Tag Archives: Congress

Now for Main Event: The Donald vs. Mitch

It’s a rare event indeed when a president beset with unanimous opposition from the “other party” decides to declare virtual political war on someone who’s aligned with him in the same political party.

Donald John Trump Sr. is now tweeting his angry thoughts about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Here’s the best part: McConnell offered a perfectly reasonable, rational critique of the president’s difficulty in enacting legislation, while the president responds with a typically juvenile tweet.

I’m shaking and scratching my head at the same time.

McConnell noted that Trump is “new” to the political process, and said he set “excessive expectations” about how quickly he could enact his legislative agenda. The president’s newness is an honest assessment; the man had zero public service experience prior to running for president. He doesn’t understand government and doesn’t grasp the notion that effective governance is a team sport, that it requires the executive branch of government to work hand-in-glove with the legislative branch. It also requires pols from both parties to compromise while searching for common ground.

Good grief! McConnell could have said it much more harshly than he did. He sought instead to be the diplomat.

Trump fired back with that tweet reminding us that Congress had seven years to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but still hadn’t gotten the job done. Trump’s allies in the right-wing media — namely Fox News commentator Sean Hannity — weighed in, calling for the Senate majority leader to resign.

The utterly ridiculous aspect of this is that Trump and McConnell supposedly are on the same team. The president needs McConnell to assist him in furthering his agenda. Is this how he intends to harvest that help, by continuing these attacks?

Meanwhile, the loyal opposition on the other side of the political chasm — congressional Democrats — are remaining quiet.

Smart.

POTUS remains an angry man

Donald John Trump is an angry old man. The 71-year-old president of the United States marked his 200th day in office with a series of tweets.

He blasted Democrats, the “fake” media, turncoat Republicans, Congress in general. The only folks who escaped his Twitter tirade it seems are his kin and Vladimir Putin.

What gives with this guy? The honeymoon period presidents traditionally get never materialized with this buffoon. Perhaps it was the tone of his inaugural speech, the one that talked about vowing to end the “American carnage” and painted a dark portrait of the world’s greatest, most powerful nation. There was no high-minded prose coming from the president. There was plenty of anger.

It’s gone downhill … from there!

He hasn’t filled a huge number of key staff posts. Judgeships remain vacant. Federal prosecutors need to be named. He’s changed his White House chief of staff, booted out his press secretary, fired the FBI director and the acting attorney general, tossed his national security adviser, kicked out his communications director. Am I missing anyone? Whatever.

My point is that the president is an unhappy man who this morning decided to torch a Democratic senator over an issue for which the senator has apologized. Take a bow, Richard Blumenthal.

Nothing of consequence has been accomplished — legislatively. Yes, he issued those executive orders removing the United States from the Transpacific Partnership and from the Paris climate accords. He tweeted something about banning transgendered Americans from serving in the military, only to get push back from the Pentagon brass at the highest levels of all the military branches.

Trump keeps getting caught in lies and duplicitous comments, thanks to the “leakers” inside the White House who are exposing his countless shortcomings as the head of state and government.

Those “easy” tasks, such as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act? Not done! The leader of the party that controls the Congress and the White House couldn’t get that one pushed across the finish line. So … he blames Congress for his own failures.

Getting Mexico to build a wall along our nations’ shared border? Forget about it. Tossing out the North American Free Trade Agreement? Pfftt!

Here’s the best part of all of this: We’re at Day 200 of the Trump administration. That means we’ve only got 1,261 more days of this ahead.

Maybe.

Serenity belies tempest in this building

Take a look at this picture. You know what it is. It’s one of the seats of power in our nation’s government.

I snapped this picture of the U.S. Capitol Building in mid-June on our final full day in Washington, D.C., where my wife and I visited our niece and her husband. The sun was setting and the building looked so very serene. The four of us had enjoyed a final dinner together and we were enjoying a quiet evening in one of the nation’s most thrilling cities.

The picture belies a fascinating truth about the place. It is full of tumult, chaos, tempestuousness, anger (that borders on hatred) and contentiousness.

It was hard for me in the moment to think that the atmosphere under that magnificent dome could get any angrier. Silly me. It has. It’s burning white-hot, even as members of Congress have vacated Washington for their lengthy end-of-summer recess.

Members of the Senate and the House have fanned out across the land and around the world. Some of them have come back to their House districts and their states to, oh, do some “constituent service work.” Others have jetted off on those “fact-finding junkets” to ostensible worldwide trouble spots in, let’s say, Fiji, Monaco or the Mexican Riviera.

The president of the United States is quite possibly finding himself in some serious trouble. A special counsel reportedly has impaneled a grand jury to collect evidence related to that “Russia thing” that caused the president to fire an FBI director.

Members of Congress are being whipsawed by the political forces that are pulling them apart. The debate that goes on in this building is going to reach a crescendo — eventually. How it concludes remains anyone’s guess.

