Tag Archives: Congress

Impeachment remains huge obstacle

I am believing now that Donald J. Trump isn’t likely to be kicked out of office before his term expires.

The nation’s founders set a high bar for removal of a president.

The U.S. House of Representatives can bring articles of impeachment. It can essentially indict a president on a complaint that he has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.” It takes a simple majority of House members to impeach a president.

It’s happened twice. President Andrew Johnson got impeached in 1868. Then in 1998, the House impeached President Bill Clinton. The House impeached Johnson on 11 counts, the principal count being a violation of the Tenure of Office Act after he had fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The House impeached Clinton on a charge that he perjured himself in testimony before a federal grand jury.

Both men were spared being kicked out. Johnson made it by a single vote in the U.S. Senate. Clinton survived much more easily in his Senate trial.

The Constitution lays out a two-thirds rule for conviction and removal from office of the president.

What makes a Trump removal so difficult lies in the numbers. Republicans control the Senate by a single seat. If they lose the Senate majority after the midterm election, it is projected that several GOP senators would need to join Democrats who likely would vote to convict the president on whatever charge is brought before the body.

I’m not certain that an impeachable offense will emerge from the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller. If one does emerge, though, it remains a tremendously tenuous view that there would be enough political support in the Senate to actually convict the president — no matter how egregious the charge that might come forth.

Impeachment is a political process, even though members of the House and Senate state piously that they are conducting a quasi-judicial process. It really relies on the partisan leaning of both legislative bodies.

I want to offer this look at what might lie ahead for the president and for Congress.

First things first. We have an election to complete that will determine the partisan makeup of the legislative chambers that will decide what to do about this president.

Hey, you know he could just quit once he realizes his agenda — whatever it is — is going nowhere.

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.

That was close; POTUS signs bill after all

That ridiculous, confusing and chaotic individual who serves as president of the United States had some of our heads spinning.

Donald Trump had said he would sign the omnibus spending bill despite its shortcomings; then he threatened to veto it because it didn’t spend enough on illegal immigration reform and border security.

Then he signs it! While bitching about all that is wrong with it.

The president announced a “news conference” to accompany its signing. Then he rambled on and on — and on some more! — for more than 30 minutes. He blamed Democrats for gutting the military, for stalling on immigration reform while ignoring the reality that the bill he signed is a bipartisan measure with plenty of Democratic votes in favor of it.

I struggle to listen to Trump’s remarks entirely. His repetitiveness is mind-numbing in the extreme, not to mention his astonishing use of non-specific terminology that reveals utter ignorance of the subject matter at hand. How many times did this guy use the term “other things” to delineate supposed specificity?

Whatever.

The signature moment — please pardon the pun — came when he admitted he hadn’t read the 2,220-page bill. “Neither had anyone else,” he said.

So, he signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that keeps the government running until September without knowing what’s in it. He said that. Correct? He signed it believing that its defense expenditure superseded the shortcomings he said the bill contained.

Oh, and one more thing. The president still refuses to take ownership of any of the failings he hangs on some members of Congress. I long have thought that effective governing was a team sport, with the executive branch working in tandem with the legislative branch of government.

I am quite certain that is what the nation’s founders had in mind.

So, the chaos continues.

‘March’ could signal a turning point for Panhandle

A lot of Texas Panhandle students, teachers, parents and just plain folks — and that includes yours truly — are hoping for a big weekend.

They’re going to gather around noon Saturday at Ellwood Park in downtown Amarillo. They’ll troop a few blocks east and a bit north to the Potter County Courthouse, where some of them are going to speak to what I hope is a large crowd of marchers and supporters.

It will be part of a national movement called “March For Our Lives.” Students all over America are organizing this event in their respective communities. Amarillo has joined them. Caprock High School students are taking the lead in organizing the local event.

Why is this potentially a big day? It could signal a serious turn in community attitudes about gun violence.

The “March” has been spurred by the Valentine’s Day slaughter in Parkland, Fla., of 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and staff members. The gunman is a former student who got expelled for bad behavior. Police arrested him and the local district attorney has charged him with 17 counts of murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty — even if the shooter pleads guilty in an effort to avoid a death sentence.

The Texas Panhandle isn’t known as a hotbed of progressive political thought. The majority of residents here make different political decisions; they support candidates who adhere to a more conservative view.

