Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

Watergate-style blowout awaits GOP?

Ted Cruz thinks congressional Republicans face the possibility of a “Watergate-style blowout” in 2018 if they fail to enact a health care overhaul and reform federal taxes.

I think the Texas Republican U.S. senator is on to something, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Indeed, I agree that the GOP is vulnerable to a big mid-term election shellacking, but I disagree with the reasons cited by Cruz.

Republicans might take their hits if they seek to enact a health care overhaul similar to what they sought to do already. As for tax reform, those big cuts for the wealthy aren’t going over well, either, with the public.

The president of the United States already has drawn a bead on the Affordable Care Act. He is using his executive authority to dismantle the ACA even before Congress approves any sort of replacement.

All the while, the president hasn’t yet spoken with any semblance of detail about how he intends to replace the ACA. He just keeps yammering about the “disaster” that awaits if the ACA remains on the books.

As for tax reform, Donald Trump is equally vague about how his planned tax cuts will boost a national economy that’s already rocking along fairly nicely.

And so the drama continues. Sen. Cruz thinks the public will vote Republicans out of Congress if they fail to deal with these two issues. I tend to believe the public will rebel if they proceed along the wrongheaded paths they’ve already staked out.

Should the Republicans suffer those kinds of losses, count me as one American who won’t shed any tears.

Sen. Corker is going out with a splash

Bob Corker isn’t going to leave the U.S. Senate quietly. He won’t skulk off into the night when his public service career comes to an end.

Oh, no. The Tennessee Republican who announced his intention to retire after the 2018 midterm election is going to make sure he puts his “mark” squarely on Donald J. Trump’s backside.

Corker is now in the midst of a Twitter fight with the president. He has many more friends on Capitol Hill than Trump can claim. One of them happens to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is standing by his Senate colleague.

McConnell calls Corker a valuable member of the Republican Senate Caucus. And when he’s asked directly whether he agrees with Corker’s recent criticism of Trump, McConnell does a version of the Texas two-step. He doesn’t answer the question directly, which is a sort of code for “Yes, I agree with my friend.”

Feud heats up

The long-term impact of Corker’s feud with Trump has yet to be known. The president has tweeted already that he intends to oppose anything that Corker supports. Do we take Trump at his word? And do we now expect Corker to oppose anything that Trump puts forth?

Corker isn’t the longest-serving U.S. senator by a long shot. In this particular climate on Capitol Hill, though, he has emerged as a thoughtful and wise voice of reason. With the rhetoric heating up and with the president seemingly at odds with virtually all so-called “establishment Republicans,” this feud with Corker is taking on some added relevance.

Sen. Corker is a lame duck. That doesn’t mean he’ll be a lame member of the U.S. Senate. He’s already declared that Trump “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence he needs to be president. He has said that members of the president’s Cabinet at keeping the nation “separated from chaos.”

It’s gone downhill from there in rapid fashion.

Trump keeps demonstrating the truthfulness of Corker’s analysis.

Rep. Murphy quits Congress … see ya later

Tim Murphy is about to become a former member of Congress from western Pennsylvania. He had toiled in relative obscurity until he decided to make a politically fatal mistake.

This Republican lawmaker got involved intimately with a young woman, who became pregnant as a result of their extramarital affair.

Now, what grows legs under this story is that Murphy — whose main claim to fame as a member of Congress is that he has been fervently anti-abortion — asked his paramour to obtain an abortion. 

As the saying goes: Oops!

Murphy had intended initially to retire at the end of his current term. He has decided to quit the House and will depart Capitol Hill in about a month.

Good. I recognize that Congress is full of hypocrites. There will be more hypocrites coming along even as some of the current congressional hypocrites depart the scene.

When one of those hypocrites sacrifices his moral authority in such a callous matter, it’s good to show him the door and urge him to avoid letting that door hit him in the … you know.

Can this congressman promote Capitol Hill unity?

Steve Scalise is back at work.

