Tag Archives: Congress

Wyoming: where few folks live, where U.S. rep wields huge clout

RAWLINS, Wyo. — This is a charming town in the south-central region of a sprawling state.¬†It sits somewhere between two fictitious towns to which I refer when I’m trying to illustrate sparse population: Resume Speed, Wyo., and Bumfu*, Egypt.

Here’s the deal with Rawlins, and with Wyoming: The state shares the rare distinction of having three statewide representatives in Congress; by that I mean two U.S. senators and one U.S. House of Representatives member. The other states are North and South Dakota, Alaska and Montana.

But let’s talk about Wyoming.

Its lone U.S. rep is a young woman named Liz Cheney. You might have heard of her. Her parents are Dick and Lynn Cheney. Dad Cheney has considerable political credential: former vice president, former secretary of defense, former congressman — from Wyoming, no less, former White House chief of staff. The dude’s been around, you know?

He passed his political interest on to his daughter, Liz, who recently moved to Wyoming so she could run for Congress from the state that ranks No. 10 in geographical area among all 50 states.

She faced down carpetbagger accusations, given that she grew up Back East, while Dad was serving as congressman, defense secretary during the Bush 41 administration and WH chief of staff for President Ford.

I don’t know how well Liz Cheney has acquainted herself with Wyoming’s unique issues. The state has a couple of impressive national parks, it is teeming with spectacular beauty; they mine a lot of coal in Wyoming; driving across the magnificent landscape one sees a lot of wind farms as well. They all require federal attention.

Given that Rep. Cheney represents the same constituencies as Sens. John Barraso and Mike Enzi, Wyoming gets a three-fer in political clout. Cheney is not bashful, either, about wielding her power, as the second-term House member already is chairing the House Republican Caucus.

Oh, and gerrymandering, the task that allows state legislators to carve up their states according to population trends? Not an issue in Wyoming. No such thing as “gerrymandered congressional districts” here.

There might come a day when the state gets a second House member. For now, all the state’s 580,000 residents should appreciate having a U.S. representative who answers to them.

Mr. Sam knew his place

BONHAM, Texas — The plaque pictured here offers an important civics lesson. It tells of the late Sam Rayburn’s role as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and also as a rank-and-file member of the legislative branch of the federal government.

The great Mr. Sam said he didn’t work “under” eight presidents, but that he worked “with” them. Listen up! Pay attention!

Too many presidents over many decades have fancied themselves as bigger than their office, occupying an office bigger and more powerful and meaningful than the other two co-equal branches of government.

Yes, Donald Trump, I refer to you as well.

Rayburn served in the House with eight presidents, the first of whom was Woodrow Wilson; the last of them was John F. Kennedy. Rayburn died in November 1961.

He was the Man of the House, even when he wasn’t pounding the gavel as its speaker.

I came back to the Rayburn Library and Museum today to show my visiting brother-in-law — who is quite a student of history — this place my wife (his sister) and I visited for the first time just a few weeks ago.

I didn’t see the plaque on our first visit. I feel compelled to offer these few words as a tribute to the understanding that Speaker Rayburn had about Congress and its role as a partner in the making of laws that govern all Americans. He was a student of government and knew he was duty bound to work within the system, reaching across the partisan divide, to find common ground in search of the common good.

There is a huge lesson that needs to be learned in the present day. Donald Trump, then the Republican nominee for president, declared in the summer of 2016 that “I, alone” can repair the things that he said were ailing the country. Uh, Mr. President, good government is most definitely a team sport, requiring all branches of government — even the judiciary — to play a role in the crafting and interpretation of law.

Sam Rayburn knew what has been lost on occasion in the present day. Legislators dig in against the president, who digs in against the men and women who serve in Congress. Nothing gets done. They all seek to declare political victory, when in reality they all fail.

Given that we have only one president at a time, the onus for failure — at least in my mind — falls on the doofus in the White House at the moment.

I cannot stop thinking at this moment how the great Sam Rayburn would react to the bullying and showboating he would witness from down the street at the White House.

My guess? He wouldn’t stand for it.

