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The amendment would have changed the United States Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage; the amendment failed in both houses of Congress. Cato has published numerous studies criticizing what it calls "corporate welfare", the practice of public officials funneling taxpayer money, usually via targeted budgetary spending, to politically connected corporate interests. Cato's non-interventionist foreign policy views, and strong support for civil liberties, have frequently led Cato scholars to criticize those in power, both Republican and Democratic. Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato's Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, criticized many of the arguments offered to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.Cato scholars have been sharp critics of current U. drug policy and the perceived growing militarization of U. Cato president Ed Crane and Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope co-wrote a 2002 op-ed piece in the Washington Post calling for the abandonment of the Republican energy bill, arguing that it had become little more than a gravy train for Washington, D. One of the war's earliest critics, Carpenter wrote in January 2002: "Ousting Saddam would make Washington responsible for Iraq's political future and entangle the United States in an endless nation-building mission beset by intractable problems." Cato's Director of Foreign Policy Studies, Christopher Preble, argues in The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free, that America's position as an unrivaled superpower tempts policymakers to constantly overreach and to redefine ever more broadly the "national interest".

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According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Cato is number 16 in the "Top Think Tanks Worldwide" and number 8 in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States".

The Institute moved to its current location on Massachusetts Avenue in 1993.

Cato scholars have written about the issues of the environment, including global warming, environmental regulation, and energy policy.

Politi and Scientific American have criticized Cato's work on global warming.

No known mechanism can stop global warming in the near term.

International agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, would have no detectable effect on average temperature within any reasonable policy time frame (i.e., 50 years or so), even with full compliance.

Or Cato staffers might be plotting strategy with House Majority Leader Dick Armey, another Texan, and his staff." Cato scholars have consistently called for the privatization of many government services and institutions, including NASA, Social Security, the United States Postal Service, the Transportation Security Administration, public schooling, public transportation systems, and public broadcasting.

It is opposed to expanding overtime regulations, arguing that it will benefit some employees in the short term, while costing jobs or lowering wages of others, and have no meaningful long-term impact.

With regard to the "Takings Clause" of the United States Constitution and environmental protection, libertarians associated with Cato contend that the Constitution is not adequate to guarantee the protection of private property rights. For revenue, the Institute is largely dependent on private contributions.

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