Tag Archives: Congress

Franken bows out … with no apology

Well, there wasn’t much contrition today in Al Franken’s announcement that he’s quitting the U.S. Senate.

Indeed, the junior Democratic senator from Minnesota said some of the allegations from women that he groped them were “untrue” and said he remembers others “differently” from what the women have alleged.

But he’s gone. He should be gone. The accusations were too credible to be denied. Sen. Franken couldn’t possibly continue in that body, particularly when most of his Democratic colleagues had demanded that he quit.

The culture in Washington well might be changing. Women have come forward to level serious accusations against powerful men. Those men are now being held to account for their behavior. Franken has been caught in the sausage-grinder that is pulverizing careers.

He did take note, however, that while he is quitting the Senate, a man who has admitted to committing acts of sexual assault — Donald John Trump — still occupies the White House as president of the United States.

Life ain’t fair, right?

While much of the political attention was focused on Al Franken, another member of Congress — Rep. Trent Franks — announced his resignation. Franks is a Republican — and a deeply conservative, deeply religious one at that — who is now the subject of an ethics investigation into, um, sexual harassment. 

Franks supposedly discussed surrogate parenting with some female staffers. He says he regrets having that discussion and the discomfort it caused “in the workplace.”

Now he’s gone.

My trick knee is telling me the congressional purge is just beginning.

Conyers has ‘retired in disgrace’

John Conyers has given us a new definition of how a politician leaves public life.

The Michigan Democratic congressman today has announced his retirement effective today. By my standard, he has decided to “retire in disgrace.” He didn’t just resign. He didn’t wait until the end of his term to walk away.

Conyers, facing sexual harassment allegations — and a settlement he paid to one of his accusers — has called it a career.

It’s a fascinating and correct end to a lengthy career in politics.

Conyers is the longest-serving member of the U.S. House. He’s been on the job for 53 years. He has held positions of extreme power and influence and, according to several women, allegedly abused his power and influence in disgusting and disgraceful ways.

Here’s a serious non-shocker: Conyers is citing factors unrelated to the allegations as his reason for retiring. According to The Associated Press: “Conyers’ attorney, Arnold Reed, has said Conyers’ health would be the paramount consideration in whether he decides to step down from his House seat. He has already stepped aside from his position as ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”

This is what politicians do. Faced with mounting pressure stemming from misbehavior, they cite other “reasons” for deciding to give up the fight. Those “reasons” might have merit or … they might be made up to divert attention from the reality of the moment.

I don’t know about Rep. Conyers’ health, although he is past 80 years of age. So, I suppose his health might be an issue.

Whatever the case, the man needs to go. He’s served long enough and from this moment forward every single day he remains in office will be clouded by the hideous allegations that have become all the talk in Washington, and Hollywood … and even on Main Street.

RINOs take over congressional GOP

Republican Party “purists,” whoever they may be, must be furious with what the GOP majority in Congress has done.

Republicans who control both congressional chambers have just rammed through two versions of a tax cut that by many economists’ view is going to explode the federal budget deficit.

Therefore, congressional Republicans — virtually to a person — comprise Republicans In Name Only. They are the dreaded RINOs that purists keep condemning as closet big-spenders masquerading as members of the party of fiscal responsibility.

One Republican — lame-duck U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee — managed to vote “no” on the Senate version of the tax cut. But he was the only one.

Now this monstrosity goes back to the House of Representatives, which will seek to reconcile its differences with the Senate version. Then they get to vote again on it.

After that? It goes to the Oval Office, where the president of the United States will sign it. He’ll boast about the “victory” he won. Donald Trump will take credit for enacting a bill about which he likely doesn’t know a thing.

Do you remember the time when Republicans used to blister Democrats for running up those huge deficits? As recently as the 2016 election, Republicans were pounding freely at Democratic President Barack Obama for overseeing a sharp growth in the national debt. But here’s the deal: Under the Obama presidency, the size of the annual deficit was decreasing almost every year; by the time President Obama left office, the annual budget deficit had been cut by about two-thirds from the amount he inherited when he took office in January 2009.

I guess those days are gone, along with any chance that Republicans and Democrats are going to find common ground on matters that affect all Americans.

As for the country’s budgetary future, it’s now in the hands of RINOs. When are the party purists going to start squawking?

Hello? Is there anyone out there?

Public shouldn’t foot the bill for these settlements

This one not only doesn’t pass the smell test, it is downright putrid in the extreme.

A Texas congressman reportedly paid an $84,000 settlement to a former staffer who sued him for sexual harassment. Where did Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, get the dough to pay the settlement? From your pocket. And from mine.

