Tag Archives: Congress

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.

Let’s ‘walk and chew gum’

Washington, D.C., is the birthplace of countless clichés.

Such as, “At the end of the day,” we’re going to “kick the can down the road” while deciding whether to “walk and chew gum.”

The third — walking and gum-chewing — is the latest cliché du jour. It refers to lawmakers’ ability to investigate the president and legislate at the same time.

Donald Trump needs to learn that skill. Today, he demonstrated his inability to do what needs to be done for the benefit of the country he was elected to govern. He is angry with Democrats because they insist on getting at the truth behind questions about obstruction of justice, on the president’s personal finances and on whether he is covering up potential misdeeds.

Congressional Democratic leaders ventured to the White House today to meet with the president on infrastructure improvement, something Trump said he favors. Oh, but then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said something out loud about believing that Trump is “covering up” possible illegal activity.

The president hit the ceiling. He walked into the meeting room, didn’t shake any hands, didn’t sit down at the conference table. He stood and spoke for about 3 minutes and said he was done working with congressional Democrats on any legislative matters.

Then he walked out. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said Trump’s actions this morning were “jaw dropping.” He said the president walked into the meeting room with no intention of working with Democrats on infrastructure.

This is what we’ve gotten? A president who once pledged to “unify” the country who now walks away from any possible major legislative effort because he is angry at Democrats who are keeping faith with their constitutional mandate?

I remain opposed to impeaching this guy because impeachment — at this moment — likely will not result in his removal from office. House Democrats would impeach Trump; Senate Republicans do not appear likely to convict him.

However, Donald Trump’s continued petulance and the chaos that results from legitimate questions, though, is giving me serious concerns about whether impeachment is inevitable.

POTUS’s ‘goading’ continues at full throttle

At the risk of sounding as if I’m repeating myself: Donald Trump is really starting to pi** me off.

As in royally, man!

I happen to subscribe to the Speaker Nancy Pelosi doctrine of presidential impeachment. She doesn’t want to impeach the president. She knows how divisive such an act would be. She also can count votes.

The speaker likely has the votes in the House to actually approve articles of impeachment. The Senate, though, is far more problematic. Why? Because it is full of Republican cowards who are afraid to stand up to a president who is usurping their constitutional authority to investigate the executive branch of government.

And this is where my anger really boils at Donald Trump.

He has “instructed” a former White House counsel to skip a House committee hearing. The ex-counsel, Don McGahn — the guy who said Trump ordered him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in an effort to obstruct the probe in the “Russia thing” — has agreed with the president. He won’t show up.

Therefore, we have another demonstration of presidential executive overreach.

The court system has declared that Trump must turn over his financial records to Congress; the president will defy that order, too.

Trump has instructed his entire White House staff to ignore congressional subpoenas, angering the legislative inquisitors even more.

Thus, we now have a situation that Pelosi described not long ago. Donald Trump is “goading” the House to impeach him knowing that he would survive a Senate trial that is still run by Republicans. Indeed, only one GOP House member has declared that Trump has committed offenses worthy of impeachment. The Senate GOP caucus? Crickets.

I get the argument that some are pushing that House Democrats have a “constitutional duty” to seek impeachment if the president continues to flout the law. I also understand the political consequences of the House impeaching and the Senate letting the president wriggle off the hook.

This guy, Donald Trump, is giving me a serious case of heartburn. No amount of Pepto is going to cure it.

Trump ‘goading’ Democrats to impeach him?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has initiated a most fascinating talking point, which is that Donald Trump is “goading” Democrats into impeaching him, that he wants it because of the divisive impact it would have on the nation.

You know what? I happen to agree with her.

Pelosi stands against the idea of impeaching Trump. She can’t count votes. There likely are enough House votes to impeach Trump, but Pelosi doesn’t believe — and neither do I — that the Republican-controlled Senate would convict Trump in a Senate trial.

Trump knows it, too.

So he’s denying House and Senate committees any access to anything or anyone to answer questions about the Robert Mueller report. He is usurping congressional prerogatives granted the legislative branch in the U.S. Constitution. Congress wants to exercise its authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

Trump is now wanting the House to impeach him, or is daring House members to attempt such a move?

Pelosi has signed on to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s assessment that we have entered into a constitutional crisis. I believe them both. We have. It is going to get even uglier.

So here we go. The chaos president — as some have described him — is taking headlong into a maelstrom that suits this carnival barker just fine.

This is how you “make America great again”?

Hah!

Chairman Nadler: We are in a constitutional crisis

I believe I will stand with U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who today declared that the United States of America has become ensnared in a “constitutional crisis.”

Is it worse than, say, the crisis that led to President Clinton’s impeachment in 1999? Or worse than the Watergate matter that came within one House vote of impeaching President Nixon, before the president resigned in 1974?

I do not know how bad this has gotten.

However, I believe Chairman Nadler is correct. We are in a crisis of a highly serious nature. The Judiciary Committee had just voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress before Nadler made his “constitutional crisis” declaration.

Donald John Trump has stuck it in the ear of Congress, invoking “executive privilege” and denying lawmakers access to anything — or anyone — involved in matters relating to The Russia Thing.

The president is suggesting Congress has no power to carry out its constitutional duties. Attorney General William Barr has refused to release the complete and unredacted report filed by special counsel Robert Mueller — and has refused to testify before Nadler’s committee.

The fight is on!

Where it goes remains anyone’s guess at this point. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to oppose immediate impeachment procedures against the president. Why? She knows the danger of impeaching the president, only to have him walk away with an acquittal in a Senate trial. Pelosi can count votes as well as — or better than — most members of Congress. I happen to concur with her view about the impossibility of an impeachment, at least at this juncture.

None of that lessens the dangerous territory into which the nation is heading, according to Chairman Jerrold Nadler.

House Democrats are furious. Trump is angry with them. It has become a monumental game of chicken between the two co-equal branches of government. Neither side is likely to blink.

The end game well could produce the ugliest battle any of us have ever witnessed.

I don’t know about you, but I do not yet have the stomach to witness it. The potential for permanent damage to our system of government is scaring me sh**less.

Not sure how all this ends well for POTUS

I just don’t know how Donald John Trump’s stonewalling Congress is going end well for the president of the United States.

He is digging in on all fronts. No witnesses should testify before congressional committees; no documents are forthcoming; he wants to stop the special counsel, Robert Mueller, from testifying before Congress.

How does any or all of it not constitute an obstruction of justice?

The battle is coming. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler plans to file contempt of Congress complaints against Attorney General William Barr. Where it goes, of course, is anyone’s guess.

Unlike many previous presidents, this one seems resistant to “compartmentalizing” these relationships. He flies into rages at any challenge of the legitimacy of his election in 2016. He takes quite personally any criticism of any sort, from any source.

He has declared all-out war against Congress. He doesn’t understand, let alone appreciate, that the legislative branch of government has just as much power as the executive branch.

The collusion issue is a goner. Obstruction of justice remains in play.

Congress is seeking to assert its role in governmental oversight. One would think its Republican members — who comprise most of the Senate and a healthy minority of the House — would be willing to stand up for the legislative branch’s role. They aren’t. They are rolling over for the president.

Again, I must ask: How in the name of good government does this end well for the president?