Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

Civility likely to require long-term rehab

If we look ahead for a moment to the November 2020 presidential election, then we need to ponder what I consider to be the worst possible outcome: the re-election of Donald John Trump.

The president might win a second term. What in the world is going to occur then? How will the next Congress deal with a president who labels Democrats to be everything short of spawns of Satan? He won’t work with Democrats because they are continuing to insist on searching for answers to that still-nagging Russia electoral interference issue.

For their part, Democrats won’t be pleased, either, with the prospect of working while Trump is still in office. How in the world will they react? Will they keep saying and doing things that sets Trump off on endless Twitter tirades?

Imagine the president traveling overseas after the 2020 election and behaving as he did at Normandy during the commemoration of the D-Day landings of June 1944. He sat in front of those 9,000 headstones where U.S. servicemen are buried and called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “disaster.”

Just suppose, too, that Pelosi keeps her speakership after the 2020 election. How is she going to react to more verbal trashing from the president?

Oh, and then there’s the Senate, which might flip from Republican control to Democratic control.

Imagine that scenario, with Democrats possibly controlling both legislative chambers while Republicans keep possession of the keys to the White House.

Civility? It’s a goner. I continue to hope we can find it. Somewhere. Somehow.

It’s gone for as long as Donald Trump remains in an office for which he is totally unqualified … and I’ll say it again: for which he is unfit.

Lobby reform: a tough hurdle to clear

Having already lauded Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez for reaching across the partisan chasm to take up the issue of lobby reform, I want to extol the virtues of what the lawmakers hope to accomplish.

The Republican Cruz and the Democrat Ocasio-Cortez say they want to prohibit members of the House and Senate from moving directly from public service into lobbying on behalf of well-heeled, deep-pocketed corporate sponsors.

Yes, the Cruz Missile and AOC have teamed up.

Why is their goal so important? Because it would deprive recently former lawmakers from parlaying their influence and friendships with their former colleagues into legislation that favors their new employers. It’s not a fair fight when lobbyists who do not have those connections have to compete with those who do have them.

I understand fully the role that lobbyists play. I do not oppose lobbying per se within the halls of power, as long as it’s done ethically and above board.

I do oppose the notion that legislators can walk directly from their public service jobs into their for-profit jobs, while gaining an unfair advantage as they campaign on behalf their sponsors.

We’ve seen this kind of thing happen all too often in Texas. Other states no doubt have the same issue that nags them, too.

Former Republican state Rep. David Swinford went to work for wind energy interests immediately after leaving his Texas House District 87 seat. Former Democratic Texas House Speaker Pete Laney left the House some years earlier and registered immediately as a lobbyist for agriculture interests.

That’s for the state to rectify. Perhaps it will eventually.

As for the federal lobbying reform, let’s hope Sen. Cruz and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez can use their newfound alliance to hammer out an overhaul that makes sense.

Whether a lobby reform bill ever gets a vote in both congressional chambers likely will serve as a test to determine whether Cruz and AOC are serious about the effort or whether they’re just pretending to be allies for the sake of positive news coverage.

Ted Cruz joins forces with AOC? What the … ?

As my dear ol’ Dad would say: I’ll be dipped in sesame seeds.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a hardline conservative, has joined forces with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an equally hardline progressive, on legislation aimed at banning former members of Congress from joining the lobbying ranks immediately after leaving office.

Who in the world knew?

Cruz put out a Twitter message that declared he actually agrees with an idea that AOC put out there, which is to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists; at least, she said, the new law should require a lengthy waiting period.

I don’t think hell has frozen over, but it might be getting a bit chilly down there nonetheless.

This unlikely partnership demonstrates to me that bipartisanship is not a lost cause on Capitol Hill.

I’ve written often about my dislike for Sen. Cruz. As for AOC, well, she has annoyed me as well, given the undeserved spotlight she is getting as a rookie member of the House of Representatives.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this: “If you are a member of Congress + leave, you shouldn’t be allowed to turn right around &leverage your service for a lobbyist check. I don’t think it should be legal at ALL to become a corporate lobbyist if you’ve served in Congress. At minimum there should be a long wait period.”

