Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

Dear Mac: Step up on gun violence

Congressman Mac Thornberry:

I’m not one to write “open letters” to public officials, but I’m making an exception with this note. A lot of your supporters read this blog regularly and my sincere hope is that one or more of them will forward it to you.

Congressman, I want to join millions of other Americans who are calling for some action from you and your congressional colleagues on this sickening, maddening and tragic issue of gun violence.

I won’t belabor what you already know about the latest spasm of violence that erupted on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Fla.

But you’re a big hitter in the U.S. House of Representatives these days. You no longer are a back-bencher. Your high profile as chairman of the Armed Services Committee gives you a louder voice than some chump who’s been in Congress for far less time than you.

Hey, we go back a ways together … you and I. I started my job at the Amarillo Globe-News the same week you took office after your stunning election in 1994. I’ve supported you while working for the Globe-News. I also have opposed you on occasion.

I am acutely aware of the constituency you represent. You are elected to one of the nation’s most reliably Republican congressional districts, even though it’s been redrawn considerably since you took office. Your constituents by and large are big Second Amendment proponents. They don’t much like any idea that monkeys around with the gun amendment.

Surely, though, you must understand that slaughtering school children and their educators is not normal. This is not how a civilized society should behave. Civilized societies should tolerate this carnage. Not for an instant! But, for God’s sake, we do!

Tougher background checks? Yes. End of those “bump stocks” that turn semi-automatic rifles into fully auto killing machines? By all means. How about a ban on assault rifles? Yes, I know many of your constituents are hunters, but who needs an assault rifle to shoot deer, turkeys or feral hogs in the Texas Panhandle?

Just for the record, though, I oppose arming teachers. My thought is this: More guns do not create a safer environment.

Given that you are now a member of the congressional leadership team, I want you to speak out clearly about what you think should be done to prevent recurrences of these tragedy.

I am tired of the canard that “no legislation would prevent” a madman from shooting someone. I will not tolerate a lame notion that there is nothing to be done that doesn’t tear the guts out of the Second Amendment. You can find a solution and you must communicate your ideas to those you represent in the halls of power.

Silence won’t do it for me, congressman. It shouldn’t do it for your other constituents, either.

Seize the moment, Rep. Thornberry.

OK, Sen. Cornyn, let’s start by talking about guns

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn wants to “talk about gun policy.”

The Texas Republican has accepted a challenge by a California Democrat with whom he serves in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein, to start some discussion about what to do to prevent future slaughters such as the one that occurred on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Fla.

Now, is this the start of a move toward legislating a solution to gun violence? I am not yet holding my breath.

Seventeen people died in the carnage. High school students who survived the slaughter have risen up to issue direct threats to politicians who block efforts to legislate a remedy.

As the Texas Tribune has reported: At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, brought the issue to the fore.

“Let’s take some action,” she said. “We cannot see this continue on.”

She then mentioned two areas where compromise might be reached. The first was a “Fix NICS” bill Cornyn sponsored last fall that would hold government agencies accountable for uploading relevant information to the federal background check system.

The second was related to bump stocks, which are legal firearm enhancements that allow shooters to operate firearms as if they were automatic weapons. Several Texans said last fall that they would consider banning bump stocks after the devices were found on the guns of the man who shot dozens on the Las Vegas strip. No law has since passed.

“Nobody likes these devices. You can’t have automatic weapons on the streets,” Feinstein said. “It’s easy to fix. Why don’t we do it?”

Cornyn hasn’t been much of a friend to those who oppose the gun lobby. However, there might be the tiniest of cracks beginning to appear in the armor that has surrounded politicians who resist any effort to legislate some remedies to the type of carnage that erupted once again.

It would be a near miracle if Sen. Cornyn would help widen that crack and start to deliver some sensible legislation that doesn’t destroy the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

But, you know … stranger occurrences and alliances have taken shape atop Capitol Hill.

Rep. Pelosi sets a blab record

This record needs to stand for a long time.

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California believes strongly in immigration reform. She believes so strongly in it that she is able to talk for a verrrry long time about why Congress needs to enact it.

Pelosi put her commitment to the test today. She took the floor of the House and spoke — non-stop, without a break — for eight hours. She argued passionately on behalf of “Dreamers,” those undocumented immigrants who were granted a reprieve under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established near the end of the Obama administration.

That’s a filibuster-length harangue, only they cannot call it that in the House; only the Senate allows filibusters, which enables senators to talk about whatever the heck they want for as long as they want.

