Tag Archives: Freedom Caucus

Friendships honored along with a political icon

They buried a political icon today. I hope they did not bury the spirit of bipartisan friendships that this iconic figure embodied.

Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democratic member of Congress, died the other day of myriad medical complications. He served as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and became a leader in the debate over whether to impeach Donald J. Trump.

Cummings was a champion in the first degree. He fought for civil rights and also fought for civil political discourse.

As I listened to the tributes that poured in from across the political spectrum, I was struck by how much attention was paid to the honors paid by Republicans who served with Chairman Cummings. Given the nastiness that has poisoned the atmosphere in Washington over the course of time, it is instructive that so many Republicans would hail their personal affection and professional respect for this fierce Democratic politician.

One of them is Mark Meadows, a North Carolina GOP leader in the U.S. House Freedom Caucus. He is a fierce conservative. Yet he and Cummings were proud of their friendship. Meadows spoke of his love for his colleague while Cummings was lying in state on Capitol Hill — the first African-American politician to be accorded that honor. Former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina wrote a moving op-ed for the Washington Post that spoke of the Republican’s affection and respect for Cummings.

Indeed, the ranks of strange political bedfellows is long. Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Utah Republican, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, were famous for their friendship. Yes, there are many such relationships. Yet they flourish outside of the public eye.

When a politician of Cummings’ stature passes from the scene, it enables the nation to witness how these supposedly unlikely friendships have flourished even in the climate that can destroy them.

Elijah Cummings’ death saddens me. I am heartened, though, to see these exhibitions of love and respect that are coming from those with whom this good man had many fierce political battles.

It gives me a glimmer of hope that collegiality and political comity isn’t dead.

Oregon GOP returns to work, but one lawmaker faces complaint

The current Republican TEA Party/Freedom Caucus lunacy has taken a weird turn in Oregon.

Oregon’s Republican state senators ran into the tall grass, preventing the Senate from voting on a climate change bill that the state’s Republicans opposed. State Senate rules required at least 20 members to conduct business; the GOP holds 12 of 30 seats, leaving the Senate with just 18 lawmakers.

The bill couldn’t get a vote.

The renegade GOPers came back to work, but the Senate had to scuttle the bill because it still lacked the number of senators needed to do business.

Here is where it gets weird. One of the runaway Republicans, Sen. Brian Boquist, had threatened to shoot an Oregon state trooper who had been dispatched by Gov. Kate Brown to find the renegades. Fortunately, Boquist never took a shot.

However, a Democratic senator has filed a complaint over Boquist’s threat. As The Hill reported: “State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Conduct, told Oregon Public Broadcasting … that he had filed a formal complaint against Boquist, adding that a hearing would held early next month.”

This is not how you govern any of our 50 states. To be fair, Oregon Republicans aren’t the first legislators to pull off such a stunt. Texas Democrats, nicknamed the “Killer Bees,” did something similar in the early 1990s in defiance of then-Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby. I don’t recall, though, any of the Killer Bees threatening to shoot a Department of Public Safety trooper.

Good governance requires sanity. It’s missing in action way up yonder on one side of the aisle in the state of my birth.

Weird.

Trump turns ‘fealty’ into a litmus test for GOP candidates

So … just how weird has the political climate gotten in the Age of Donald John Trump?

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, the lone Republican (so far) to call for the president’s impeachment, has just quit the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. It’s not that Amash doesn’t fit the conservative mold for the Freedom Caucus. It’s because he doesn’t bow at the sound of Donald Trump’s name.

As Politico reports: Amash “faces a far more uncertain political future in the age of Trump, in which fealty to the president has often become a litmus test for the GOP.”

But here’s what I don’t quite grasp. Trump isn’t a true-blue Republican. His trade tariffs send “establishment Republicans” into orbit. The president has developed a classic “protectionist” trade policy that used to be popular among pro-union political progressives. Trump has slathered this policy under a coating of “putting America first,” which played well on the 2016 campaign trail. He was able to sucker enough voters to get him elected.

Trump has gone soft on Russia, the traditional adversary of U.S. geopolitical interests and the bogeyman among Republicans.