His office is on Capitol Hill. He is a Republican member of Congress from Louisiana. Rep. Scalise also serves in a leadership position with the GOP caucus in the House of Representatives.

He has been away from the office for a while. You see, Scalise was nearly shot to death earlier this summer while practicing for a congressional baseball game along with his fellow Republican caucus teammates.

Scalise was rushed to the hospital. His condition became critical. His bullet wounds caused immense internal bleeding.

But now, thank goodness, he is recovering. He walks with crutches. He is unsteady on his feet. This past week, though, he walked onto the floor of the House to a thunderous ovation from a packed chamber of his colleagues.

And that brings me to the point of this blog post.

The tears of joy flowed across both sides of the partisan aisle. Democrats cried and cheered along with Republicans. Their friend and colleague was back. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, took the floor to proclaim her joy at Scalise’s return and credited jokingly that his “Italian heritage” — which Pelosi shares — enabled him to return to work after suffering such grievous wounds.

So, the question emerges: Was this bipartisan joyous welcome a harbinger of a potentially new era on Capitol Hill?

It might be said that such a “new era” would in fact be a return to an older time, when Ds and Rs got along after hours. They were just political adversaries, not enemies.

Scalise said on a “60 Minutes” episode broadcast tonight that he doesn’t believe Republicans and Democrats are that far apart on many key issues. He wouldn’t predict a return to a more civil atmosphere under the Capitol Dome, but he sounded mildly hopeful that his near-tragedy well might signal a return to the collegiality that’s been missing for far too long in Washington, D.C.

Can unity return?

Americans of all stripes should hail the recovery of Rep. Scalise. We all should welcome the tremendous affection demonstrated on the floor of the House when he made his dramatic return to work.

Let us hope it does signal a renewed spirit of unity.

GOP needs to learn how to govern

It’s over. For now. Maybe it’ll be back. Maybe not.

Senate Republicans — along with their colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives — had signed in blood (proverbially) their vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which they referred to colloquially and derisively as Obamacare.

They failed. Again. For the umpteenth time. The ACA remains the law of the land for the foreseeable future if not longer.

This begs the question for me: Can the Republicans ever govern?

The GOP face-planted on ACA repeal when three senators said “no” to the bill called Graham-Cassidy, named after GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The senators who stuck the shiv into this effort were John McCain, Rand Paul and Susan Collins. They’ve all been in the Senate for a while and were part of the Republican pledge to rid the nation of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation.

This cluster-fudge reminds me a bit of how an earlier Republican insurgency, led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, stormed Capitol Hill in 1994. They took command of Congress and then had to learn quickly how to govern. They stumbled, bumbled and fumbled their way while battling a Democrat in the White House, President Bill Clinton.

But they managed, eventually, to find their way out of the darkness. The difference between then and now is that the the earlier GOP congressional leadership team worked with a president who knew how to govern, how to compromise, how to cajole the opposition when he needed to do it.

The Republican Party now controls Congress and the White House. Therein we have the difference between then and now.

Republicans fought tooth-and-nail with President Barack Obama over repealing the ACA. They never crafted an acceptable alternative. Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress fought them off. Obama then left office in January. Donald Trump said he wanted a bill on his desk when he stepped into the Oval Office. He didn’t find one.

How come? The GOP was too fixated on the “repeal” part of the strategy and not nearly enough on the “replace” part of it. As for the president, he was clueless during the campaign about what it took to assemble a legislative alternative to the ACA — and is just as clueless at this very moment about how to negotiate with disparate members of his party’s congressional caucus to find a solution.

I keep circling back to the notion that the presidency requires knowledge of the complex and sometimes arcane system of governing the United States of America.

Donald Trump doesn’t know it and his ignorance of the details of his office has revealed that the political party to which he ostensibly is a member has yet to find its governing legs.

