Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

What do you know? Dems and Repubs can work together!

The atmosphere in Washington, D.C. has gotten beyond toxic, with the impeachment of the president on the horizon. Democrats and Republicans can’t say anything nice to or about each other these days.

But wait! Amid all that impeachment rancor, exacerbated I should say by Donald Trump’s incessant and relentless Twitter barrage, we see the parties working together to craft a new North American trade agreement.

It’s called the USMCA, which is shorthand for a trade agreement among the United States, Mexico and Canada. It replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement that was hammered out by the Clinton administration.

Donald Trump vowed to scrap NAFTA and replace it with something else. He vowed to craft the best deal in human history. The president hasn’t quite delivered the goods all by himself. It turns out he needed some legislative help not just from his Republican allies, but also from his Democratic foes, er, enemies.

I haven’t yet studied the USMCA, but I understand it’s supposed to benefit Texas business interests, given our lengthy border with Mexico. It also contains some environmental protections that progressives wanted in a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

However, the good news amid all the toxicity that infects everything in D.C. these days is that both political parties can lay claim to a victory … that isn’t at the other party’s expense.

That’s not a bad outcome.

Will ‘Texodus’ cause loss of clout in Congress? Uhh, yes, it will

A headline in the Texas Tribune asks a question that borders on the preposterous.

“As experienced Texan congressmen retire, will the states’ sway in Congress decline?”

I have the answer: Yes. It will decline.

Both congressional chambers rely heavily on seniority. The more senior the members of the House and Senate, the more powerful committee assignments they get. They ascend to chairmanships or, if they’re in the House, they sit as “ranking members” of the minority party; a ranking member is deemed to be the senior member of the party that doesn’t control the chairmanship.

My former congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, is retiring at the end of next year; he won’t seek re-election to his umpteenth term in the House. He serves as ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, a panel he chaired until Democrats took control of the House after the 2018 election.

Congressional power ebbs and flows. Texans who worry about such things need not fret over Texas’s loss of clout in the House. Indeed, if the state is turning into more of a “swing state,” Texas Democrats might find themselves elevated to positions of power formerly occupied by their Republican colleagues.

For the time being, though, the retirements of six Texas members of Congress does create a dwindling clout for the state on Capitol Hill.

However, it is likely far from a terminal ailment.

Circus is coming to Capitol Hill … maybe

It looks as though they’re going to roll out the big top under the Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C., if Republican members of Congress get their way.

The House Intelligence Committee is taking its hearings into the public arena next week with the first televised hearings into the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s term as president.

Congressional Republicans want to hear also from Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and the individual known only as The Whistleblower.

Why do you suppose they want those two individuals to appear? I can make a guess: They are running out of legitimate defenses for the president’s conduct in office and are trying to divert attention from Trump to the son of a potential 2020 campaign opponent and an individual whose report to Congress spawned the impeachment inquiry in the first place.

At issue, of course, is that July phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump asked for a “favor, though,” in exchange for releasing the weaponry that Ukraine asked for to fight Russia-backed rebels. Quid pro quo, anyone? It’s against the law!

Now the GOP caucus wants to question Hunter Biden over his business relationships in Ukraine, which Ukrainian prosecutors have said broke no law. They also want to quiz The Whistleblower and likely want to question his or her motives in squealing on the president.

The hearings get started with a bang this week when the House Intel panel summons career diplomat William Taylor to testify in public what he has said in private, that Trump did seek a favor from Ukraine, which is — shall we say — against the law!

Get ready for the circus to start. The GOP will seek to provide plenty of distractions from the serious and sober business at hand in the House of Representatives.

‘Good government’ is about to take some time off

I consider myself to be a “good government progressive.”

Government should do the most good possible but it takes individuals on both sides of the political aisle to make it work as I believe our nation’s founders intended.

So … having laid that out, I fear we are about to enter an era of “no government” action aimed at helping Americans.

Impeachment now is clouding it all in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump is enraged at Democrats who want to impeach him for violating his oath of office. He says a phone conversation he had with the Ukrainian president was “perfect,” even though he asked his counterpart for foreign government assistance in getting re-elected and in digging up dirt on a potential 2020 opponent, Joe Biden.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has launched an “impeachment inquiry.” Trump is spending his days now firing off Twitter tirades and tantrums at his foes.

What does all this do for the cause of good government? It throws it into the crapper.

Democrats are enraged at Trump, too. The president, who doesn’t work well with Democrats under the best of circumstances, isn’t likely to work with them on anything now that House Democrats appear intent on seeking his ouster from office.

So, we’re going to pay our lawmakers a six-figure salary ostensibly to enact legislation, cast votes and send bills to the Oval Office for the president’s signature.

Except that none of that is likely to happen as House Democrats and Donald Trump play political chicken with each other.

Therefore, good government will vanish for the foreseeable future.

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.