That’s right. Rep. Farenthold reportedly dipped into a taxpayer funded cash drawer to settle a dispute brought against a member of Congress who allegedly mistreated a female staff member.

Does it stink? Like a dirty dog!

According to Politico: House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door Friday morning meeting that only one House office in the past five years had used an Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment complaint. Harper said in that one instance, the settlement totaled $84,000.

In a statement for this story, Farenthold would neither confirm or deny that his office was responsible for that $84,000 payout.

Let me venture a guess. Farenthold paid the settlement with the public’s money.

If I were King of the World, I would strip Congress of that Office of Compliance fund and force any member of Congress to pay any such settlement out of his or her pocket.

I am aware that Farenthold denies sexually harassing his former press aide. The Office of Congressional Ethics sided with Farenthold. See the Politico story here.

Still, if there’s going to be a settlement in a complaint filed against a member of Congress, I happen to dislike intensely the notion of dipping into taxpayers’ pockets to pay the bill.

Where have the deficit hawks gone?

I always have thought that congressional Republicans were deficit “hawks,” officials who hated federal budget deficits and certainly derided those spendthrift Democrats for piling up the national debt.

Why, then, are GOP senators so intent on pushing a tax cut bill that will explode the annual deficit and add hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt?

A new non-partisan analysis indicates that the GOP tax plan will spur some limited economic growth, but it’s going to add $1 trillion to the deficit.

Here is part of what CNN is reporting:

The Joint Committee on Taxation, the Congressional scorekeeper for tax bills, estimates that the Senate tax bill could generate enough growth to create nearly $408 billion in new revenue over a decade. But even with that additional revenue, the bill would still add an estimated $1 trillion to deficits.  

JCT’s macroeconomic analysis — also known as a dynamic score — falls far short of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin oft-made claim that the tax cuts will pay for themselves.

There also doubts about whether the wealthiest Americans are going to pay more or less under the GOP-railroaded tax overhaul. Donald Trump keeps insisting it will “cost me a fortune … believe me.” Actually, I’ve discovered that whenever the president says “believe me” I need to discount the veracity of any point he is trying to make.

But if Republicans are so damn hawkish on budget deficits when Democratic presidents are seeking to boost the economy, shouldn’t they remain that way when their political brethren seek to do the same thing?

Bad behavior claims another one

Now it’s Joe Barton who’s bailing out of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Barton is a Republican from Ennis who reportedly sent some nasty pictures of himself over Twitter while he was engaged in a relationship with a “mature, adult woman.” The scorn poured over him. Barton, the senior member of the Texas congressional delegation, hung tough for a little while.

Then he announced his retirement, effective at the end of his current term in 2018.

Barton had to go. His departure should be a surprise to anyone. The mood across the country has revealed a diminishing tolerance for public officeholders’ lewd behavior. Barton, of course, was careful to explain that the recipient of the hideous pictures was engaged in a consensual relationship with him.

Fine, congressman. Hit the road, will ya?

Barton is just the latest in a long list of Texas lawmakers who are calling it quits. His announcement, to no one’s surprise, contains no mention of the trouble he brought onto himself.

Read more about Barton’s announcement here.

***

With the departure of the Texas congressional delegation’s dean, the longest-serving member from Texas is Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, who took office in January 1993.

And, hey, that means the Panhandle’s GOP House member, Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, who was sworn in just two years later, in January 1995, becomes the No. 2-ranked tenured member of the delegation.

I mention that only because Thornberry was elected in that 1994 Republican wave that ran on the Contract With America, a lengthy platform of government reforms that included term limits for members of the U.S. House and Senate. Thornberry has voted for term-limit amendments to the U.S. Constitution whenever they were presented to House members; they just haven’t gotten the votes needed to be referred to state legislatures for ratification.

And, no … he never made a personal pledge to bow out after three terms in the House.

I just thought I would bring it up because it seems oddly relevant.

Time for Conyers to call it a career?

OK. I’ll answer the question posed in the headline over this blog post.

Yes, I believe it’s time for U.S. Rep. John Conyers to call it quits. It’s time for the congressman who has served for more than five decades in the House of Representatives to return to civilian life.

Conyers, a Democrat, is facing mounting pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to resign in the wake of a third woman who’s accused Conyers of making improper sexual advances.

Conyers is damaged

Conyers already has acknowledged paying one woman a $27,000 settlement, even while denying he did anything wrong.

He is the longest-serving member of the House. He’s been called an “icon” by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said he is entitled to “due process.”

Well, I’m not sure how you define due process in a political climate. Conyers has not been charged with a crime. He has now become a major “distraction” for legislative colleagues.