From our heartbreak, seeing signs of hope

Our hearts are broken across the land as we ponder what happened within hours of each other in two communities, in El Paso and Dayton.

Moronic madmen opened fire on innocent victims. Twenty-two of them died in El Paso, nine in Dayton; dozens more were injured. Police arrested a young man in El Paso and will charge him with multiple counts of capital murder; the cops gunned down the Dayton killer.

We grieve as a nation.

There might be a glimmer of hope arising from our sorrow. How does it present itself?

It might be occurring on the twin-track debate that has commenced.

We’re talking simultaneously about measures we might be able to enact to tighten control of gun purchasing and ownership. No, I’m not talking about watering down the Second Amendment. I stand with those who support the amendment’s guarantee that our right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

There must be a legislative remedy that withstands constitutional scrutiny. Congress hasn’t acted on it. It refuses. Donald Trump won’t take up that cudgel. The gun lobby continues to throw around its weight in the halls of power.

I am not going to join those who want Congress to return immediately from its recess to enact such legislation. Lawmakers will return and then they get to work. I want them to listen to their constituents’ concerns.

Indeed, just this morning, my congressman, freshman Republican Van Taylor, was visiting with constituents here in Princeton, where I am absolutely certain he heard from those who are concerned about the gun violence that keeps erupting around the country. He needs to keep his ears open as he travels through the Third Congressional District of Texas during his time away from Capitol Hill.

The second track is equally important. It deals with the hateful rhetoric we are hearing from politicians, namely from the top! Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric must end. He won’t acknowledge the role his statements have played in the spasm of violence. The El Paso shooter apparently acted out of hatred for Mexican immigrants. Much of a screed published just minutes before he opened fire at the Wal-Mart complex mirrors the rhetoric that Donald Trump has bellowed at campaign rallies since before he became president.

We must continue to have this debate, too, even as we enter a presidential election year.

Many of us had hoped that the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre would engender a long-standing debate. Many of those students became articulate spokesmen and women for the cause of gun reform. Their voices have faded into the background.

Now comes the latest chorus. The debate runs along dual tracks: gun violence and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

I want the debate to continue for as long as it takes, even as we seek to mend our broken hearts.

Speaker Rayburn’s credo: Just tell the truth

BONHAM, Texas — The text below the picture posted with this blog item offers a fundamental and irrefutable truth about those who serve in public office.

It is simply to tell the truth at all times. “You don’t have to remember what you said,” the text tells us.

Who said it? The late great U.S. House Speaker Sam Rayburn, arguably Bonham’s favorite son.

He was known simply as Mr. Sam. He mentored many huge Texas political icons, men he taught the lessons of legislating and leadership. He was known to be a plain speaker, a man of enormous integrity. Mr. Sam did not enrich himself at the public trough.

I came to his library and museum today. My wife and I took a tour of the simple but still elegant exhibit and learned a little more about this legendary political figure.

I was struck by the text I cited at the beginning of this blog post because — and you likely know where this is going — of the conduct we have seen exhibited by the current president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

I have no idea how Speaker Rayburn would react to the incessant, relentless and unceasing lies that pour forth from Donald Trump. I only can presume to believe that he would be appalled, aghast and astonished at what would he hear.

The library and museum speak silently but eloquently to the kind of man Rayburn was. He represented his North Texas congressional district with honor, as he did the House of Representatives as the Man of the House.

Sam Rayburn’s honor, to my mind, was built on his effort to speak honestly and truthfully. It is a lesson that is lost totally on too many politicians who have come along after him.

That means you, too, Donald John Trump.

POTUS: Do as I say, not as I have done … for decades!

Oh, Mr. President, you just cannot stop tripping over yourself.

Your statement issued over the weekend that The Squad shouldn’t criticize the presidency, the nation, its policies flies directly in the face of your own personal history.

You tell the four Democratic congresswomen with whom you have been feuding that they need to quell their criticism. They shouldn’t speak ill of the government, you say. They shouldn’t speak out against our nation’s policies. You tell them, essentially, to keep their mouths shut.

Then you say they owe you, the nation and the rest of Americans and apology for all those criticisms they have leveled.

Are you serious, Mr. President?