I felt like sharing this picture with you today as we all ponder the proverbial gale-force winds that are going to rock the Capitol Building in the weeks, months — maybe years — to come. They also are going to pound that building at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

It’s where the president and his family currently reside. It’s the place the president supposedly referred to as a “real dump.” It’s no such thing. However, the White House — as well as the Capitol Building — will have to withstand some mighty ferocious forces.

Thus, the serenity you see in the picture here is a disguise.

That’s it: Blame Congress now

Here, dear reader, is a tweet that came from the president of the United States. It is just another in an endless litany of shocking pronouncements from Donald John Trump Sr.

Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!

There you have it. The president has blamed Congress for enacting a tough sanctions bill against Russia. He didn’t say a word in that tweet about his signing the bill into law. Lawmakers approved the bill with overwhelming majorities and they undoubtedly would have overridden any presidential veto.

Indulge me for a moment.

The U.S.-Russia relationship has tanked because the Russians have been caught — and please pardon the somewhat dated description here — red-handed in their effort to attack the U.S. electoral process. The Russians sought to meddle in our 2016 presidential election. Intelligence analysts have concluded the Russians did it. Members of the Trump administration have drawn the same conclusion.

The only high-ranking U.S. official to equivocate is the highest-ranking of them all: the president.

Congress acted as it should have acted by imposing new sanctions on the Russians — and by assuring that Congress has the final say on any effort to lessen or eliminate them.

Yet the president continues to hold tightly to this notion that he can “negotiate” better deals with Russians than Congress.

I should add that Trump signed the sanctions bill without the usual fanfare associated with high-profile bill signings. No TV cameras were present; the president didn’t hand out pens to officials as he etched his signature to the document. The signing was carried in the proverbial dead of night. Why is that?

Now he’s going after Congress yet again for doing what it is entitled to do.

Just suppose for a moment that Donald Trump finds himself in grave political trouble down the road. Suppose special counsel Robert Mueller concludes that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian effort to sway the election; let’s also suggest that Mueller might find evidence of obstruction of justice stemming from Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

All of this well might bring the president to the brink of impeachment by the House of Representatives. It is at that point that the president is going to need every friend he can find on Capitol Hill to save his backside.

Is this how he nourishes those relationships, by blaming Congress for the deterioration in U.S.-Russia relations?

Is bipartisanship making a comeback in the Senate?

Oh, I do hope my ears and eyes aren’t deceiving me.

I’ve heard during the past day or so that the failure of the Republican-authored bill to replace the Affordable Care Act has produced a remarkable event.

It is that Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington are going to actually talk to each other about how they might find a path toward improving the ACA.

Alexander chairs the Senate Health Committee and is committed to working with Murray to commence bipartisan hearings next month that would fix some elements of the existing health care law.

I do believe this is how effective government is designed to work.

The Senate Republican caucus sought to craft an ACA replacement without any Democratic help. The House of Representatives did approve its version of an ACA replacement, also without Democratic input or votes. It fell to the Senate to complete the job. The Senate failed when they lost three GOP senators, killing the totally partisan measure.

Now the Senate is blundering its way toward a compromise solution. Sens. Alexander and Murray are leading the way.

They’re both Capitol Hill veterans. They’ve been around long enough to know how the place can actually work. Alexander and Murray aren’t alone in that knowledge, to be sure.

It well might be time for Republican congressional leaders — in both legislative chambers — to accept that the ACA is the law of the land and that it’s likely to remain the law of the land.

Many of us out here in the heartland have noted that the ACA is far from perfect. Its chief proponent, former President Obama, has implored Republicans to find a bipartisan solution to repair the law. GOP lawmakers, though, have been hung up on repealing the ACA.

A one-party solution hasn’t worked out for the Republicans.

There now appears some momentum building for a return to the proven strategy of working together — with both parties sitting at the same table — to find some common ground.

That’s how you legislate.

Open wide, Mr. President, and swallow this bill

Congress has just force-fed Donald J. Trump a heaping helping of his least-favorite veggie, chased down with a bitter concoction of political reality.

The president signed a bill that imposes tough new sanctions on Russia. He doesn’t like the bill. He signed it anyway, then took a series of shots at Congress for — as the president implied — undermining executive authority to conduct foreign policy.

Poor guy. What lawmakers have done is hold him more accountable for the way he deals with Russia, the nation that meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

Trump continues to remain virtually silent on the meddling matter. He has said utterly nothing in public about the harsh retaliation that Vladimir Putin recently took in response to the sanctions bill; the Russian president ordered the expulsion of 755 U.S. diplomats and foreign service staffers. Trump’s reaction? Silence, nothing.

So now we have imposed more sanctions on Russia. The president needs congressional authority to lighten them, which gets under Trump’s paper-thin skin.

He lashed out at Congress for its inability to approve a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and said he, alone, is able to negotiate better deals with foreign powers than those nincompoops on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, the probe into Russia’s meddling continues. The president needs to let that investigation proceed full throttle. If it produces nothing, then Donald Trump can crow himself hoarse. If it comes up with something, um, incriminating, then he has to deal with whatever consequences fall into his lap.

