Rand Paul and his Democratic buds
July 22nd, 2014
03:10 PM ET
3 months ago

Rand Paul and his Democratic buds

Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. Rand Paul teamed up with a Democrat once again Tuesday in his effort to restore voting rights for convicted criminals who've served time in prison.

The Kentucky senator held a panel discussion on Capitol Hill with Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the latest high-profile Democrat publicly working with Paul to rally support around a policy or idea.

Paul's "odd couple" pairings appear to be growing more quickly as the first-term senator gets closer to 2016. So is he trying to unite the Senate, one-by-one? Or is he trying to broaden his name recognition and scope as he lays the groundwork for a likely presidential bid?

Regardless, it's a risky move in today's political climate. Aligning with Democrats should theoretically be the kiss of death for a Republican 2016 hopeful who wants to rev up primary voters.

While bipartisan legislative achievements look good in general elections, they can taint candidates as they try to shore up the GOP vote. Just ask Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose political star fell somewhat among the Republican base after he helped pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Senate last year.

But Paul's work with Democrats appears to be limited and strategic: He focuses mostly on policies involving criminal justice reform and federal surveillance programs, two issues that aren't seen as hyper partisan.

Serving up some red meat at the Texas GOP convention last month, Paul joked that the U.S. should trade five Democrats instead of five Taliban members in the next prisoner swap–a reference to the trade of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

It looks like Paul's in favor of keeping at least these Democrats around:

1. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland: Paul is jumping on board with an effort that Cardin has been pushing for years. The measure would give back federal voting rights to felons who are no longer incarcerated.

Paul, who's actively courting support from African-Americans and other minority voters, sees this as an opportunity to set himself apart from the deluge of criticism aimed at Republicans over voting rights.

"Here's a Republican who wants to enhance the vote. This is a much bigger problem than anything else limiting voting right now," Paul said last month on CNN's "State of the Union." "Nearly a million people can't vote. And I want to help people get their right to vote back."

2. Attorney General Eric Holder. Paul may be suing the Obama administration over its surveillance programs, but he's still rubbing shoulders with the government's top law enforcement officer.

The two sat down for lunch in February to discuss their shared support for reforms to the criminal justice system, such as reducing or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

In addition to Paul, Holder won support from some Republican governors who view mandatory minimum laws as federal government overreach.

A couple months later, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to reduce drug sentences for future nonviolent offenders. Holder is now trying to get those sentences reduced for current inmates.

However, some critics say the administration is making changes without congressional action, and the changes reverse laws that many credit with historical crime rate reductions in the past decade.

3. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. In another unlikely pairing, Paul is working with Booker on wider reform to the criminal justice system.

Their new proposal, known as the REDEEM Act, would allow adults to seal non-violent criminal records, encourage states to increase the age of criminal responsibility to 18, and create automatic expungement of non-violent crimes committed by kids before they turn 15.

And last month the two introduced a measure that would officially ban the Justice Department from going after users of medical marijuana in states where pot is legal for medicinal purposes.

But, of course, the thing that has spurred the most attention is the selfie that Booker and Paul took together at a Politico event.

The duo said their friendship began over a love of Festivus, a quirky holiday-esqe tradition popularized in an episode of "Seinfeld" that is "celebrated" on December 23 and calls for, among other things, the airing of grievances.

Even though Paul came out and campaigned last year for Booker's GOP opponent, Steve Lonegan, it appears all is well between the two senators.

4. & 5. Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado. When not tackling criminal justice reform, Paul is aggressively tweaking the government over the NSA's surveillance policy. Wyden and Udall have sided with Paul as he pushes back against programs that they argue violate civil liberties.

The three senators penned an op-ed together for the Los Angeles Times last month, one year after former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked some of the country's top spy secrets.

Wyden also stood in solidarity with Paul during Paul's 13-hour filibuster last year protesting the administration's drone policy. The Oregon senator was the only Democrat to join Paul that night on the Senate floor. (Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois also took the floor, but he only asked questions about Paul's filibuster.)

6. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Perhaps the unlikeliest of them all: Paul announced on CNBC last month that he and the top Senate Democrat were proposing a tax holiday that would encourage companies to bring money home from abroad.

"Senator Reid and I actually have very warm personal relations and we've been meeting informally for months, both us and staff, to try and do something good for America," Paul said.

"I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. I like Harry Reid personally. I'm working hard with him," he continued.

7. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Paul has worked multiple times with Gillibrand. In January, the two–along with Wyden–introduced a measure that would repeal the President's authorization to use military force in Iraq and would officially bring the Iraq war to a close, meaning future engagements would have to be approved by Congress.

And last summer, Paul joined Gillibrand and a bipartisan group of senators to advocate for a bill to combat sexual assault in the military.

CNN's Evan Perez and Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.


Filed under: Cory Booker • Eric Holder • Harry Reid • Kirsten Gillibrand • Mark Udall • Rand Paul • Ron Wyden
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    Booker and Randroid eh? Is it me or do their eyes look a bit glassy in that photo of them together?

    July 22, 2014 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I don't care who Rand hangs around nor do I care what he says now. He said businesses should have a right to choose whom to serve. He also said if he'd been around he would have voted against Civil Rights. Enough said for me! He'll never get my vote EVER!

    July 22, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    Any attempts at bipartisanship are welcome. Instead of constantly holding grudges and questioning their motives, lets take it for what it is: an attempt to make something work. If the outcomes on these efforts bear positive fruit, lets encourage them.

    July 22, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "Any attempts at bipartisanship are welcome. Instead of constantly holding grudges and questioning their motives, lets take it for what it is: an attempt to make something work. If the outcomes on these efforts bear positive fruit, lets encourage them."

    Indeed. And if my observation is correct, then perhaps this means we should make it mandatory that Congress enjoys some ganj together....well, except for a few of them who already exhibit signs of delusional paranoia, like Gohmert or Bachman. It's bad enough he thinks we cast aspersions on his asparagus...who knows what he might dream up after a brownie.

    July 22, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    In a regime that is entirely anti-American and very anti-Republican, it is nice to see a little of the old..........meeting each other half way.

    July 22, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  6. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Regardless, it's a risky move in today's political climate. Aligning with Democrats should theoretically be the kiss of death for a Republican 2016 hopeful who wants to rev up primary voters."

    Theoretically? Perhaps. He will be walking a fine line, regardless. And unless he does run, we'll never know. Meanwhile, I can welcome the bi-partisanship gestures .... including his warm personal relationship with Harry Reid. I'm looking forward to these two getting much done together in the next two years.

    July 22, 2014 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. Fed up

    The Real Tom Paine

    Any attempts at bipartisanship are welcome. Instead of constantly holding grudges and questioning their motives, lets take it for what it is: an attempt to make something work. If the outcomes on these efforts bear positive fruit, lets encourage them.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Well said...

    July 22, 2014 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. Bill from GA

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is REALLY good looking!!

    July 22, 2014 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Is it me or do their eyes look a bit glassy in that photo of them together?
    -----------------------------------------------------
    It is not just you Sniffit.
    Rand's hair is doing that "I just ran a marathon in a martini glass" thingy.
    And the good Mayor is looking mighty happy for posing with Rand and taking what looks to be a selfie.

    July 22, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    "And they will amass at the border to provide a strong visual that Perry hopes will "deter" criminals from bringing illicit activity across the border.""

    And they will amass at the border to provide a strong visual that Cowboy Fonzie hopes will fool the GOP/Teatroll base into believing he's actually doing something effective.

    FIFY

    July 22, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    Bill from GA

    "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is REALLY good looking!!"

    And Rand Paul is not ...

    July 22, 2014 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    There is a world of difference between legislating and managing. I would not want to someone who believes in some of things that Rand Paul does. He seems to be against everything that has made this country great over the last 100 years.

    July 22, 2014 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Dumbas[R]ocks

    Playing Rand Paul for the blunt-instrument tuba he is. I say play him for all he's worth, and then throw him under the [R] bus. After all, the brown-shirted drivers in charge of the [R] party have shown that they can't wait to run over their next victim, to enforced their vision of rightwing ideological purity.

