Tag Archives: Freedom Caucus

Now it’s the Freedom Caucus resisting emergency declaration

Donald Trump listens only to his political base. The rest of us can go straight to hell, in Trump’s world.

Get a load of this: The Freedom Caucus, the group of ultraconservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives, is now pushing back on the president’s desire to declare a national emergency so he can obtain money to build The Wall along our southern border. Such a declaration might empower the president take funds earmarked for other projects to pay for The Wall.

No can do, Mr. President. Many of us believe that’s illegal.

The Freedom Caucus speaks out and, guess what, Trump pulls the emergency declaration off the table, at least for the time being.

At issue is government shutdown. It’s about to set a record for longevity. Hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed or are working without pay. They’re mad as hell. They’re griping to their members of Congress. Many of them are starting to hear their constituents’ complaints.

Trump has declared a “crisis” on our southern border. It’s a phony issue. The only crisis is occurring inside the White House and on Capitol Hill. I don’t mean to say we should throw open our borders and let everyone in — legally or illegally.

However, the national emergency won’t do a thing to stem whatever is occurring on the border. Illegal crossings have declined for decades. So have arrests. Trump, though, made a stupid campaign pledge to build The Wall; he said Mexico would pay for it, but now he is trying to foist the cost of The Wall on you and me while denying he ever said Mexico would write “a check.” Well, actually he did say such a thing.

In the meantime, about 800,000 federal employees have been kicked around like a battered football. They are suffering. They need to work. Trump, though, says he can “relate” to their troubles. The truth is he cannot relate at all; no rich kid who inherits millions from his father can “relate” to someone who’s actually must work for a living to feed his or her family and keep a roof over their heads. The president of the United States doesn’t demonstrate empathy for anyone — period!

There must not be a national emergency declaration. The president says the law is “100 percent behind” him. Actually, that’s a highly debatable point and you can bet every nickel in your piggy bank that Democrats are going to take any such declaration to court.

And, yes, the Freedom Caucus just might join them.

Pay attention, Mr. President. Your “base” is cracking.

Government shutdown: it’s on Trump

Here is where we stand with this partial shutdown of the federal government.

Donald Trump and some right wingers in Congress want to erect a wall along our southern border. The rest of Congress won’t give them the money to build that wall, which Trump pledged would be paid by Mexico.

The government has shuttered some agencies. All’s quiet in many federal agencies, along with Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, Democrats and some reasonable Republicans are blaming Trump for this monumental government cluster-flip.

But as Politico reports, Trump is OK with that.

I want to stipulate something that I believe is the reason behind this shutdown: It’s all about whether to build the wall; it has nothing to do with the overall scheme of “border security.”

Democrats want to secure the border as much as those rigid Republicans. They just don’t to erect a wall. They keep saying they support border security in the form of implementing and augmenting existing technology. Thus, they are willing to appropriate a sum of money that pays for those techniques.

That’s not good enough to suit Trump, members of that far right coalition called the Freedom Caucus and a handful of Fox News commentators and right-wing radio talkers. Indeed, it was the radio blowhards who got to Trump and persuaded him to renege on the pledge he made to Senate Republicans to sign the bill they approved.

That, my friends, is the sign of a mealy-mouthed weak leader. Yet the president pretends to be a strongman when in reality he is a tool, a puppet being manipulated by the right-wing element of his political base.

This shutdown might last a while. Or, it might end if senators and House members can come up with a compromise that everyone — including Donald Trump — can endorse.

This is an unacceptable state of play in Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump pledged to take control of government, to “drain the swamp,” to “unite” a nation torn by political division, to make the “best deals ever seen.” He is an abject failure.

He told congressional leaders in the Oval Office he would be proud to take ownership of a government shutdown. He’s got one now. Trump seems proud, all right. He also is acting like an ignoramus.

Despicable.

Freedom Caucus loses a member . . . more to follow?

Jeff Leach has just emerged as one of my favorite members of the 2019 Texas Legislature.

The Plano Republican state representative has just bolted from the Texas Freedom Caucus, a cabal of far-right wing legislators intent on steering the Legislature toward ultra-conservative government policies.

Leach says his goal now is to “unite” the Republican majority in the House. The Freedom Caucus — which morphed from the TEA Party wing of the Republican Party — has fought with fellow Republicans through the past legislative session. It tangled with outgoing Speaker Joe Straus and other GOP moderates who want to chart a more reasonable and, yes, “moderate” course for the state to follow.

