in how the congressman and the producers of the show said their respective goodbyes:

1. Describing the emotional journey

“I was never more excited than when I walked into this chamber six years ago. I leave here with sadness and humility.” (Schock)

“The Downton journey has been amazing for everyone aboard…I do know how grateful we are to have been allowed this unique experience” (Downton Abbey)

2. Referencing the millions of people they’ve touched

“I will miss joining my colleagues in saving and strengthening social security and Medicare that will directly improve the quality of life for millions of Americans for generations to come.” (Schock)

“Millions of people around the world have followed the journey of the Crawley family and those who serve them for the last five years.” (Downton Abbey)

3. Talking about the ‘stories’

“I know this is not the ending of a story, but rather the beginning of a new chapter.” (Schock)

“It felt right and natural for the storylines to come together” (Downton Abbey)

Now that Schock’s leaving Capitol Hill, might a cameo on the show be on the cards? It’s not too late.

TIME Congress

Watch Ben Affleck Drop a Batman Reference in His Congressional Testimony

Ben Affleck, actor, filmmaker and founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, testifies before a Senate Appropriations State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on "Diplomacy, Development, and National Security" on Capitol Hill in Washington March 26, 2015.
Yuri Gripas—Reuters Ben Affleck, actor, filmmaker and founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, testifies before a Senate Appropriations State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee hearing on "Diplomacy, Development, and National Security" on Capitol Hill in Washington March 26, 2015.

Acknowledges a co-star on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee

Ben Affleck testified before the Senate Thursday as a philanthropist, not an actor. But he still found a way to mention Batman in his opening remarks.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs hearing was on diplomacy and national security; Affleck is the founder of Eastern Congo Initiative, an advocacy and grant initiative focused on helping communities in eastern Congo.

As he addresses the ranking members of the panel, Affleck turns to Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and says, “I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my costar in Batman. The role is marginally smaller than mine, but I understand that you are quite good.” Leahy laughs.

Affleck is starring as Batman in next year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but Leahy is a known Batman fanatic who has appeared in cameos in previous Batman films. So it seems he’ll be joining the caped crusader once again in 2016.

Watch the video here.

TIME Congress

Congress to Solve Problem It Created 18 Years Ago

House Republicans Vote On A New Majority Leader To Replace Cantor
Pete Marovich—Bloomberg/Getty Images U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, speaks during his weekly news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 19, 2014. Boehner said terrorism has spread "exponentially" during President Barack Obama's administration and that Obama needs an "overall strategy" to stem the rise of terrorism in the Middle East. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress is on the verge of permanently solving a problem it created for itself 18 years ago.

The House expects to pass a major health care reform bill Thursday that would solve a recurring headache: a flawed formula for Medicare payments for doctors. For years, Congress has passed short-term patches—17 in all—temporarily fixing the problem just before doctors were slated to see their reimbursements drop suddenly.

Now, ahead of an April 1 deadline that would slice the Medicare payment rate by 21 percent, House leaders have struck a compromise that would permanently resolve the issue, roughly splitting the costs between beneficiaries and providers. The deal has garnered support from both progressive budget groups and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.

“It’s time we did this,” says House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers. “We’ve been crutching along on one cane for all these years and finally we’re facing up to the responsibility of getting it over with.”

Negotiated by Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the House bill would make wealthy seniors pay up to 15% more in premiums beginning in 2018 and extend for two years funding for community health centers and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which faces its own spending deadline this fall. The bill would cost $141 billion over the next ten years, which will peel away support from some deficit hawks, even though it’s about a billion less than just kicking the can down the road.

“That’s pretty darn impressive,” says Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch of the deal, which was easier to make than in years past as Medicare spending on physician services has dropped.

“It looks like to me it solves a problem that has been out there for about 18 years now, of a pay for that clearly was a phony pay-for,” adds Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. “It was a pay-for that was never going to work that Congress has never been willing to go to because it didn’t make sense.”

The question now is whether the Senate can pass the bill by Friday, when Congress plans to leave for a two-week recess. In the event that it can’t, the Senate will once again pass a short-term patch. “I just don’t know how you get it done before the end of this week in a way that’s befitting a review by the United States Senate and House,” says Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. “It normally takes more than a few minutes to consider major legislation. … We’re not going to finish the budget until Friday morning.”

Democrats in the Senate have been more tepid in their support than their House colleagues, raising concerns over abortion provisions that have been countered in part after further negotiations. Several Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer, Chris Murphy and Sherrod Brown, told TIME that they are concerned that the funding extension for CHIP is two, rather than four, years. But those concerns haven’t led them to state public opposition to the bill and it’s likely that there’s enough support among Senate Democrats to pass it. President Obama said Wednesday he’s got his pen “ready to sign a good, bipartisan bill.”