What in the world did you do for decades? You did precisely the very thing you accuse Reps. Alyanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of doing?

Many of us remember the epithets you hurled at President Obama, at Hillary and Bill Clinton, various local officials at several levels of government. You have called previous presidents “stupid.” You have slung intensely personal insults at presidents and senior Cabinet officials.

Hey, Mr. President, I am just one of your constituents out here, but I think I speak for others who wonder the same thing. You, sir, lack the moral standing to instruct anyone else on how to conduct themselves as it regards those in power.

You have spent a lifetime leveling intense — and often deeply personal — criticism of others.

Now you expect four freshmen members of Congress to clam up just because you tell them to do so?

You cannot possibly be serious.

My congressman is being seen more than heard

I had a chance to visit for a few minutes this week with my new congressman, a young man named Van Taylor. He’s a Republican, a former Marine and a former Texas state legislator from Plano.

I have no clue on Earth what kind of lawmaker he will become as he represents Texas’s Third Congressional District. However, I want to say something positive about the style he has adopted while settling in to his new responsibilities writing federal law.

He’s been quiet. One does not see Van Taylor on TV during every news cycle. Why? I reckon he wants to earn his spurs before he stands before the media to pontificate about this or that public policy matter. He says he prefers trying to build bipartisan bridges, working quietly across the aisle with Democrats.

I will concede a couple of points about Taylor.

First, he succeeds a legendary congressman, Sam Johnson, the former Air Force pilot who had the back fortune of being shot down during the Vietnam War and was held captive for seven years in the Hanoi Hilton; he spent most of his confinement in solitary quarters. It would be terribly bad form, therefore, for young Rep. Taylor to hog the spotlight while serving under the enormous shadow of the man he followed into the House of Representatives.

Second, he is a member of the minority party in the House. Democrats took control of the body after the 2018 midterm election. That means in many cases, Republicans’ voices aren’t as, oh, meaningful as those that come from Democratic throats.

Make no mistake, the Democratic majority has its boatload of media blowhards. They’re all rookie lawmakers, too. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is everywhere, it seems. There’s also Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota, Katie Porter of California and, I don’t know, maybe a dozen or more of them out there.

My representatives is taking a much more respectful approach to working his way into the limelight, if he ever gets to that point.

I just prefer the newbies in the House and Senate to earn their place before swallowing up all that air time and newsprint.

You’re off to a good start, Rep. Taylor.

Lobby reform: a tough hurdle to clear

Having already lauded Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez for reaching across the partisan chasm to take up the issue of lobby reform, I want to extol the virtues of what the lawmakers hope to accomplish.

The Republican Cruz and the Democrat Ocasio-Cortez say they want to prohibit members of the House and Senate from moving directly from public service into lobbying on behalf of well-heeled, deep-pocketed corporate sponsors.

Yes, the Cruz Missile and AOC have teamed up.

Why is their goal so important? Because it would deprive recently former lawmakers from parlaying their influence and friendships with their former colleagues into legislation that favors their new employers. It’s not a fair fight when lobbyists who do not have those connections have to compete with those who do have them.

I understand fully the role that lobbyists play. I do not oppose lobbying per se within the halls of power, as long as it’s done ethically and above board.

I do oppose the notion that legislators can walk directly from their public service jobs into their for-profit jobs, while gaining an unfair advantage as they campaign on behalf their sponsors.

We’ve seen this kind of thing happen all too often in Texas. Other states no doubt have the same issue that nags them, too.

Former Republican state Rep. David Swinford went to work for wind energy interests immediately after leaving his Texas House District 87 seat. Former Democratic Texas House Speaker Pete Laney left the House some years earlier and registered immediately as a lobbyist for agriculture interests.

That’s for the state to rectify. Perhaps it will eventually.

As for the federal lobbying reform, let’s hope Sen. Cruz and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez can use their newfound alliance to hammer out an overhaul that makes sense.

Whether a lobby reform bill ever gets a vote in both congressional chambers likely will serve as a test to determine whether Cruz and AOC are serious about the effort or whether they’re just pretending to be allies for the sake of positive news coverage.

Which is it? More to come or ‘case closed’?

