Tag Archives: Congress

McCain keeps fighting the good fight

I want to offer some kind words about John McCain.

One year ago, Sen. McCain received a medical diagnosis no one wants to hear: He had contracted an aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma.

I don’t know what the docs told him about his prognosis. Sen. McCain has indicated it was grim.

But he’s still with us. For that I am grateful.

I’ll be candid about Sen. McCain. I disagree with his conservative political views. I did not vote for him when he ran as the Republican nominee for president in 2008.

However, I long have admired Sen. McCain for the valiant public service he has given to his country. It spans many decades, including his years as a Navy officer.

In 1967, the young aviator had the extreme misfortune of being shot down over Hanoi during the height of the Vietnam War. He was taken captive and held for more than five years. He was injured when he ejected from his jet fighter; his wounds never were treated properly. He was tortured and submitted to solitary confinement.

He persevered. McCain ran for Congress, being elected to the House and then to the Senate.

His courage has never been doubted. His heroism in a time of war is well-documented. I long have admired this man’s service and I have saluted him — through this blog — many times.

I just feel compelled to wish Sen. McCain well as he continues his valiant battle. I consider him a heroic figure.

To what end will this investigation lead?

I’ve spent a good part of my day sitting in my study. My TV has been tuned to a cable news channel, which has been broadcasting a congressional hearing with a single witness: FBI agent Peter Strzok.

My question is this: For what purpose are they conducting this all-day marathon?

Strzok used to serve on Robert Mueller’s team that is looking at Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Then he and another agent, Lisa Page, were fired. Mueller canned them when it became known that they had exchanged anti-Trump messages via e-mail. Congressional Republicans allege a deep bias against the president. They are contending that the alleged bias taints the Mueller probe. They are seeking to undermine Mueller’s probe.

So, where is this investigation going? The U.S. House Oversight Committee is going to issue some kind of report. Then what? Suppose the report determines Mueller’s team has been biased and has conducted a corrupt investigation into whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians who meddled in our 2016 election. Are they going to recommend an end to the probe?

Strzok has defended himself fiercely. He said he and the FBI did everything “by the book.”

I keep circling back to the man at the top of the investigation, Robert Mueller.

I remain quite convinced that Mueller’s integrity is intact. He is a former FBI director. He is known to be a meticulous lawyer. Mueller has assembled a top-tier legal team to probe deeply into the myriad issues surrounding the Trump campaign.

As for the president’s assertion — backed up by his GOP allies in Congress — that the Russia probe is being dominated by “13 Democrats,” this flies in the face of the fact that Mueller is a life-long Republican; so is the man who appointed him, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein; and … so is the man Trump fired as FBI director, James Comey.

Trump accuses Mueller of launching a “witch hunt” against him. I strongly suspect another type of “witch hunt” is under way. It ‘s occurring in Congress and the target is Mueller, who the GOP is targeting because he is inching closer to the White House in his probe into what happened during the 2016 presidential campaign.

House Oversight Committee Republicans have one of Mueller’s former team members — Peter Strzok — in their sights.

Where in the world is this congressional probe heading? I think it will end up in the ditch, right along with the Benghazi probe.

Term limit movement might have taken a big hit

I feel compelled to offer a word about term limits and the notion that we ought to restrict the length of time people can serve in Congress.

I’ll provide a name that suggests that we already have term limits: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The 28-year-old New York City community activist knocked off a 10-term Democratic incumbent, Joe Crowley, in Tuesday’s primary election. Crowley was thought to be on the fast track to serious congressional leadership and power.

He is now on a faster track toward private life. Why? He wasn’t doing the job to his constituents’ satisfaction. So they acted. With their votes. Crowley is a goner.

Term limits? We’ve already got ’em, man!

Get set for another key court decision on being gay

Step up, Stacy Bailey. I think you’re about to become a national celebrity and a lightning rod for a highly emotional talking point.

Bailey once taught in an elementary school in the Mansfield (Texas) Independent School District in Arlington. Then she got suspended by the school system. Why? Because she showed her students a picture of her wife.

The Mansfield ISD is empowered to suspend or even fire employees based on their sexual orientation. Oh, brother. This needs to be litigated and the courts need to do what it did for the issue of gay marriage, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 of our United States.

Texas is one of 28 states that allows employers to take such punitive action.

As Fox News reported: The school district released a statement saying they are and have always been “an inclusive, supportive environment for LGBT staff for decades.” Action was taken against Bailey, they say, because allegedly “her actions in the classroom changed.”

Bailey was removed from the classroom after a parent complained that she showed a picture of her and her then-girlfriend and now-wife to her students.

Read the entire Fox story here.

I am unaware of how the MISD defines how her “actions in the classroom changed.” If the “change” involves merely showing students a picture of the teacher and her wife, then I believe the Mansfield district has a serious problem on its hands.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage on the basis of the Equal Protection Clause stated in the U.S. Constitution. To my way of thinking, “equal protection” applies to Stacey Bailey. She and her spouse are entitled to be married and to live together just like all Americans.

How in the world does that affect her ability to teach children?

Fox News reported this about the Civil Rights Act of 1964: The statute says, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer… to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

“The questions is whether ‘sex’ covers sexual orientation and gender identity issues,” attorney Sandra Mayerson told Fox News.

If the court system doesn’t rule in Bailey’s favor eventually, my hope then rests with Congress and whether our nation’s lawmakers will have the courage to insert the words “sexual orientation” into the Civil Rights Act.

