Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

Tell the whole story about GOP findings, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. Trump keeps leaving out a critical portion of a U.S. House Intelligence Committee report on the ongoing Russia meddling investigation.

This really matters. Honest. It does.

The president once again thanked the Intelligence Committee for concluding “there was no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives who meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

Except for one little thing. The “exoneration” came from committee Republicans. Intelligence panel Democrats are having none of it. The GOP members drafted the 250-page report all by themselves, with no comment, input or contribution from Democrats who serve on the committee.

According to RealClearPolitics: “No collusion, which I knew anyway. No coordination, no nothing, it is a witch hunt,” the president said. “The report was very powerful, very strong. There was no coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian people.”

“With that all being said, we can get along with Russia. That is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he added.

With that the House Intelligence Committee has wrapped up its work.

However, there’s more work to be done. It’s occurring at the other end of the U.S. Capitol Building, by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Perhaps when the Senate panel finishes its work it will issue a report that includes all its members, not just one side whose only interest is to provide cover for the president.

I should note, too, that former FBI Director James Comey — who’s on a speaking tour promoting his new book — has said that “collusion” isn’t covered specifically by federal statute. If there are indictments to come from, say, special counsel Robert Mueller, they will involve charges of conspiracy or attempts to defraud the government, according to Comey.

Is this investigation nearing an end?

I, um, do not believe that’s the case — no matter what House Intelligence Committee Republicans might think.

‘I’d rather be a vegetarian’

Paul Ryan is giving up one of the most powerful political offices on Earth.

Who is going to succeed him as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives? It won’t be U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Clarendon (Texas) Republican who came to the House in 1995 after winning the 13th Congressional District office the previous year.

Thornberry was part of the Contract With America team led by insurgent firebrand Newt Gingrich, who went on to become speaker for a couple of congressional sessions.

A quote is attributed to Thornberry, who came from a Texas Panhandle ranching family, that sums up his interest in the speakership. “I’d rather be a vegetarian,” he reportedly said after John Boehner quit the speakership some years ago.

To be honest, Thornberry strikes me as more of a follower than a leader. Yes, he chairs the House Armed Services Committee (for now). I’m beginning to think there’s an increasing chance someone else will chair that panel when the next Congress convenes in January 2019; that “someone else” well could be a Democrat.

Thornberry has served in the House for 23 years. He is not prone to making himself available to the media for constant Q&A, which is what he would face as speaker of the House. He has been for much of his time on Capitol Hill a classic back bencher.

Would he like to be speaker? This isn’t even a serious question.

But … they’re asking it of the Texas Panhandle Republican anyhow.

How does ‘Speaker Thornberry’ sound?

A ‘wave is coming’

Terry Sullivan, a Republican political strategist who ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign had this to say about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress:

“It’s just another illustration of the harbinger of things to come. There’s no Republican who’s optimistic about the November elections. It’s the 300th example that there is a wave coming.”

Is this the Gospel According to Sullivan? Is he all-knowing, all-feeling, all-understanding? Does he know something the rest of us cannot know or can possibly know?

I have no clue.

However, I am beginning to rethink my view of Ryan’s stated reason for leaving the speakership. He said he wants to spend more time with his wife and young children.

Ho … hum.

It is sounding more like a standard dodge than anything that’s actually real.

Ryan became speaker reluctantly after John Boehner quit the House. He said he didn’t want the job and the headaches that came with it. Then he slid into his post as Man of the House. I considered him initially to be somewhat of a grownup.

And then Donald Trump got elected president of the United States. That’s when it all fell apart. Ryan sought to be a good soldier. He considered himself to be loyal to the party. The problem appeared to expand and explode as Trump began to assert himself while trying to learn a thing or two about the process of governing.

It has been a cluster-fudge since the beginning of Trump’s time as president, putting the man who stands third in line to the presidency in the line of fire.

I cannot pretend to know what is in Speaker Ryan’s head and heart. It just strikes me today, just a bit after Ryan’s startling retirement announcement, that he really didn’t want to become speaker.

It now becomes apparent that despite his stated desire to be more of a family man that he just might realize that the speaker’s job didn’t pay him enough to deal daily with the chaos that emanates from the White House.

Yep, Sen. Rubio’s strategist just might be on to something about a “wave coming.”

Speaker Ryan gives it up

I had a glimmer of hope that Paul Ryan could retain some semblance of sanity in the U.S. House of Representatives when he became speaker of the people’s House.

Damn, anyway! It wasn’t meant to be.

I never envisioned that Donald J. Trump would be elected president of the United States in 2016. Nor did I envision that Trump would reshape the Republican Party into an unrecognizable political unit.

So, what does the speaker of the House do? He announced today he won’t seek re-election in his Wisconsin U.S. House district. He’ll walk away from public life at the end of the year to “spend more time” with his family.

I don’t know what is in Ryan’s head and heart. I guess we should accept his public statements about seeking more face time with his children and his wife.

However, there well might be a political element to Ryan’s decision to call it a career.

Trump has managed to mangle the GOP. He has “governed” — and I use that term with great caution — with a recipe that resembles something my grandmothers used to follow. They never measured anything; they just tossed ingredients into a mixing bowl and somehow what came out tasted good!