Cruz responded with this: “Here’s something I don’t say often: I agree with @AOC.” He said he has long favored a ban on lawmakers becoming lobbyists. He added this via Twitter: “The Swamp would hate it, but perhaps a chance for bipartisan cooperation.”

There you have it. Two lawmakers from extreme ends of the political spectrum have reached out, locked arms and decided on something on which they both have found common ground.

Indeed, lobbyists who walk away from the halls of power and begin working directly for corporate employers have built-in advantages over their colleagues/competitors. It ain’t fair, man!

AOC responded that she’s “down” with what Cruz has proposed as long as it doesn’t contain any partisan trickery. Cruz responded, “You’re on.”

This is a small step. It’s still an important one.

Rep. Taylor quietly earns his stripes in Congress

The media and political pundits have become enamored of the flash and sizzle of a few Democratic rookie members of Congress this year. I refer, for example, to Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, both of whom attained instant celebrity status partly because of their big mouths and radical points of view.

The young man who represents my congressional district, Texas’s Third District, meanwhile has done something quite different in his first term in the House of Representatives.

Republican Van Taylor has quietly been working with Democrats, crossing the aisle, learning the ropes without making headlines.

I kind of wondered what has become of him since he took office in January. Now I know, according to a Dallas Morning News article.

The Morning News reports that Taylor, from Plano, is trying to govern on Capitol Hill the way he did as a Texas legislator. He has drawn praise from some of those dreaded Democrats who like the way he reaches out. Imagine that, if you can.

He is seeking to become a sort of “Mr. Bipartisan” as he navigates his way around the legislative maze.

Good for him.

I like that the new congressman is a veteran. He served for a decade in the Marine Corps, seeing duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, he succeeded a legendary congressman, fellow Republican Sam Johnson, who endured hideous torture as a Vietnam War prisoner for more than six years. So the Third Congressional District is being well-represented by another veteran with an understanding of the dangers of sending men and women into harm’s way.

As the Morning News reports, Taylor said military personnel “don’t get to pick your commanders,” nor do you ask what political party your comrades in arms belong to. You just do your job, he said.

So it should be in the halls of the nation’s Capitol.

If only the leaders on both sides of the aisle — and the leader in the White House — would follow Rep. Taylor’s advice.

Trump tempts political fate by ordering witnesses to stay silent

I just have to ask: Is Donald Trump committing an act of potential political suicide by refusing to allow witnesses from his administration to testify before congressional committees?

Another president, Richard Nixon, sought to play the same card in 1974. It cost him bigly. President Nixon told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino he would get nothing more from the administration regarding the Watergate matter.

Rodino wouldn’t accept that. He was able to force the president to turn over pertinent material related to the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in June 1972. The rest, as they say, is history. The Judiciary panel approved articles of impeachment and then the president resigned.

Forty-five years later, Donald Trump is seeking to play the same hand. He is telling the current House Judiciary chairman, Jerrold Nadler, that he will withhold information from that panel as it seeks to uncover the truth into allegations of obstruction of justice into the Russia matter that’s been in all the papers of late.

Nadler doesn’t strike me as being any more likely to cave in to this president’s demands than Rodino was in 1974 when Richard Nixon tried to bully him.

I among those Americans who does not favor impeaching Trump. I want the House and the Senate to do their work. Special counsel Robert Mueller appears headed to Capitol Hill eventually to talk to both legislative chambers.

I want Mueller to state on the record whether he believes Trump committed a crime, whether he obstructed justice. If he won’t say it, well, we need to accept what we won’t get. Then again, if he says that president did commit a crime of obstruction, but that Mueller just couldn’t commit to issuing a criminal complaint, well . . . then we have a ballgame.

Richard Nixon’s stonewalling ended badly for his presidency in 1974. Donald Trump’s reprise of that strategy well could doom his own presidency.

Hero emerges from Russia matter . . . honest!

Donald Trump reportedly is seething this weekend, the one in which Christians celebrate Jesus Christ’s joyous triumph over death.