It’s only right.

Time to re-calibrate political antennae

Twenty-three years in the Texas Panhandle gave me an up-close look at politics in one of the state’s most reliably Republican regions.

I’m no longer living there full time. I hesitate to say my wife and I have severed our ties to the Panhandle, because we haven’t … exactly. We’re still making periodic trips back to check on family matters.

But the fact remains that we’re registered to vote in Collin County, which brings me to the point of this blog.

I am having to re-calibrate my political antennae. I now must look at other sources for local political grist to help keep High Plains Blogger reasonably fresh. This will be a challenge for me.

I wanted to vote in the next election for the 13th Congressional District. Although I harbor a considerable personal affection for the congressman who has represented the district since 1995, Mac Thornberry has been a disappointment to me. It just so happens that his Democratic opponent this year is a good friend of mine, a fellow I’ve known almost as long as I’ve known Thornberry.

Greg Sagan wants to represent the 13th District when the next Congress convenes in January. Will he be able to step into the job? That remains huge, given the 13th’s significant GOP bent.

Sagan has made one pledge that Thornberry — despite critics who contend wrongly that he did — never made: Sagan has vowed to step aside after serving a set amount of time. Thornberry didn’t make such a declaration for himself, although he has endorsed congressional term limits legislation whenever he’s had the chance to vote on it.

But I believe it’s time for a change in the Panhandle’s congressional representation. Although I cannot vote for Sagan, I can speak on his behalf through this blog, which I intend to do when the opportunities present themselves between now and November.

My former Texas state representative, John Smithee, has a Democratic foe this fall. He is Mike Purcell of Amarillo, with whom I have a casual acquaintance. Smithee is another matter. I’ve known him well since my arrival in Amarillo in 1995. What I’ve always liked about John is his willingness to answer direct questions with equally direct answers. Have I always agreed with the Republican’s legislative point of view? No, but his candor always has meant much to me whenever I sought it from him.

Purcell’s chances of defeating Smithee are, um, zeee-ro!

Again, I cannot vote in that one either.

***

As for the statewide races on the ballot, I’ll be dialed in on one for sure: the U.S. Senate contest between Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

I won’t belabor the point here about the Cruz Missile. I do not want him re-elected. My strong preference is for O’Rourke, if only because I want him to think first of Texans and much less of his own political ambition. Sen. Cruz, to my mind, has demonstrated clearly that he puts his own needs, wishes and desires first. Ted Cruz needs to go.

I’ll chime in later on the race for governor and some of the other statewide races, namely the contest for agriculture commissioner.

I’ll be watching all this unfold from a new perch in the Metroplex. I’ll need to get up to speed in a hurry in the race for the 3rd Congressional District, Texas Senate District 8 and Texas House District 89, all three of which will be represented by freshman lawmakers next January.

Hey, come to think of it, everyone is starting fresh in the halls of power in Austin and on Capitol Hill.

Just like me!

GOP House caucus stampedes lame-duck speaker

It’s no secret that the U.S. House of Representatives Republican majority at times can turn into an unruly bunch.

The TEA party faction, along with the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus, drove former Speaker John Boehner batty enough to make him quit.

Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, is getting the same treatment. The House Freedom Caucus helped torpedo a new farm bill for reasons that hardly anything to do with farm policy.

Ryan is a lame duck. He isn’t seeking re-election to the House from Wisconsin. Indeed, his speakership has been no picnic from the get-go. He now is finding it difficult to keep his own partisan troops in line, let alone getting any help from Democratic House members who don’t much like or respect him to begin with.

The farm bill got entangled with immigration, according to The Hill:

The House bill became inextricably linked with immigration after the Freedom Caucus demanded a vote on the conservative measure as moderates neared the 206 signatures needed to force a vote on a separate immigration plan that falls well short of the proposal pushed for by the White House.

Despite leadership offering the group of conservative hardliners a vote on the immigration measure in June, the members refused to back the legislation.

House conservatives seemingly want to poison an important aid to farmers and ranchers with an issue that ought to stand on its own.

As for the speaker, he told the country he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to seek the job he now holds. I guess he meant it.

Speaker Ryan’s remaining time as the Man of the House appears headed for a rocky conclusion.

House chaplain to stay on the job … good deal!

Politicians can and do have second thoughts, yes?

Consider what happened with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to ask for the resignation of House chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy.

He pulled it back. Father Conroy will stay on the job, offering prayers for legislators as they grapple with the issues of the day.

Ryan had incurred considerable national anger when he asked Conroy — a fellow Catholic, as is Ryan — to resign. Ryan hasn’t yet explained his reason for seeking the chaplain’s resignation. Reports have swirled that Father Conroy had offered a prayer that some had taken as criticism of the Republican caucus’s passage of a tax-cut bill that Donald Trump signed into law.

Ryan asked Father Conroy to submit a letter asking the speaker to rescind his request to resign. Conroy did and Ryan accepted it.

As The Hill reported: “I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House,” Ryan said. “My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves.

 “It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body,” Ryan added, “and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post.”

The speaker is correct that the House need not be battered by a “protracted fight” over the chaplain.

Except that Ryan started the fight by issuing the resignation request in the first place.

I am one American who is demanding an explanation from Ryan why he picked the fight with the priest. Please tell us, Mr. Speaker, that your initial request had nothing to do with partisan politics.

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.