Rand’s political director bemoans GOP debate exclusion

Detroit News staff

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul won’t be on the GOP presidential debate stage Thursday night in North Charleston, S.C. — and his Michigan-based national political director is not happy about it.

Paul and businesswoman Carly Fiorina did not make the cut to be on the Fox Business Channel’s prime-time debate stage with seven other Republican presidential hopefuls because they fell below the polling criteria.

Paul adviser John Yob, a GOP consultant from Grand Rapids, blasted the Republican National Committee on Wednesday for letting the network boot his boss from the main stage.

“The new and respected Iowa poll by the Des Moines Register came out this morning and shows Rand in fifth place and ahead of establishment candidates Jeb Bush and Chris Christie. Yet the RNC allows the media to kick him out of the debate,” Yob wrote Wednesday on his Facebook page. “They don’t seem to want the American people to hear a message that includes restrained foreign policy, reduced spending, and re-examination of policies regarding non-violent offenders.”

Fox Business Channel said “to qualify, a candidate needs to be either among the top six in an average of the five most recent national polls, or among the top five in an average of the five most recent Iowa or New Hampshire polls.”

RealClearPolitics.com’s average of recent polls shows Paul in 10th place nationally, sixth in Iowa and seventh in New Hampshire.

Paul told CNN that he won’t participate in the “undercard” debate with Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

“I don’t think the media should have the power to predetermine elections,” Paul told CNN. “... I won’t participate in anything that’s not first tier because we have a first-tier campaign.”

Allen considers House run

Former state Sen. Jason Allen may be jumping into the Republican primary for GOP U.S. Rep. DanBenishek’s seat in the 1st Congressional District.

The Traverse City Republican has scheduled a Thursday press conference in his hometown to announce “future plans” about the congressional race, Allen spokesman Blake Gober confirmed Wednesday.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, is the only announced candidate the GOP primary. Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson and Jerry Cannon are vying in the other partisan primary fight to replace the three-term congressman from Crystal Falls in the Upper Peninsula, who is retiring.

Amash pushes to meet with Obama

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash questioned Monday why President Barack Obama met with rapper Kendrick Lamar but has not accepted his own offer to discuss more “critical” issues such as government surveillance.

The Democratic president met with the Grammy-winning rapper in late October, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said on a Buzzfeed podcast published this week, and the two shared a moment in the Oval Office.

“Yet he won’t meet with me to discuss civil liberties and surveillance issues despite repeated requests,” Amash, a Michigan Republican from Cascade Township, wrote on Twitter.

The civil libertarian later called it “great” that Obama met with Lamar, but he said the president should also meet with members of Congress on critical issues.

“I can’t rap, but I can do some pretty good celebrity impressions,” Amash wrote.

It is the second time in as many months the politician has turned heads on Twitter with pop culture references. Amash angered some Taylor Swift fans in December when he poked fun at the singer’s attempt to trademark “1989,” which is the year of her birth and the name of her latest album.

Obama is a big fan of Lamar’s. He recently told People magazine that “How Much a Dollar Cost,” a single from Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly album, was his favorite song of 2015.

Red buttons show support for college grads

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and other Democratic members of Congress wore red buttons Tuesday night during President Barack Obama’s final State of the State address in support of college graduates “deep in the red in debt.”

The buttons containing the social media hashtag #InTheRed are part of an effort by Senate Democrats to draw attention to the nation’s $1.3 trillion in student debt and spur congressional action.

Stabenow, D-Lansing, and other Democrats want the Republican-controlled Senate to consider their proposal to provide free community college, add an inflationary annual increase to Pell Grants for low-income students and refinance interest rates on federal student loans at 3.86 percent.

The interest on federal student loans ranges from 4 to 5 percent, Stabenow said.

“We are way past time doing something about that,” she said of reining in the post-graduation burden of student loan debt.

Stabenow’s State of the Union guest was Tina Reyes, a 21-year-old political science major at Michigan State University. In a media conference call with Stabenow on Tuesday morning, Reyes said she will be graduating with $100,000 in student loan debt.

“I’m going to graduate with a lot of debt, and I have no idea how I’m going to pay it off,” said Reyes, a resident of Flint who working this semester as an unpaid intern for U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township.

Stabenow said the plan would cost $120 billion over 10 years and would be paid for by closing a “loophole” in the U.S. tax code that allows companies to lower their tax burden by moving assets to a parent company based overseas.

Democrats also want to close the “Buffett rule” that allows millionaires and billionaires such as investment tycoon Warren Buffett to pay an effective tax rate below 30 percent on their earnings through deductions and capital gains income taxed at a lower rate than paycheck earnings, Stabenow said.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Jonathan Oosting and Richard Burr