Buh-bye, latest GOP effort to kill the ACA

Well, here’s where we stand with the persistent Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It’s a goner. Kaput. Finished. Party’s over, man.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, today announced she won’t vote for the latest Senate GOP-engineered effort to repeal the ACA and replace it with an abomination that we’ll call Trumpcare.

You know what interests me about this latest death knell being run over the GOP’s ACA repeal effort: The three senators who’ve announced their opposition to it have done so for wildly varying reasons.

Collins opposes the bill because it cuts too much money from state Medicaid assistance programs for Americans who cannot afford health insurance. Sen. John McCain of Arizona hates the partisan process that brought this bill forward; he wants Democrats to be involved in this effort. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky doesn’t like the block grant provision, which he says simply renders the replacement as an “Obamacare light” version of the ACA.

There might be more Republicans who’ll abandon this effort. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has strong reservations. So does Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who contends that his buddy Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also might vote “no.”

That all might be a moot point. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said today he doubts the bill will get to a vote. Senate Republican leaders have conceded likely defeat.

The Senate GOP has until Saturday to repeal the ACA with a mere 50-vote (plus one) majority; after that the rule shifts back to the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.

What now?

Hey, here’s an idea: How about sitting down with congressional Democrats to work out ways to repair the ACA? Are congressional Republicans so hell bent on removing President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement from the books that they simply won’t look for common ground with their Democratic “friends”?

Premiums are too high. Health insurance isn’t as “affordable” as it was advertised. Surely there are ways to tinker, tweak and fine-tune the legislation to make it better. Aren’t there?

We aren’t re-inventing the wheel here, folks. Members of Congress did that very thing more than 50 years when they approved Medicare legislation. It wasn’t perfect, either, but they sought — and found — common ground to improve it to older Americans’ satisfaction.

That, I submit, is a sure-fire formula for furthering the cause of good-government legislation.

Is POTUS getting it, finally?

Pity the president of the United States’s “base” of supporters. Well, actually, I don’t.

They’re suffering acute apoplexy because Donald J. Trump is beginning to show the faint signs of understanding something about the high office he occupies. It is that he even though he didn’t win a popular vote plurality in 2016, he won enough Electoral College votes to become elected and, therefore, he has to deal with the wishes and needs of those who voted against him.

Immigration is the issue of the day.

Trump is sounding like someone who wants to strike a deal with congressional Democrats and moderate congressional Republicans that would give so-called “Dreamers” a path to citizenship and/or permanent immigrant status. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order issued by President Barack Obama has been rescinded. Trump, though, says he wants to strike some sort of deal to protect the DACA residents, to keep them in the only country they’ve ever known.

You see, about 800,000 of these U.S. residents came here as children — some of the infants and toddlers — when their parents sneaked into the country illegally. The Trump “base” considers these folks “criminals.” Well, their parents broke U.S. immigration law. But does that mean we punish the children for the sins of their parents? Let’s get real here.

The president still wants to build that wall along our southern border. We’ll have to see how that struggle plays out with the aforementioned Democrats and moderate Republicans in Congress. In my mind, the wall is a non-starter. Mexico won’t pay for it. American taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for something the president said would be financed by another government.

What’s more, the wall won’t make this country any safer from terrorists, and assorted criminals who want to come into this country to do grievous harm.

I don’t feel a single bit of sympathy for the Trumpkins who just can’t stand the thought of their guy working to fulfill the interests of the rest of the nation he now governs.

So many ‘un’s to characterize this president

Donald J. Trump is a man characterized by many descriptions using the prefix “un.”

He’s unpredictable, unconventional, unpresidential, unaware, uncontrollable, unbridled, unhinged (at times). There’s probably a lot more that I can’t think of at the moment. But you get the idea.

It remains to be seen just how this fellow is going to govern.

The president recently stuck a shiv in the back of his “fellow Republican” colleagues in Congress by agreeing to a deal offered by the dreaded Democratic opposition. It came from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Nancy and Chuck,” as Trump referred to them.

