How Rand Paul's Absence Could Change Everything in the Senate
If any U.S. senator ever deserved the term "maverick" it might actually be Rand Paul, not his colleague from Arizona. Another term that indisputably applies to the Tea Party Republican is "leader."
Most junior senators make it to the U.S. Senate chamber for the first time and lie low, often for years, and go along with the party's agenda for the most part, build up some political capital, and then start to influence the process.
Paul rode into Washington guns blazing from day one, drawing the attention - and scrutiny - of mass media for his principled stands against some of his own party's sacred cows like the national security state and overseas military operations.
He continued to display his penchant for independent thinking and voting under his first Republican president as a U.S. senator, and his previous rival for the Republican nomination.
It's been a love-hate relationship between Paul and Donald Trump. Recognizing that Paul is a heavyweight thinker, policymaker, and brand-conscious, media-savvy marketer for the GOP and conservative ideals, Trump has granted the junior senator from Kentucky an unusual amount of face-to-face time.
It was Rand Paul who blocked the Republican repeal of Obamacare more than once, calling it "Obamacare lite" and charging that it makes only a few very minor changes to the signature health care legislation.
It was Rand Paul who held up the National Defense Authorization Act this summer over indefinite detention and the amorphous, never-ending war overseas under the blank check Authorization for the Use of Military Force Congress has given to the president.
It was Rand Paul who worked with Donald Trump for months to get the Trump administration to enact an executive order allowing health insurance to be purchased across state lines and regulating this interstate commerce among the states.
Until now, states have had different coverage mandates that cost patients money and pad the pockets of insurance companies.
It was Rand Paul who opposed the Trump administration's tax reform plan that included tax hikes on some members of the middle class. He also successfully swayed the GOP away from Paul Ryan's attempt to get a revenue neutral tax reform bill, and proposed his own Fair and Flat Tax with a tax cut for everyone.
And for the issues that he does vote along with his caucus on, Rand Paul's absence will be felt by Mitch McConnell, who has already found it a challenge to whip a caucus that is not always in lockstep and has a slim two-vote advantage.
Recovering from five broken ribs, Rand Paul faces an extended leave of absence from the U.S. Senate, and it will likely have serious ramifications for public policy going forward.
Though his attacker's lawyer claims the assault was over a trivial dispute, federal prosecutors may seek felony charges of assaulting a congressman.