Demonstrating once again how he is a different type of Republican, Rand Paul announced Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press and on CNN's State of The Union that he will be introducing a bill this week in the Senate that restores voting rights to nonviolent ex-felons in federal elections.
"It's the biggest voting rights issue of our day," Paul told MTP's David Gregory, championing an issue that has almost universally been the concern of Democrats and civil rights groups.
Paul's bill differs from a similar one proposed by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, which would deliver voting rights to ex-cons regardless of the crimes they’ve committed.
As reported by Politico, Paul is also pursuing drug sentencing reform in the Senate and is mulling efforts aimed at easing nonviolent criminals back into the job market. He also wants to redefine some drug offenses currently classified as felonies to misdemeanors Although many states have scaled back voting restrictions for past criminals, Florida is one of 11 states that still have on their books “felony disenfranchisement” laws barring roughly 5.8 million Americans from casting ballots.
Under former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, ex-offenders convicted of less serious offenses could regain their rights without a hearing, while those convicted of crimes such as murder required a more thorough investigation and a hearing. But that policy change was was reversed in February 2011 when Attorney General Pam Bondi argued that the process was too easy for released felons.
"It prevents you from employment, so if we're the party of family values and keeping families together, and the party that believes in redemption and second chances, we should be for letting people have the right to vote back, and I think the face of the Republican party needs to be not about suppressing the vote, but about enhancing the vote," Paul told Gregory. "So I have a bill that I'm going to introduce next week, if it comes forward would allow somewhere between a half a million to a million people to get the right to vote back."
Paul is a serious candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2016. On immigration, he said he does not see comprehensive reform coming out of Washington D.C. anytime soon, but says that the GOP must get beyond their obsession with the word "amnesty."
"I think that everyone needs to be for some form of immigration reform because the status quo is untenable. So I consider myself a bridge to conservative community because I am about as conservative as they come, maybe a little libertarian too, but I think that if we do nothing, 11 million more people may be coming illegally, so we have to do something. But here's the conundrum, I think the conundrum that is really being pointed out by the children being dumped on the border right now - there's a humanitarian disaster of 50,000 kids being dumped on this side of our border. It's because you have a beacon, forgiveness, and you don't have a secure border. So that's why conservatives who are for immigration reform, I am for immigration reform, but I insist that you secure the border first because if you have a beacon, of some kind of forgiveness, without a secure border, the whole world will come."
Paul surprisingly brought up the name Monica Lewinsky when talking about Hillary Clinton earlier this year. Now his criticisms regarding the former Secretary of State and possible Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 regard Benghazi. Not so much what happened on September 11, 2012, but the six months leading up to the terrorist attacks that ultimately killed four Americans.
"She will have to explain how she can be commander and chief when she was not responsive to multiple requests for more security in the six months leading up," Paul said. "Plus there were a lot of expenditures at the State Department under her watch. Six hundred and fifty thousand was spent on Facebook ads when they didn’t have enough money for security. Seven… no, five million was spent on crystal glassware that summer. So there are a lot of expenditures that she approved, but she wouldn’t approve a sixteen person personnel team and she would not approve an airplane to help them get around the country. In the last twenty-four hours, a plane was very important and it was not available. These are really serious questions beyond talking points that occurred under her watch."
He also said that her performance there disqualified her from running for office. Such criticisms, Mrs. Clinton said last week, only embolden her to think more seriously about running for the presidency.