This sexual abuse network of scandals is reaching across party lines. It is insidious and it is inflicting serious — and potentially grievous — damage in the halls of government. Members of both congressional chambers stand accused of extreme misbehavior toward women; indeed, similar allegations have soiled the president of the United States.

A Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate also is facing calls from within his own party to pull out of his contest.

Conyers already has stepped down from his leadership post on the House Judiciary Committee. I am afraid that isn’t enough.

Rep. Conyers’s career is sullied and soiled by the accusations of sexual harassment.

It’s over. Or at least it should be.

Chuck and Nancy no longer pals with Donald

Hey, I thought Donald Trump had made new friends in Congress.

Didn’t he once say he and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were partners in an effort to actually get some legislation approved?

He called ’em Chuck and Nancy. He supposedly worked out an agreement with them to keep the government functioning until early December.

Now, though, the friendship is on the rocks. Surprised? Neither am I.

He said today that he didn’t see a deal in the making that would prevent a government shutdown. Chuck and Nancy were supposed to go to the White House to meet with Republican congressional leaders … and the president.

Then they backed out. They left their chairs empty at the White House conference room table.

Who’s to blame for the scuttling of this friendship? Who among them is the most stubborn? POTUS or Chuck and Nancy?

Here’s what needs to happen, though. The government funding measure is set to expire a week from this coming Friday. If the two sides don’t rekindle their friendship, then the feds are going to shut down the government.

This kind of brinkmanship is not why voters elect these people. It’s damn sure not why they sign on to “serve the public.”

Can’t they all be friends … again?

Where does Trump acquire his political capital?

One of the many things that confound me about Donald Trump is how this man expects us to believe he has this huge cache of political capital stored up.

He keeps yapping and yammering about the “historic” nature of his presidential election victory in November 2016. When you think about it, Trump’s victory was “historic” in a certain context.

He lost the popular vote by record margins to Hillary Rodham Clinton but still managed to win the Electoral College by cobbling together precisely the right pluralities in three battleground states that voted twice for Barack H. Obama. So, there’s a certain bit of history that was made.

But then he took office and began boasting about the “landslide” victory he won. I consider landslides to be of the type that President Johnson rang up in 1964 and President Nixon scored in 1972. The political rule of thumb has been that a winning presidential candidate rolls up “landslide” with a 10-percentage point popular vote; LBJ and Nixon both rolled to victories that exceeded 20 percentage points. President Reagan’s re-election victory in 1984 came close to matching his predecessors’ victories.

The current president has nothing even remotely approaching that kind of political capital as he seeks to push his agenda forward. He doesn’t behave with a semblance of knowledge of just how flimsy his electoral mandate really is.

The 21st century’s first presidential election ended in 2000 with the winner, George W. Bush, garnering fewer popular votes than his opponent. President Bush, though, realized the truth of his election from Day One of his presidency and sought immediately to work with Democrats. He enlisted the late liberal lion, Sen. Ted Kennedy, to help him push some education reforms through Congress.

Has Donald Trump extended anything approaching an olive branch to those who oppose him? For that matter, have Democrats in both congressional chambers sought to reach out to the president?

No on both counts.

Still, it simply demonstrates graphically to me that the president has none of the political capital about which he boasts.

If only he would learn the harsh reality of the nature of his victory.

Hillary remains in Trump’s sights

Donald J. Trump has said he won a “historic” victory in the 2016 presidential election.

The president’s threats of action against his vanquished opponent, though, betray his confidence in that admittedly unexpected victory.

Trump is considering whether to sic the Justice Department on to Hillary Clinton, threatening to examine her sale of a uranium company while she was serving as secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Here we go … again!

The president’s obsession with Clinton and President Obama suggests to me that he’s actually angry beyond measure that he didn’t win the popular vote to go along with the Electoral College majority he won to be elected president of the United States.

He wants to stick it to Hillary. He wants to keep the embers burning. He wants to make her squirm.

I keep asking: To what bleeping end, Mr. President?

Clinton calls such a probe what it would be if the president calls for the appointment of a special counsel: a grotesque abuse of power. According to The Hill: “I regret if they do it because it will be such a disastrous step to politicizing the justice system,” she said. “If they send a signal that we’re going to be like some dictatorship, like some authoritarian regime, where political opponents are going to be unfairly, fraudulently investigated, that rips at the fabric of the contract we have, that we can trust our justice system.”

Congressional committees looked for years at ways to bring charges against Hillary Clinton. As did the FBI. They all came up empty.

Now the president keeps fighting a battle he’s already won.

Give it a rest, Mr. President.