Donald Trump upset the political equation in a major way three years ago just by winning the presidency. Now he has captured the GOP and turned it into something few of us recognize.

Justin Amash once was thought to be a traditional libertarian conservative. He’s now an outlier among the GOP. Why? Because he cannot stand by idly while the president obstructs justice.

Go figure.

Will the ex-Marine be cowed by Congress? Hah!

Now comes the D.C. chatter about congressional Republicans wanting to take a bite out of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Mueller has finished his investigation into whether the Donald Trump presidential campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system. He and his legal team wrote a 448-page report; he turned it in to Department of Justice; Mueller remained silent until this week.

Then he spoke for nine minutes and said he had quit the DOJ, is returning to private life and said that his staff could not exonerate Donald Trump of allegations that he has obstructed justice.

Now we hear that GOP members of relevant congressional committees want to subject Mueller to harsh questions.

Let me think about this. I believe the ex-special counsel has declared that Trump has committed a crime by obstructing justice. He said he couldn’t indict the president because DOJ policy prohibits a sitting president from being charged with a crime.

Oh, but now some members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus — such as Reps. Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows and Devin Nunes — want to eviscerate the former FBI director. They want to question his motives. They want to cast aspersions on his credibility, integrity, perhaps even his love of country.

Hmm. Well, I am one American who believes in Robert Mueller. I honor his decades of public service — starting with his enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps and his combat service in the Vietnam War.

I also am quite certain that this combat veteran is not going to be cowed or intimidated by some grandstanding politicians who intend to make names for themselves.

Those who know Robert Mueller have signed off on his impeccable integrity and his commitment to conducting a meticulous investigation. He has served the nation well.

I heard his nine-minute soliloquy this week. I understand what he said. He has said in terms that ring with crystal clarity that had he and his team been able to clear Donald Trump of obstruction of justice that they would have done so.

Congress, it’s now up to you.

Rep. Meadows says he’s no racist, however . . .

There goes that dadgum social media again, producing evidence that people in public life say things they ought to regret.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, bristled badly Wednesday when fellow House Oversight and Reform Committee member Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, criticized him for bringing out an African-American staffer to prove he is “not a racist.” She thought that was a “racist” thing to do.

Meadows, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus wing of the GOP conference in the House, demanded that Tlaib’s comments be “stricken from the record.” Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, who is African-American, defended Meadows, calling him his “best friend.” Tlaib apologized for any incorrect inference that might have been drawn from her comments.

But then . . .

A video showed up. It is of Meadows campaigning for Congress in 2012. He talks about the “wrong direction” the country is headed under President Obama, the nation’s first African-American president.

Then he said it is time to send Obama “home, to Kenya or wherever it is . . . ”

Birtherism, anyone? Hmm?

Well, take a look at the link I am attaching to this post. The video is in there. Yep, it’s Rep. Meadows making the Kenya reference.

Check it out

I’m not going to call Meadows a racist. Just listen. You can make your own decision.

Dems worry about intraparty conflict? Get over it!

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly is worried that factions within the Democratic Party are too busy fighting with each other while not fighting hard enough against, oh, Donald Trump and the Republicans.

Hey, get over it, Mme. Speaker and your fellow party honchos.

Your friends on the other side have had their share of intraparty squabbles, too. There have been spats between the so-called Establishment Republicans and the TEA Party wing of the GOP; the TEA Party has morphed more or less into something called the Freedom Caucus, which continues to raise Cain against the Establishment types.

The Republican Party is going through much of the same kind of tumult, tempest and turmoil that plagued the Democrats back in the 1960s. Perhaps some of today’s Democratic leaders recall when the Vietnam War split the party — and the nation — between the Hawks and the Doves.

Fights sometimes are worth having

I don’t believe there’s as much to “worry” about as some within today’s Democratic Party seem to suggest there is.

A little internal fighting is good for the organization. It keeps everyone sharp, on both sides. Republicans have sought to take that lesson away during their own ideological struggles.

These lessons know no partisan boundaries.

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.