They tossed out a 90-day extension to keep the government running. It included some money for Hurricane Harvey relief. Trump took the deal and then plunged the Republican majority in both congressional chambers into near panic.

The extension and the debt ceiling increase now becomes an issue leading into the 2018 mid-term election, which is something the GOP did not want to occur.

Is this the art of the deal?

This isn’t how you cut the “best deal possible,” as Trump kept telling the nation while he campaigned for the presidency. But it’s the deal he struck. Jaws dropped all over Washington, D.C. Some chatter has wondered whether Trump is adopting former President Clinton’s strategy of “triangulation,” that positioned the president between diehards within both parties.

I don’t believe Trump knows enough about politics to employ such a brainy strategy. After all, both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — two savvy Republicans — say the president is “new” to this political game.

Let’s add unseasoned to the list of descriptions, shall we?

It looks for all the world as though we’re headed into a brave new world blunderbuss politics as executed by the man who sits in the Oval Office.

Politicians ‘play politics’? Shocking, simply shocking!

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is incensed that congressional Democrats worked out a debt-limit deal with Donald J. Trump. He accused them of “playing politics” with the suffering of Americans living on the Texas Gulf Coast, who are trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey’s savage assault.

Why, I never …

The speaker needs to look inward just a bit to understand that Republicans have perfected the art of “playing politics.” They do it quite well, too. Indeed, the practice of kicking issues around like the proverbial political football is a bipartisan endeavor.

Allow me, though, to look briefly at two examples of GOP politics-playing.

In 2011, a tornado tore through Joplin, Mo. Republicans decided to hold money for relief in that community hostage to finding ways to pay for it. They wanted to cut money from other budget line items to finance the Joplin aid package. At the time, it was virtually unheard of for members of Congress to balk at rushing to the side of Americans in desperate trouble.

In this case, led by then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the GOP did that. Playing politics? You bet!

Example No. 2: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016. President Obama nominated an eminently qualified jurist to replace him, U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared only hours after Scalia’s death that Obama wouldn’t be allowed to fill this seat. The Senate would wait for the election to occur and then give that opportunity to the next president.

It was a huge gamble at the time. It paid off, though, for Republicans when Donald Trump was elected president. McConnell and Senate Republicans, though, managed to thwart a sitting president’s constitutional authority to nominate a federal jurist purely for political gain.

Did the Senate GOP leader play pure partisan politics with that issue? Uhh, yeah. Just a tad.

So, spare me the righteous indignation, Mr. Speaker, about Democrats “playing politics” with the debt ceiling. Your guy in the Oval Office — the self-proclaimed “greatest dealmaker ” in the history of Planet Earth — caved to Democrats’ demands.

Is he playing politics, too? Hmmm?

What do we make of this strange new alliance?

Donald J. Trump might have validated what some of us think about him: The president is a Republican In Name Only.

I’m shaking my noggin in disbelief at what happened in the White House today.

The president said in a room with congressional leaders of both parties. There was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan; also there was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

What does Trump do? In the presence of his fellow Republicans, McConnell and Ryan? He sides with Schumer and Pelosi, two of those dreaded Democrats in accepting a plan to fund the government for three months and providing immediate federal relief for Hurricane Harvey victims along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast.

McConnell and Ryan were furious; Schumer and Pelosi were gleeful.

What does this mean for Trump’s ability to govern? Beats me, man.

Read the story from The Hill here.

I am a bit baffled, though, on why Trump accepted the Democrats’ shorter-term debt limit while Republicans had pitched a longer-term deal.

My own Democratic-leaning preference tells me the president is open to negotiate with the “other side,” which many hard-core GOP leaders have been unable or unwilling to do. That’s not a bad thing, in my humble view.

I’m left to wonder whether Donald Trump has just inflicted a potentially mortal wound in his already-tenuous relationship with leaders of his own party. I also wonder if he is able to mend the wound in time for the 2018 mid-term election.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has become big-time pals with “Nancy and Chuck.”