“We have a golden opportunity to accomplish something that people thought couldn’t be accomplished with this amount of toxicity, if you will, to the atmosphere,” says West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

“Getting the ‘doc fix’ done once and for all is a positive development,” adds Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and is “inclined” to support it. “I wish that it had four years for the CHIP program, but as Mick Jagger once famously said, ‘you don’t always get what you want.'”

For the bill to come up in the upper chamber by Friday, every senator would have to agree to skip procedural hurdles to vote on the bill. After a drawn-out fight over the Keystone XL pipeline and the delay in what was once an easy, bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill, top Republicans are worried that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats will slow down or kill the process. Reid has said that he will give his opinion of the deal once it passes the House.

“The incentives are there,” says Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming. “Now it just comes to whether Harry Reid is once again going to obstruct the workings of the United States Senate.”

In an ironic twist, just as Congress looks to relieve itself from a perennial headache, reports have emerged defending the so-called ‘doc fix’ for doing what it was supposed to do: keep Medicare spending in line. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an anti-deficit group, wrote last year that Congress paid for its delays 98 percent of the time with much of the savings coming from health care programs.

“It always gets derided because it’s annoying and it’s flawed,” Loren Adler, the group’s research director, told Bloomberg recently. “It doesn’t work as intended, it’s a little bit silly in some ways and it’s a lobbying bonanza. That being said, it’s accomplished what was intended—it’s controlled the cost of Medicare.”

TIME Rand Paul

Why Rand Paul is Attacking Ted Cruz

US-VOTE-REPUBLICANS
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images US Senator Ted Cruz( R-TX) smiles at the crowd while delivering remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the full Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va.

Rand Paul has his sights set on Ted Cruz.

As his Lone Star colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz, announced his candidacy Monday, Paul took to Twitter, asking his following to retweet a two part message: “Stand with … Rand.” His supporters at Virginia’s Liberty University got it, trolling the cameras in red shirts with Paul’s mantra.

Several hours later, Paul went on Fox News’ The Kelly File, which aired an hour before Cruz appeared on Sean Hannity’s show. Paul attacked Cruz for being unable to spread his message past his speech’s largely favorable Christian audience, which, as Paul noted at least twice, were composed of students “required” to attend.

“Ted Cruz is a conservative, but it also goes to winnability,” said Paul, noting that he’s traveled to liberal redoubts like Berkeley, Calif., and spoken at historically black colleges. “I’ve spent the last couple years going places Republicans haven’t gone and maybe not just throwing out red meat but actually throwing out something intellectually enticing to people who haven’t been listening to our message before.”

“That’s the way you win general elections,” he added.

Paul’s double-barreled Internet and TV attacks came before he officially enters the race — he has scheduled a major announcement on April 7 followed by a tour of the early primary states. But they show his primary problem: he is largely competing for the same slices of conservative voters with Cruz even as he tries to expand the traditional Republican electorate.

“I didn’t find much I disagreed with,” said Paul of Cruz’s speech on Fox. “We kind of come from the same wing of the party and if you look at our voting records you’ll find that we’re very, very similar.”

The two conservative senators approach politics through different ideological frames: Paul’s a libertarian who wants a bigger tent in the GOP; Cruz is a conservative who wants to turn out more of the base. “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting,” he said in his campaign announcement. “They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

Read More: Full Text of Sen. Ted Cruz’s Campaign Launch


But in the Senate, their different paths have often led to the same destination. Both wish to “abolish the IRS,” rein in the National Security Agency, remove the chain of command in military sexual assault cases, pass a flat tax, see states scale back Common Core education standards, reform mandatory minimum sentencing, secure the borders before any type of immigration reform, repeal Obamacare and oppose aid to Syrian rebels. In 2013, several months after Cruz supported Paul’s filibuster over U.S. drone policy, Paul supported Cruz’s 21 plus hours of an anti-Obamacare tirade.

The main differences between the two are stylistic. Paul is running a freewheeling campaign, trying to appeal to constituencies Cruz isn’t addressing, while bucking the GOP leadership on foreign policy issues like normalizing relations with Cuba. But Paul has worked the Senate chamber much better, lining up support from fellow Kentuckian Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Cruz has failed to do the same from his Texas colleague, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn. Both of those members of the leadership team are still incensed with Cruz’s strategy protesting the implementation of Obamacare in 2013 that led to a government shutdown, which briefly battered the party’s image.

The fight between the Tea Party senators extends from the same voters to the same staff. A few top operatives in Cruz’s backyard have jumped to Paul, including Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri and Cruz’s digital strategist, Vince Harris, who orchestrated the nifty little trick of popping up Rand PAC ads every time you searched “Ted Cruz” on Google Monday.