Maximum frustration has set in.

Robert S. Mueller III stood before the nation and spoke for nine minutes Wednesday, summarizing the contents of his 448-page report that he filed after a 22-month investigation into allegations of “collusion” with Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

What is the takeaway?

Well, if you’re on one side of the great divide, Mueller has “cleared” Donald Trump of everything, that the president’s campaign has been exonerated of collusion and obstruction of justice. Congressional Republicans have declared the case to be closed. White House staffers have said that Mueller has wiped the slate clean, that the president didn’t do a single thing wrong.

If you’re on the other side of that chasm, you heard Mueller say something quite different. You heard him say that the president committed crimes while obstruction the investigation into the collusion matter. Mueller said that he couldn’t bring an indictment¬† because Justice Department policy banned it. You heard him say it now falls on Congress to take whatever measures it deems necessary.

I heard the second thing. I am one of those who believes what I heard Mueller say as he delivered his nine-minute explainer. He said in precise language that if he and his team could determine that Trump didn’t obstruct justice that they would have “said so.” They didn’t say it. Thus, they have left the door open for Congress to act.

My frustration comes as I listen to the Trump apologists — and for the life of me I don’t understand how they still exist — dismiss the findings, saying that the president is “exonerated.”

Mueller did not clear the president of obstruction!

Must there be an immediate commencement of impeachment proceedings? No. I stand with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who says Congress has more work to do before starting down that dangerous patch.

However, my frustration is sure to build as I continue to hear the Trumpsters defend what I believe is an indefensible series of crimes.

Mueller: Russian attack a clear threat to the U.S.

Robert S. Mueller III made his point this morning with crystal clarity the moment he took his place behind the Justice Department podium.

The Russian attack on our electoral system in 2016 presented a clear and present threat to our government, indeed our way of life.

That is how the former special counsel set up his remarks today in which he declared that his investigation into the Russian attack on our system is officially over.

Mueller didn’t say much more that many of us didn’t already know.

However, he did declare in no uncertain terms that the Russians did what many millions of us have known. They launched a “concerted attack” on our electoral system. They intended to “damage a presidential candidate.” That candidate was not the guy who won the election.

Yet the winning 2016 candidate keeps resisting the notion that Russian interference occurred.

I am going to side with Mueller on this one. He is the former FBI director chosen to lead the investigation into the Russian attack. Mueller is known to be a man of high integrity. His team conducted itself with integrity as well as it sought the truth behind the 2016 election.

Where do we go from here? It all depends on Congress. Mueller made that point, too. While saying he won’t talk to Congress, he did say that Congress has the authority — and the responsibility — to seek remedies to what Mueller said occurred.

Mueller has concluded that Trump has obstructed justice. He reminded us yet again that he could not indict the president, saying that DOJ policy prohibited what he said would be an “unconstitutional act.”

I accept that.

I also endorse wholeheartedly the notion that Russian government goons launched an attack on our electoral system. They sought to help Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.

The attack ought to be a major concern for “every American,” as Mueller said today.

Every American. That means you, too, Mr. President.

Trump overreach keeps growing

Donald Trump’s efforts at usurping congressional authority and legislative power are growing.

The House and the Senate both have voted against an appropriation to provide arms to Saudi Arabia, citing that government’s ruthlessness in his role in the Yemen civil war as well as the murder of a U.S. journalist at the hands of Saudi assassins.

What does the president do? He decides to invoke an executive action that circumvents Congress, thus consummating an $8 billion arms deal with the Saudis.

Trump says the threat posed by Iran is the reason he outflanked Congress. The Iranians and the Saudis hate each other. Saudi Arabia’s leadership is friendly to Trump, even though its crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, has been implicated in the murder of Saudi-born U.S. journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered while being held captive by Saudi goons.

Do you get the picture? Trump’s friendship with the guy they call MBS supersedes congressional authority. Therefore, Trump will ignore congressional insistence that we no longer support the Saudi involvement in the ongoing bloodshed in Yemen.

Do you think this might energize congressional Republicans to join their Democratic colleagues in their outrage over the president’s overreach into congressional authority?

I don’t think so, either.