It’s too bad Straus won’t be around after January when the next Legislature convenes. The new speaker-to-be, Dennis Bonnen, R-Arlington, appears at first blush to be more in the Straus model of legislator than the Freedom Caucus model.

That’s fine with me.

It’s also quite fine with me that the Freedom Caucus’s numbers have been diminished by one; it’s down to just 11 members, a tiny fraction in the 150-member Texas House. These yahoos, ‘er, legislators do have an outsized influence on the rest of the legislative chamber.

The Texas Tribune reports that Leach’s departure from the wacky Freedom Caucus appears to be an amicable one: “There appears to be no hard feelings between Leach and caucus leadership, at least publicly,” the Tribune reports.

Even if there are hard feelings, my own sense is . . . too bad.

Welcome back to the real world of legislative moderation and good government, Rep. Leach.

Speaker-to-be Bonnen is OK with the far right

Dennis Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, is poised to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

I wish him well. He succeeds Joe Straus of San Antonio, the GOP strongman who stood up to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate when the need arose.

I hope Rep. Bonnen is made of the same stern stuff. He’s a moderate who likes to work across the aisle. He has had his differences with the Freedom Caucus wing of the legislative Republicans who serve with him. But the Texas Tribune reports that almost all the returning Freedom Caucus members are OK with the new speaker, assuming he gets the nod in January.

I get that the Freedom Caucus comprises only 11 members in a 150-member Texas House. History tells us that far right and sometimes far left fringe groups develop outsized influence that reaches far beyond their meager numbers.

Given the nature of Texas Republican politics, it’s likely too much to assume the Freedom Caucus will follow the speaker’s lead and become more of a moderate influence in the Legislature.

Whenever I think of these far-right groups, I think immediately of Empower Texans, the right-wing loons who sought to topple two of the Legislature’s shining stars — two fellows who happen to be friends of mine to boot!

They are state Rep. Four Price and state Sen. Kel Seliger, two Amarillo Republicans who fended off challenges in handsome fashion. The challenge was financed by Empower Texans, the far right group that seeks to influence local political races all across the state. Empower Texans got its mitts on a number of contests, but given that I was living in during the spring primary season, I got to witness Empower Texans’ dirty work up close.

So, it is my hope that the new speaker keeps his distance from the Freedom Caucus and certainly from Empower Texans.

TEA Party? Where have you gone?

Don’t you remember when the 2010 midterm election produced a “shellacking” of the Democrats? It was delivered by what was then called the TEA Party.

Eight years ago, the TEA Party was the dominant insurgent force within the Republican Party. The TEA Party comprised Republicans who were fed up with being taxed too much.

Indeed, in recent years I’ve been using the term “TEA Party” in all capital letters, because it was born of a movement that proclaimed itself to be “Taxed Enough Already,” hence TEA Party is an acronym.

The TEA Party drove then-House Speaker John Boehner — a leader of the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party — to just this side of nuts. Indeed, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican and a friend/ally of Boehner, told me he believed Boehner was going to bail from the House because he was tired of battling the rebels within his GOP caucus.

It turned out Thornberry was right. Boehner quit the speakership and the House in 2015. He’d had enough.

The TEA Party has its share of lawmakers who’ve taken their message forward. Ted Cruz of Texas is one of them.

But since about 2016, we hear less of the TEA Party and more of another insurgent group of Republican lawmakers calling themselves the Freedom Caucus. It, too, is a low-tax outfit committed to cutting government spending on programs that have become part of the national fabric. You know, programs such as Medicare, Medicaid … those kinds of things.

The Freedom Caucus has picked up where the TEA Party (seemingly) left off in opposing the Affordable Care Act. They want to repeal the ACA, but I haven’t heard about whether to simply repair the ACA, make it better, preserve those elements of it that are working.

The Freedom Caucus has become every bit the political gadfly that the TEA Party became to the point of sending a speaker of the House of Representatives packing in the middle of his term.

It’s not that I miss the TEA Party. I don’t. I’m just wondering out loud how these movements come and go and how replacement insurgencies come to the fore.

I happen to favor good government, not necessarily big government. The TEA Party — wherever it is — wants to gut government. As one who appreciates the role government plays to improve people’s lives, I wouldn’t mind one bit if the TEA Party would simply vanish, never to be heard from again.

Same for the Freedom Caucus.

GOP launches impeachment against deputy AG?