The “March” on Saturday well might produce a counter-demonstration or two. The marchers are going to lift their voices to seek legislative remedies in the Texas Legislature and in Congress that they hope could restrict the purchase of firearms.

I think it’s important to note that, as one of the Caprock HS student organizers said, this march isn’t intended to be an “anti-gun” protest. I am not hearing any organizers calling for repealing or a serious watering down of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. I am sure that pro-gun rights activists certainly see any change in gun laws as an erosion of Second Amendment rights.

The “March” is sure to embolden young people here and across this vast nation with a sense that their voices are being heard on an issue in which they have a direct stake. Indeed, they see themselves and their school-age brethren as being thrust in harm’s way.

They need to be heard. Let’s hope the rest of us hear them when they march through downtown Amarillo and plead for an end to the national scourge of gun violence.

Rep. Gohmert shows why he sits on the GOP fringe

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert sits on the fringe of the Republican Party’s congressional caucus for a reason, as he has demonstrated once again.

The East Texas member of Congress thinks special counsel Robert Mueller should be fired. He doesn’t like that the former FBI director and a crack lawyer is investigating Donald J. Trump on several levels. He is concerned that the counsel might actually find some criminality in his probe into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russian goons who meddled in our 2016 election.

I need to point out here that the GOP leadership wants Mueller to continue. Even some of the back bench members of both the House and Senate GOP caucus know the consequences if the president gets Mueller removed.

Actually, Gohmert the Goober knows it, too. He said, “The only reason that he is not going and the president is not going to fire him and that I am not calling for him to be fired now is … because of all the establishment Republicans that think they would have to come after Trump if he were fired.”

Oh, really? The Republican congressional leadership would “come after” the president for, oh, obstructing justice or for abusing the power of his high office? Is that what he means?

If that’s the case, then the Republican leadership would be correct to sound the impeachment bugle and Rep. Gohmert is utterly wrong in calling for Mueller to be fired.

Mueller was given a broad mandate when Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him special counsel; the task fell to Rosenstein after AG Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter after serving as a Trump campaign and presidential transition official with ties to Russians who had contacted the Trump political organization.

Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller was hailed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Gohmert, though, says he had trouble with Mueller’s selection from the get-go.

I’ll offer this bit of advice to Gohmert, which I’ve also offered to the president: If there is nothing to be found — which Trump insists is the case — then let Mueller reach that conclusion and announce it to the world himself.

Meanwhile, Louie Gohmert needs to settle down and let Mueller do his job.

When did earmarks become fashionable?

“Earmarks” used to be a four-letter word.

Republican members of Congress rose against them. They were eliminated. Now they’re back, thanks in large part to the insistence of, um, Republican members of Congress.

Earmarks are those items that lawmakers tuck — or sneak — into budgets. Remember the “Bridge to Nowhere” that the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens inserted into a budget? The “bridge” money went for a structure that, well, went nowhere in Alaska.

Stevens was scorned for that little game of fiscal chicanery.

Now it appears that earmarks are being resurrected. I don’t get it.

Republicans who now control both congressional chambers — and the White House — have forgotten how they won voters’ hearts in the first place. They are supposed to be the “party of fiscal responsibility.”

Earmarks are meant to allow lawmakers to bring “pork barrel” money to their states and congressional districts. Many House members and senators have been pretty damn good at it. The late Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd fattened the budget with money he directed to West Virginia. And get this. Former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, a Texas Republican, once bragged that he brought back so much “pork” to his home state that he was afraid of “coming down with trichinosis.”

I consider myself a deficit hawk, even though I also consider myself to be a left-leaning blogger. I don’t like earmarks any more than the next guy. They constitute government waste.

They’re coming back.

What happened to “draining the swamp,” eh? Mr. President? When are you going to pull the plug?

Waiting for the pundits’ new cliches

I watch a lot of TV news shows. Maybe that’s to my discredit, given that my wife and are holed up at the moment in an RV and the weather outside has been too cold to do much of anything.

What I am hearing is beginning to bore me to sleep.

I keep hearing the TV talking heads — the pundits, if you please — repeating the same “cool” words and phrases they like hearing themselves and each other say.

“At the end of the day” remains at the top of my list of phrases to jettison.

“Walking back” a statement is another one that is gaining ground in the toss-it-on-the-scrap-heap contest.