Why is the president so angry during this happy time? He reportedly is fuming over revelations that former White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly saved Trump from committing a “high crime and misdemeanor” by firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump wanted Mueller canned. He wanted McGahn to do it, or to get someone at the Justice Department to do it. McGahn balked. He didn’t follow through. Others did the same thing. McGahn, though, is the one who seems to have caught the president’s attention.

Thus, I believe we have a hero emerging from the Russia probe, the special counsel’s exhaustive look into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russians who hacked into our electoral system.

Yes, I know. There’s a side of me that might wish that the president’s foolhardy order had been carried out. Canning the special counsel would have ignited a political wildfire that well could have removed Trump from the presidency by now.

That it didn’t is a testament to McGahn’s maturity and smarts as a lawyer. It also is a testament to just how ghastly the president’s instincts are on matters involving the law, the Constitution, governance, public service.

The Dipsh** in Chief doesn’t have a clue about what he’s doing.

Perhaps that is why he’s angry with McGahn. Mueller’s report has revealed the former White House legal eagle to be way smarter than his former boss . . . which, if you think about it isn’t saying all that much.

Moreover, Trump’s anger seems terribly misplaced. Think of it: The president contends that Mueller’s probe has granted him “total exoneration. No collusion, no obstruction!” Why, then, does someone who’s been “exonerated” feel the need to fume publicly via Twitter about an investigation that, according to Trump, has gone nowhere, nor will it go anywhere.

Actually, though, Mueller didn’t exonerate the president of obstructing justice. The collusion matter is off the table. Obstruction remains a live option for Congress to ponder, which is what Mueller has said categorically.

This leads me to believe that Trump knows the score. He well might be frightened at what might be thrown at him from atop Capitol Hill. Fright does have a way of producing anger. At least that’s been what I’ve witnessed over many years of life on this good Earth.

More questions remain. Good luck, Congress, as you start looking for answers to this obstruction of justice matter.

Happy Easter, Mr. President.

This Democratic congresswoman must be a colossus

It is astounding to the max how a young rookie member of Congress can attain superstar status even before she takes her oath of office.

Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez is that particular member. She now has become a chant theme at Republican rallies. Conservatives took great joy in bashing her continually at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Her name is everywhere, along with her face.

She’s a staple on cable news talk shows, late-night comics’ shows. You name the place, she’s there.

AOC, as she now is known, seems to be defying certain laws of physics by managing to be everywhere seemingly at once.

I do not get this.

There once was a time when freshman members of the House and Senate had to blunder and stumble their way around Capitol Hill. We didn’t hear their voices. We didn’t know what they sounded like.

Social media have tossed that truism into the crapper. Now some of these newbies become instant celebrities. AOC is the latest of them. Oh, we’ve got some more congressional rookies, too, but AOC has become the poster child, the whipping girl for Republicans and other conservatives to thrash. She is a socialist; she has pitched a number of interesting ideas, some of which are wacky, others need some attention.

And . . . yes, she’s whiffed on some statements, such as not knowing about the three branches of government. Her critics have pounced like big cats on their prey.

At a rally last night in Grand Rapids, Mich., the chant rang out “AOC sucks!” which caused Don Trump Jr. to stand there with a crap-eatin’ grin on his mug. Oh, I almost forgot: Don Jr. is a know-nothing, so it doesn’t matter a damn bit what he thinks about anything or anyone.

Back to my point, which is that the astounding presence of these congressional rookies on center stage gives them far more influence than they deserve.

Congressional toxicity is flaring to dangerous level

So . . . just how toxic is the atmosphere in Congress, if not in all of Washington, D.C.?

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff provided a critical example.

Committee Republicans today demanded that Schiff resign as chairman of the committee. Donald Trump has called on Schiff to quit Congress altogether. GOP Intelligence Committee member Mike Conaway of Midland said Schiff no longer has the standing to lead the committee and said he should resign immediately.

Schiff has been a stern critic of Donald Trump. He maintains that the president’s campaign did collude with Russians despite special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings to the contrary.

Schiff then took the microphone after Conaway’s lecture and gave it right back to his GOP colleagues. He held firm on his assertion that there was collusion. “You might say that’s all OK,” Schiff said. “You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s OK. I think it is immoral, I think it is unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt.”

Yes, it is highly toxic on Capitol Hill. The mood between Congress and the White House is equally toxic.