What am I missing?

Congressional Republicans have accused their Democratic colleagues of being fixated on impeaching Donald J. Trump. They say Democrats would obstruct Congress’s business with their fixation.

So, what do GOP members do to, um, counteract that phony claim? Why, they draft articles of impeachment against Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Robert Mueller to be the special counsel to lead the investigation into the “Russia thing.”

This, folks, is a thinly disguised effort to derail the Mueller probe of the president’s alleged ties to Russians who attacked our 2016 presidential election. They are calling it a “witch hunt.”

So, their target of choice is Rosenstein, a fellow Republican appointed to his post by, um, Donald Trump.

The articles were drafted by Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, co-founders of the right-wing Freedom Caucus.

According to CNN.com: In a statement, Meadows said Rosenstein should be impeached because of the Justice Department’s stonewalling of congressional subpoenas and hiding information from Congress, and for signing one of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant renewals for Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

This impeachment effort won’t go anywhere. Support in the House is sketchy at best; in the Senate, it’s virtually non-existent.

What, then, is the point? Meadows and Jordan are pi**** off that Mueller’s probe appears to be closing in on the president. What it produces at the end is anyone’s guess.

It just goes to demonstrate once again that members of Congress insist on throwing stones at the other side without acknowledging their own shortcomings.

Get a grip, congressional Republicans. Let the Mueller investigation end on its own power.

Not a good day for our government system

I guess you can look at what many of us saw today through two prisms.

The congressional hearing that subjected FBI agent Peter Strzok to intense questioning was either:

  • A demonstration of the free-wheeling aspect of a representative democracy, or …
  • An exhibition of extreme partisanship, lowlighted by Republicans’ continual attempts to disrupt and throw the witness off his game.

Strzok was grilled for most of the day over emails he wrote that GOP House members say revealed an anti-Trump bias while he worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team that’s investigating the president’s 2016 election campaign.

He stood his ground. He denied any bias. He said his conscience is clear. The back and forth was remarkable in the anger it generated from Republicans who contended Strzok wasn’t answering their questions and from Democrats who objected to the constant hectoring of the witness.

I have two favorite spectacles from the hearing.

One was Freedom Caucus founder Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio — who’s been accused by athletes at Ohio State University of looking the other way when sexual abuse was occurring. Jordan kept interrupting Strzok, preventing him from answering the questions he was posing. Then Jordan would argue with a shrill voice that the agent was not answering his questions.

My other favorite moment involved the East Texas GOP loony bird, Rep. Louis Gohmert, who wondered whether Strzok was able to look into his wife’s eyes as he “lied” about his sexual relationship with another FBI page that Mueller fired from his legal team.

Gohmert the Goober could not have possibly sunk any lower with that kind of tawdry question. It drew howls of outrage from Democratic committee members.

All in all, this was not a good day for the cause of good government in America. We witnessed a clown show that should have ended hours ago.

7th wrestler comes forward … how many more are there?

A seventh Ohio State University wrestler has come forth with allegations that U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a former assistant coach at Buckeye U, knew about sexual abuse but did nothing about it.

The chorus is growing. Jordan, an outspoken founding member of the GOP Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, denies all the allegations.

All of them! All the young men who now contend that Jordan enabled sexual abuse by his turning the other way are telling falsehoods?

Jordan has suggested some sort of “Deep State” conspiracy is at play. I, um, don’t believe that’s the case.

Sex scandal grows at Ohio State … and in Congress

Jim Jordan isn’t your normal, run-of-the-mill back-bencher in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is an outspoken conservative, and is one of the founders of the Freedom Caucus.

He also now is finding himself possibly caught in a sex scandal of someone else’s making. The problem with Jordan’s role in it might be that he knew what was going on but remain quiet about it.

The Ohio State University wrestling program is beset with reports of men sexually abusing young men. They allegedly peered into the locker room and pleasured themselves while watching the athletes  shower or sitting in saunas. There are reports of sex acts as well.

Jordan’s role? He was an assistant wrestling coach who, according to at least five wrestlers, knew these events were happening but did nothing to stop them.

Jordan denies all of it. Donald J. Trump has called the accusers liars while defending his congressional ally.

But … the men’s stories are piling up. They are sounding as credible as, say, the women who accused former Alabama judge and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of assaulting them, or of the young men who accused former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of terrible deeds.

This story has all the makings of a scandal that is turning into a monstrosity.

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.