If the president isn’t going to speak out on behalf of our electoral system, then it behooves Congress to articulate a nation’s outrage. That is what lawmakers have done with this sanctions bill — and they have forced it down the president’s throat. Good for them!

Remember the term ‘co-equal branch’

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has laid down a marker to the U.S. Senate.

Lawmakers shouldn’t vote on anything else, he said, until they vote once again on a Republican-authored bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

There you have it. One branch of government is seeking to dictate to another branch how it does its job.

Hold on here, Mr. Budget Director.

Mulvaney ought to know better. He served in Congress before Donald John Trump tapped him as budget director. He used to fight on behalf of congressional prerogative, which is spelled out quite explicitly in that document called the United States Constitution.

The Constitution, furthermore, does not give the executive branch a single bit of authority over how the legislative branch conducts its business.

The term of art for more than two centuries has been that all three government branches are “co-equal.” That means they all have equal amounts of power. One branch cannot bully another branch.

“In the White House’s view, they can’t move on in the Senate,” Mulvaney said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “You can’t promise folks you’re going to do something for seven years, and then not do it.”

Got it, Mick. Do not, though, try to push senators around by laying out their legislative priorities for them. That’s their job. It’s in the Constitution. Really … it is!

Is the Trump-Putin bromance over … finally?

Donald John Trump Sr. and Vladimir Putin once were thought to be made for each other.

One of them is a tough guy; the other seems enamored of tough guys. Putin is the former; Trump would be the latter.

Now, though, their relationship has taken a turn for the worst. Congress enacted a tough new sanctions protocol against Russia — as well as against North Korea — that prohibits the president from scrapping them without congressional approval.

Trump says he’ll sign the sanctions bill.

Putin responded this weekend by ordering the removal of 755 American diplomats from Russia, dramatically reducing the U.S. presence in that country. The Russian president seems to think his response is equivalent to the U.S. expelling of 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the Russians’ meddling in our 2016 presidential election.

It’s not at all proportional.

The question remains: Will the U.S. president stand firm or will he roll over?

Trump has been maddeningly reluctant to call the Russians out for their interference in our election. He keeps equivocating by suggesting that “it could be anyone” other than the Russians. He dismisses U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that the Russians acted alone.

Will see how this plays out. My hope is that Trump awakens from his infatuation with Putin and concludes that the Russians aren’t our friends — and that the two leaders have wildly differing views on their personal relationship.

Listen to this senator

This video lasts 4 minutes and 34 seconds. It is part of a speech that U.S. Sen. John McCain delivered in the midst of an impassioned debate on the Senate floor about whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

McCain came back to Capitol Hill to cast a decisive vote against repeal and replacement of the ACA, effectively killing the Republican effort to affect one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

McCain’s speech, though, deals mostly with the political process that has rendered the Senate virtually impotent. The body has become infected with a win-at-any-cost mentality that McCain says strips the Senate of the title of being “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

McCain — who’s battling brain cancer — took responsibility for being part of the problem. He would go on later to call for a return to “regular order.” He wants the Senate — and I presume the House of Representatives, too — to return to process that encourages compromise and cooperation among lawmakers of both political parties.

It’s not that way now. The word “compromise” has become an epithet. Sen. McCain is right to call for a return to the old way of doing things on Capitol Hill. It’s the only way out of the morass that has engulfed the nation’s legislative branch of government.

Listen to this snippet. It speaks volumes about a brave and heroic American. Our political system needs many more just like him.

Yep, Mitch, it’s time to ‘move on’

Mitch McConnell sounds like a man who has cried “Uncle!” in his long-running effort to toss out a law that is linked to a man he once vowed he would make a “one-term president.”

The U.S. Senate majority leader didn’t succeed in limiting former President Obama to a single term; nor did he succeed in repealing his signature piece of domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

It’s time to “move on,” he said this week after the latest — and most dramatic — failure to repeal the ACA.

Yes, Mr. Leader, it is time. Sure, you now have a chance to tinker with the ACA, to improve it. The Senate’s top Republican can work with Democrats — for a change! — in finding some common ground.

But the task of legislating, which McConnell knows as well as any one in the Senate, involves lots of complicated things. It involves building and rebuilding relationships with your colleagues from the “other party.” It means you have to deal with myriad crises that crop up around the world without a moment’s notice; and brother, we have a lot of ’em, right, Mitch?

It also means that the leader also has constituents back home in Kentucky who need matters dealt with that concern only them and only their state. I am going to presume that McConnell has a Senate staff that is tasked with tending to those needs on his behalf.

The Battle of the Affordable Care Act is over, Mitch. You lost. The other side held together.

The Senate can fix what’s wrong with the ACA, keep its name, and deal forthrightly with a heaping plate of issues that need its attention.

Oh, yes. We also have that “Russia Thing” that needs our attention.