Why mention it? Because it seems different now than any era I can recall. President Bush 43 managed to maintain working relationships with the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy; President Reagan famously befriended House Speaker Tip O’Neill, his after-hours drinking buddy; President Bush 41 also maintained strong friendships with House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski; President Clinton managed to work with House Speaker Newt Gingrich to craft a balanced federal budget.

These days we hear Donald Trump calling Adam Schiff “pencil neck.” He is throwing out “traitorous” and “treasonous” terms to describe Democrats behavior during the special counsel’s probe into alleged collusion; and, yes, Democrats have tossed those terms at the White House, too.

Good government requires leaders of both political parties to find common ground. Dear reader, there ain’t a bit of commonality to be found these days. Anywhere!

It is going to get more divisive, more toxic the deeper we plow into the 2020 election season. After that remains anyone’s guess.

It is no fun — none at all — watching these men and women tear each others’ lungs out. Too many important matters are going unresolved because of the outright hatred one senses among politicians across the aisle that divides them.

‘Checks and balances’ principle gets new life

I do not believe it is an overstatement to presume that those of us who watched acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s skewering on Capitol Hill has provides us with a harbinger of what Donald Trump can expect for the next two years.

Whitaker spent most of the day today in front of the House Judiciary Committee, which was conducting an “oversight hearing” on the Department of Justice. He got pounded. He stonewalled the committee in return. It was an angry day of recrimination.

Whitaker is leaving the Justice Department soon. William Barr will be confirmed soon as the next attorney general. Whitaker was hardly an inspired choice to fill in for Jeff Sessions, who Trump fired a few weeks ago because the former AG recused himself from anything to do with “The Russia Thing.”

Now that Democrats control the House of Representatives, their caucus has assumed committee chairmanships. I believe that Democrats, who became fed up with Republican resistance to asking difficult questions of the Trump administration, are seeking to release some of that pent-up anger. We saw it on full display today as Whitaker appeared before the Judiciary Committee.

I also want to propose that this is not a bad thing. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress a measure of power that is equal to the presidency; throw in the federal courts and you have three equally powerful government branches.

Democrats challenged Whitaker; Republicans on the Judiciary panel challenged Democrats, who pushed back hard on the “points of order” that their GOP “friends” were asserting.

It wasn’t a pretty thing to watch today as Whitaker and Judiciary panel Democrats clashed openly. We might as well get used to it, though, ladies and gentlemen. Indeed, once the special counsel finishes his probe of alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government, there likely is going to be even more rhetorical grenades being tossed.

It won’t be pretty. Then again, representative democracy is a damn ugly form of government. However, as the great Winston Churchill noted, it’s far better than any other governmental system devised.

Watch the body language at the SOTU

I don’t know about you but I plan to try to interpret some body language that will be on full display this evening in front of the entire United States of America when Donald Trump delivers the presidential State of the Union speech.

Sitting over his left shoulder will be a woman with whom he has had, um . . . words. Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited him to the House of Representatives chamber, then uninvited him, then reinvited him.

The president and the speaker aren’t exactly close. They’re fighting over The Wall. Trump wants money to build it along our southern border; Pelosi says it is an “immoral” request and opposes its construction.

Hey, we’ve seen this kind of thing play out many times over many decades. Speaker John Boehner and later Paul Ryan never looked all that thrilled when Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union speeches. The speakers were Republicans, the president was a Democrat.

How about when Speaker Pelosi sat behind GOP President Bush, or when GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich had to listen to Democratic President Clinton deliver the SOTU? Same thing, man. The speaker of a different party than the president usually doesn’t jump to his or her feet to applaud when POTUS delivers a line that suggests he expects some hand claps.

The animus between the current speaker and the president, though, is more visceral. Or so it appears. Sure, Trump said some nice things about Pelosi when House Democrats elected her speaker at the start of this congressional session. Did he mean them? Hah, you figure it out!

Pelosi, meanwhile, has been even less generous in her public comments about Trump. I believe the president knows it and likely will feel the speaker’s icy stare on the back of his neck while he talks about the State of the (dis)Union.

Pass the popcorn.