    The [R]s truly are a disabled bunch, as they continue to prove to the rest of us time and time again with their senseless posts here on the "ticker".

    July 22, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  14. Chris..E.al

    Surely Harry Reid will retire and do hub around or gold coin commercials at home soon one can only hope .

    July 22, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Fed up

    The Real Tom Paine

    Any attempts at bipartisanship are welcome. Instead of constantly holding grudges and questioning their motives, lets take it for what it is: an attempt to make something work. If the outcomes on these efforts bear positive fruit, lets encourage them.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Well said...
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Oh definitely, six years of obstruction for obstruction sake has been more than enough for all of us.
    Certainly I've had enough of it.

    July 22, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Bill from GA

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is REALLY good looking!!
    -----------------------–
    Make up. The best looking face make up are skin moisturizers, and the simpler the better. Lipstick is okay, just don't try to kiss me with it on. YUK, it tastes like YUK.

    July 22, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  17. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @Rudy NYC: "There is a world of difference between legislating and managing. I would not want to someone who believes in some of things that Rand Paul does. He seems to be against everything that has made this country great over the last 100 years."

    Until Rant can point to an example of any nation in the history of humankind that enjoyed broad-based, sustainable prosperity as a result of the policies he proposes and supports, everything out of his mouth is a WASTE.

    July 22, 2014 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Rudy and Sniffit:
    I got shut out of the last story so I couldn't respond to you guys:
    I respect any woman that knows how to enhance her God-given beauty, or make the most out of herself.
    If full make-up gear and what-not is what she needs to be and feel confident then who am I to judge? And I won't.
    Me personally? I've been blessed.
    Ruby Woo for my lips and smudged eyeliner for my eyes is all I "need" to face the world.
    But to each his own.

    July 22, 2014 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Sniffit

    Booker and Randroid eh? Is it me or do their eyes look a bit glassy in that photo of them together?
    ------------------------------–
    Where's their TEETH? Why are they smiling like that?

    July 22, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Rudy NYC
    Lipstick is okay, just don't try to kiss me with it on. YUK, it tastes like YUK.
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Nuh-uh.
    The way you described yourself on this site many months ago....?
    That would be a big hell to the no on that statement Rudy! I don't believe that for even a NY minute!
    You're actually going to turn away a good looking woman coming at you with lipstick on to tell her to do what, wipe it off?!
    Bwahahahahahaha!!!
    Rudy.......!!!

    July 22, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  21. Chris..E.al

    Harry R is just the mullah or the ayatollah of the dem party ? Watch out R. Paul he might brain wash you and put you under a spell also ?

    July 22, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Rudy and Sniffit:
    I got shut out of the last story so I couldn't respond to you guys:
    I respect any woman that knows how to enhance her God-given beauty, or make the most out of herself.
    If full make-up gear and what-not is what she needs to be and feel confident then who am I to judge? And I won't.
    Me personally? I've been blessed.
    Ruby Woo for my lips and smudged eyeliner for my eyes is all I "need" to face the world.
    But to each his own.
    -----------------
    Now that's what I'm talking about, the minimalist approach to makeup. Let the natural beauty out. Too many women get caught up in the trying to be something that they're not, meaning the makeup is mask to who they really are.

    July 22, 2014 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Where's their TEETH? Why are they smiling like that
    -----------------------------------------------------Sniffit thinks they might be "tight"!
    I'm inclined to agree.

    July 22, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain: If you don't like Congress, get rid of the repub/tea bag majority

    @Rudy NYC: Sniffit

    Booker and Randroid eh? Is it me or do their eyes look a bit glassy in that photo of them together?
    ----------–
    Where's their TEETH? Why are they smiling like that?
    ----------–
    They are both worried about what their followers will think!

    July 22, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Make up. The best looking face make up are skin moisturizers
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Spoken like a man.
    The fact of the matter is Rudy that some women need more than that, and if it is artfully applied no one should have a problem with it.

    July 22, 2014 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
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