Here, though, might be the most remarkable element of the Pelosi gabfest.

The former House speaker happens to be 77 years of age. Do not accuse me of being sexist by mentioning Pelosi’s age; I would say the very same thing about a comparably aged male member of Congress if he were able to talk as long as Pelosi has done.

Pelosi’s astonishing display of endurance is likely to remain on the books for a long time.

Nice going, Mme. Minority Leader.

Trump would ‘love a shutdown’?

Donald Trump would “love” a shutdown of the federal government.

He’d love it. He said it many times today during a White House meeting on gang violence. The president, quite naturally, blames Democrats if a shutdown occurs. Democrats, he said, oppose border security; they oppose benefits for the military. Democrats are nasty. They’re “un-American” because they didn’t clap for him while he delivered “really good news” during the president’s State of the Union speech the other day.

The president really should not want a shutdown of the government, as Republican U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock told him during the gang violence meeting. “Both sides” learned that a shutdown hurts them, and the public doesn’t like it one damn bit, she said.

Ah, but the president still would “love” a shutdown.

This is how you “tell it like it is,” right? Trump is the first president in my memory who has said — in effect — that he would favor a shutting down of the government he was elected to administer.

To what end do we close offices and deny taxpayers the full service from the government for which they pay? To build a wall across our southern border.

This is not how you govern, Mr. President. Honest.

Didn’t hear much ‘unity,’ Mr. President

I awoke this morning during a lunar eclipse. But the sun rose in the east — just as it has done since the beginning of time.

However, I don’t believe I awoke to a country more “unified” after last night’s presidential State of the Union speech, which I watched from start to finish.

The president said his speech would “unify” the nation. Judging from what I witnessed on my TV screen, I didn’t see a unified joint congressional session. Republicans stood repeatedly. Democrats sat on their hands.

Is that somehow different? Is it unique to this president in this time? Not at all! Republicans sat on their hands when Presidents Clinton and Obama spoke to them, just as Democrats did during President Bush’s two terms (the president’s post-9/11 speech notwithstanding, when everyone was cheering his rallying cry to a grieving nation).

Donald Trump’s urging of unity was supplanted by mentioning tax cuts, the repealing of the mandates required by the Affordable Care Act, the battle over immigration and construction of “the wall,” the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice. Divisiveness, anyone?

The president took office in the aftermath of arguably the most contentious, bitter campaigns in the past century. He took charge of a nation divided sharply over his election — and it hasn’t gotten any less divided in the year since he took office.

If the congressional response we witnessed Tuesday night on Capitol Hill is indicative of the nation those men and women represent, well, the president has a lot more work ahead of him.

Trump speech will get graded on style points

We are about a day away from Donald John Trump’s first State of the Union speech and I believe I can anticipate how the media are likely to critique his performance.

You see, the president isn’t very good at reading a speech from a TelePrompter. He prefers to wing it. When he ad libs, he gets, um, a bit carried away. We saw it time and again on the 2016 campaign trail and again after he took his presidential oath.

The State of the Union is a different sort of forum. It traditionally produces a high-minded assessment of the nation’s condition, along with a laundry list of legislation the president wants Congress to enact.

I will be among the millions of Americans who will tune in to watch the president tell us about the “state of our union.” I suspect strongly I’ll disagree with how he likely will proclaim all the success he has achieved in his first year in office. I likely will agree that the state of our union is “strong,” but I won’t buy the notion that the Trump administration deserves all the credit for the nation’s strength and vitality; the president inherited a nation in good condition, no matter how much he tells us about the “disaster” that awaited him.

Let us make no mistake, though, about how the media will assess the president’s State of the Union speech. They will look at his comfort level speaking to the nation from a prepared text. They also will wait for those moments when he veers off script.

The White House has sent signals that Trump plans to take his foot off the pedal just a bit. The flacks tell us the president intends to speak of “unity.”

We’ll see how that goes. I am a skeptic.


Another one bites the dust

The number of congressmen being sunk by sex scandal has grown by one more.

The latest lawmaker to bail from the 2018 midterm election is Rep. Pat Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican. Meehan had been the subject of a lot of chatter about a sexual harassment complaint that a former staffer filed against him.

Meehan said he talked it over with his wife and children and decided against seeking another term this year.

So it goes. There have been other members of Congress who have bailed. They include senators and House members of both political parties.

It’s the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements together that have heightened our awareness of this systemic problem.