But just Tuesday the New York Times reported that Cruz has recruited three Iowa leaders from Paul’s libertarian base. The polls for the next presidential election don’t close for another 595 days, but the early jockeying between the two colleagues has already begun.

TIME Congress

Congress Boosts War Spending as Wars Wind Down

Paratroopers march up the ramp as they return home from Afghanistan at Pope Army Airfield in Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Chris Keane—Reuters Paratroopers with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, march up the ramp as they return home from Afghanistan at Pope Army Airfield in Fort Bragg, NC on Nov. 5, 2014.

The 2016 House and Senate budget proposals for war spending that moved toward a congressional floor vote this week were loaded up with tens of billions of dollars more than the Defense Department requested, representing the largest increase lawmakers have attempted to add to the executive branch’s requests for such funds.

These moves — which come as the Obama administration tries to wind down the U.S. war in Afghanistan and to steer clear of a large new incursion in Iraq — were pushed through by Republican lawmakers that since 2003 have received a total $8 million in contributions from the political action committees and employees of top defense contractors, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

The proposals emerged from a convoluted congressional debate that pitted pro-defense hawks against federal deficit hawks, with the former — backed by defense industry lobbying — emerging triumphant.

The impetus for boosting war spending is that Congress enacted strict controls on regular Pentagon spending in 2011 and alleviated them only slightly last fiscal year, making a cut likely unless the Pentagon and the defense industry found new funds elsewhere. Supportive lawmakers as a result turned to the only military account not subject to spending caps, namely the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), a funding category created in 2001 for temporary expenditures associated with combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the Center for Public Integrity reported in December, OCO over the years has become a slush fund for lawmakers and administration officials seeking to retain or expand military programs with no direct relationship to those wars.

But they’ve never sought to do it as blatantly or unashamedly as they did this month, when the Senate Budget Committee voted in a straight party-line vote to spend $96 billion in the OCO budget for 2016, and the House Budget Committee voted similarly to spend $94 billion. The amount appropriated for OCO in 2015 was $63 billion. While no precise listing of the additional programs to be funded under the Republican proposals has yet been released, lawmakers who favored the OCO increases did not assert that the extra funds were needed only for the wars.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) were the principal sponsors of the successful Senate amendment to grow the OCO account. In urging a positive vote, Graham — who is exploring a presidential run — provided a long but imprecise list of security threats: “Everything that you have in common, radical Islam hates, and if somebody doesn’t do something about it soon, they will come our way again,” he told the committee, adding that increases to the OCO account were needed “to defend the nation.”

Signaling a difference of views among Republicans, the House Rules Committee on Monday night approved two versions of the OCO provision, requiring a final decision on the House floor. One sets OCO spending at $94 billion but requires $20 billion of that sum to be offset by spending cuts elsewhere, and another sets OCO spending at $96 billion while not requiring any offsets.

In total, the 67 current members of the House and Senate Budget and House Rules committees have received $15.6 million in adjusted dollars from the 2013 fiscal year top 75 defense contractors’ PACS and employees, from 2003 through the end of the 2014 election season.

On average, the top defense contractors gave Republicans $264,244 apiece while Democrats and Independents received $189,881. The lion’s share of contractor support went to the Senate Budget Committee’s 12 Republicans. The contractors’ PACs and employees contributed $5.7 million to their campaigns and leadership PACs, or an average of $472,219 per lawmaker.

Republicans on the House Rules committee received a total of $2.3 million, making them the second-highest average recipients of contractor largesse.

Graham received $760,244. The other sponsor of the amendment to increase the OCO fund, Ayotte, has less seniority than Graham but is one of the top average recipients of defense contractor contributions, calculated on a two-year basis, among the 67 committee members. First elected to the Senate in 2010, she’s raised $363,205 from the top contractors.

Two Senate Budget Democrats were also among the top 10 recipients of defense contractor contributions, though they voted against the Graham and Ayotte amendment. Hailing from a state that many defense companies call home, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia received $1,053,271 in adjusted dollars. He was followed by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the fourth highest recipient overall, who received $823,536 in adjusted dollars.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) disputed Graham’s claims during last week’s Senate Budget Committee hearing, saying the United States already spends more on defense than the next nine countries, and he rebuked his fellow senators for adding to the national deficit. “Republicans took us into protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—and ran up our national debt by trillions because they chose not to pay for those wars,” he said in a prepared statement.

The Center calculated campaign contributions in 2014 dollars from the top 75 defense contractors, as ranked in fiscal 2013, using campaign data compiled by The Center for Responsive Politics as well as data from the Federal Election Commission.

This story is from The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C. To follow their investigations into government spending and national security, follow them on Twitter.

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