I always considered Ryan to be a product of a more deliberate governing process. He is a product of Washington, D.C. He ran for vice president in 2012 to help bring some D.C. wisdom to the GOP ticket led by a former governor, Mitt Romney.

He’s going to leave it to the next speaker — whoever the heck that turns out to be. I guess the task will fall on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — but that presumes that Republicans will retain control of the House after this year’s midterm election.

That prospect is quite suddenly looking a good bit less likely. I suppose, then, that Ryan just couldn’t stand the notion of toiling in a legislative body led by someone such as Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

So, do you suppose that Donald Trump had anything to do with Ryan’s decision to walk away? I believe that’s looking more and more like the case, no matter the outcome of the midterm election.

Ex-congressman faces a possible prison term

I would feel a hint of compassion for a former congressman.

Except that I cannot.

Steve Stockman once was a Republican member of the House of Representatives. He served two non-consecutive terms. He now faces a possible decades-long prison sentence if a jury convicts him of mail and wire fraud, money laundering and election law violations.

He allegedly treated himself to lots of campaign cash, not to mention using it to pay for non-political related expenses for staffers and family members.

I don’t know whether he’s guilty of the charges brought against him. That will determined by a Houston-area jury. I do know of Stockman as one of the strangest politicians I’ve ever encountered.

He first won election to the House in 1994 as part of the GOP Contract With America tidal wave. He managed to sweep from Congress a powerful Democratic committee chairman, Jack Brooks of Beaumont, who at the time was the senior member of the Texas congressional delegation. Brooks chaired the House Judiciary Committee when he lost to Stockman — who knew next to nothing about the congressional district he represented for two years.

He most recently invited the angry man of rock ‘n roll music, Ted Nugent, to attend President Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2013; that occurred during Stockman’s second term in the House.

He didn’t distinguish himself at all during his time in the House. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014, but lost to incumbent John Cornyn in the GOP primary.

Stockman was a goofball while he served in the House. As the Texas Tribune reported, Stockman once had a bumper sticker printed that read: “If babies had guns they wouldn’t be aborted.”

Doesn’t this jokester just crack you up? Naw, me neither.

Well,  I’ll await his verdict and I might offer a comment when the jury delivers it.

I would wish him well, if only he had learned how to behave himself while he served in the People’s House.

Cruz vs. O’Rourke: a fight to watch

I’ll lay this out there right away: You know where I stand regarding U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whom I have dubbed “The Cruz Missile.”

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll just say this: I do not support him. There. That’s out of the way.

I’m going to watch his fight for re-election with intense interest. He has a Democratic challenger who hails from way out yonder, El Paso. Beto O’Rourke is a member of the U.S. House. He wants a promotion to the other end of the U.S. Capitol Building.

I am not going to predict how this year’s election will turn out. I’m not smart enough to make such a prediction. Yes, I consider The Cruz Missile to be the favorite. Texas is seriously Republican. Our voters are more conservative than liberal. Cruz is banking on the voters’ party loyalty.

But wait! O’Rourke is raising lots of money. He has raked in more campaign cash than Cruz. It’s coming from somewhere. He is tapping the state’s pockets of progressive voters.

Political observers do suggest that O’Rourke needs to build his brand. He needs to establish a political identity. Many of us know how to ID Cruz. I consider Cruz to be a front-running media hog. He loves the spotlight. He’s good at basking in it. He ran for president in 2016 after serving just partly into his first term as a senator; that’s not a strike by itself against him, as Barack Obama did the same thing in 2008.

If there is a “blue wave” set to sweep across the land in the 2018 midterms, I suspect that the Cruz-O’Rourke contest will determine just how angry voters are at the manner in which Republicans have governed the nation. We’ll know whether that wave is for real or whether it’s a mirage created by wishful thinkers.

My heart hopes that Cruz gets the boot. My head prevents me from suggesting it will happen.

It will be among the critical U.S. Senate races to watch.

‘Rumor’ might shake it all up in D.C.

I always steered far away from reporting on “rumors” when I worked for a living as a print journalist.

The worst kind of rumors came from people with no direct knowledge of the tidbit they were passing on.

Still, this item is worth a brief note here. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Nevada Republican, told a Nevada news station that House Speaker Paul Ryan is considering resigning his House seat and that the next speaker will be Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican lawmaker who was seriously wounded in a shooting involving GOP congressmen who were practicing for a charity baseball game.

Ryan’s office denies the speaker will quit. Which is what you expect them to say.

The Hill reported: Amodei, who is not a close ally of Ryan’s, emphasized that he was just repeating a rumor. But the on-the-record comments from a Republican lawmaker — and the suggestion that Ryan could resign before the midterms — made waves on Monday, briefly crashing the Nevada Newsmakers website.

Ryan might be looking ahead to those midterm elections across the country and the possibility that Democrats could reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives; that, of course, would hand the speakership over to a Democratic House member.

Might it be that Ryan wants out before the so-called “blue tide” washes him out of office?

Hey, it’s only a rumor. Then again …

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.