There also are “cool words” that seem to crop up in pundit-speak. “Kalashnikov” is one of them. It kind of rolls off the tongue and when I hear pundits and/or commentators mention the weapons used on a battlefield, they are bound to mention “Kalashnikov” rifles because they like sound of the name. Admit it: You know what I’m talking about.

Here is one of my latest “favorites.” It’s when Congress and the president keep “kicking the can down the road.” This usually refers to non-decisions they make regarding budget matters.

Congress cannot get a long-term budget approved. The president cannot persuade anyone on Capitol Hill to do anything. What happens? They end up “kicking the can down the road,” which is code for “failing to do their job.”

Come to think of it, why don’t the talking heads just say it loudly and proudly, that our government leaders are, um, you know … ?

The pundits sit around those tables talking to each other and they speak in that strange jargon that they use with each other or when they’re on the air talking to you and me.

Look, I’m not a grammarian. I don’t pretend to be a wordsmith in the mold of a Faulkner, Steinbeck, a George Will or a William F. Buckley. I tend as well to fall back into habit-forming word usage and phraseology.

I suppose if I’m patient enough, new phrases will sprout, kind of like weeds in the garden. We’ll all know them when the pundits keep repeating themselves.

Which is it: shutdown or deal on budget?

On one day, the president of the United States declared there would be a government shutdown if Congress didn’t come to a decision on an immigration package that secured our borders.

That is that. No deal, no government. “I would love a shutdown” if there’s no deal to build a wall. “Without borders, we don’t have a country,” Donald Trump declared.

The next day, U.S. Senate Democratic and Republican leaders cobbled together a budget deal that funds the government for two years. It’s a bipartisan agreement. Oh, and it doesn’t have any money for the wall the president wants to build across our southern border.

No worries, said the president. He’ll sign it if it gets to his desk.

So, which is it? Does the president want the wall or does he want to fund the government and avoid a shutdown that could occur later this week?

Honestly, I prefer the second version of the president’s current view. I believe he should sign the bill if it clears the House of Representatives, which at the moment is going through a revolt among members of its most conservative members. They hate the bill because it spends too much money and, yes, doesn’t include money for the wall or other border security measures.

They call themselves “fiscal hawks.” They say the Republican Party no longer can claim to be the party of “fiscal responsibility.”

Here’s what I hope happens. The House agrees on the Senate bill, they send it to the White House, the president signs it and then all sides — Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the president — get to work immediately on resolving the issue of immigration.

A viable government needs to proceed without the imminent threat of shutting down.

I am one taxpaying American citizen who is damn tired of this Band-Aid policy of running the government.

Can we just agree to keep the entire federal government functioning and serving all Americans while our representatives do what they were elected to do?

It is called “governing.”

State of the Union: a most political event

I am inclined to tell my friends who are fans of Donald J. Trump to settle down. Chill out. Take a breather. Don’t get so upset that congressional Democrats didn’t stand and cheer along with their Republican “friends.”

Trust me on this: Given that I live in the heart of Trump Country, my list of friends and acquaintances is full of Trumpkins. I don’t begrudge them for their political loyalty. I also hope they don’t begrudge me for mine.

One friend — and he’s an actual “friend” — has been ranting on social media about how the Democrats sat on their hands during Trump’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night. He is just insulted that they would disrespect the president in such a disgraceful manner. How dare they do such a thing!

My friend has been around long enough to know how this game is played. Republican presidents usually get the proverbial stiff-arm from Democrats in the House of Representatives hall. Here’s the deal, though: Democratic presidents get the same treatment from Republicans when it’s their opportunity to deliver State of the Union speeches.

It goes with the territory, folks.

I don’t like it, either. I would rather the “loyal opposition” would show respect for the presidency, even if they dislike the individual who is occupying the office in the moment.

I need not remind my friend, moreover, about how Republicans treated President Barack H. Obama when he delivered his speeches to Congress. However, if he is reading this blog post, I’ll remind him of how GOP U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie!” during one of Obama’s speeches before a joint congressional session.

By my reckoning, that outburst was far more disrespectful than anything we saw this week.

I’m not worried in the least about how Democrats behaved while the Republican president stood before them. They did what members of the “opposing” party always do.

Do I wish they would behave better? Sure. I also wish the same of Republicans the next time we elect a Democratic president.

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.