In Meehan’s case, there might be other concerns, too, that prompted his decision to forgo another re-election campaign. He represents a congressional district that Hillary Rodham Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential election. Might there have been something other than a sexual harassment complaint that came into play?

Some commentators have predicted a thundering herd of politicians heading for the exits as more women come forward with complaints. It appears they are correct.

It’s all about compromise, stupid!

Good government requires compromise.

Past presidents have known it. So have members of Congress — from both political parties. The rigid ideologues — either on the left or the right — might sleep well at night knowing that they hold firm to their principles. But the rest of us pay the price.

So it is with the current government shutdown that commenced at midnight Friday.

As I understand it, Democratic leaders in Congress have agreed to give Donald Trump money to build that wall he wants to erect on our southern border. They have demanded something in return: a commitment to avoiding the deportation of thousands of U.S. residents who came to this country as children when their parents brought them here illegally.

OK, then. Republicans get the wall; Democrats get to keep the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals rule.

Both sides give a little to the other.

Isn’t that how it works? Sure it is!

Meanwhile, the president who touts himself as a supreme deal-maker keeps changing his mind. He wants a deal to protect DACA recipients because he loves them. Then he feels the heat from the ideologues within his Republican Party who want to toss them out.

As for Democratic leaders, they, too are feeling the heat from their ideologues who want nothing to do with a wall.

I tend to favor the lefties on this one. However, I want the government to reopen fully. I also want compromise to rule the day. I want our elected leaders to do the job we sent them to Washington to do: I want them to govern effectively.

I do not believe in rigid ideology. I am now 68 years of age. The older I get the more room I seek to maneuver for the cause of good government.

Give a little. Declare victory. Open the doors to our government — for which we are paying good money!


By all means, it’s the ‘Trump Shutdown’

A headline on Politico.com sought to say how media outlets are “struggling” to assign blame for the current shutdown of the federal government.

Are you kidding me? I know who’s to blame. Someone just needed to ask me.

It’s Donald John “Deal Maker in Chief” Trump Sr.! He’s the man. He’s the one. He’s the guy who’s got to shoulder the blame.

How do I know that? Because the president of the United States laid the previous shutdown, which occurred in 2013, at the feet of Barack H. Obama, his presidential predecessor.

He said the president has to lead. He’s the one elected by the entire country. The president has to step up, take charge, bring members of Congress to the White House, clunk their heads together and tell ’em shape up, settle their differences and get the government running again.

Trump said all that. He was right.

But now that Trump is the man in charge, he has retreated into the background. Trump is pointing fingers at Democrats. He says they are to blame solely for the shutdown.

Give me a break!

A president is supposed to lead. We elect presidents to run the government. They stand head and shoulders above the 100 senators and 435 House members. When the government shudders and then closes its doors, we turn to the president to show us the way back to normal government functionality.

Donald Trump hasn’t yet shown up to lead the government out of its darkness.

Who’s to blame? It’s the guy who called it in 2013.

This is Trump’s Shutdown. Pure and simple.

If only he’d kept his trap shut when he was a mere commercial real estate mogul and reality TV host …

Congress forfeits its pay

I trust there’s still room on this particular bandwagon, so I’ll climb aboard

Congress doesn’t deserve to be paid a nickel for as long as the federal government is shuttered.

For that matter, neither does the president, although with Donald J. Trump, he is so fabulously wealthy — according to himself — that he isn’t being paid a presidential salary. So in his case, we can make special arrangements for the money he should forfeit.

Congress earns $174,000 annually. Broken down to the daily rate, that’s about $476 each day. They do not deserve a nickel. Nothing, man! Trump’s salary is $400,000 annually, or about $1,095 daily. The charities to which he is donating his salary — allegedly — would be denied the money they’re supposed to receive.

Members of the GOP-controlled Congress along with the president have failed in arguably their most fundamental duty: funding the government, keeping it open and serving their bosses — that would be you and me — with all the services for which we pay.

They have haggled, argued, quibbled and quarreled over immigration. The result has been a shutting down of a good portion of the government. I get that our military is still on the job, along with other essential services.

Who do I blame for this budgetary quagmire? I’ll hang it on the Republican members of Congress. I believe our nation’s Dreamers deserve to be treated humanely and I detest the notion of building a wall along our border with Mexico.

There. I’ve revealed my bias for you to see.

On this notion of whether any member of Congress — and the president — deserve to be paid while the government they administer for us on our behalf … I say categorically: Hell no!

They have failed to do their job.