Tag Archives: GOP

Good call, Sen. Ernst; ask your ‘bosses’

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, is doing something quite useful.

Sen. Ernst says she is undecided on the Senate Republican health care overhaul plan designed to replace the Affordable Care Act. Her response? She wants to poll her constituents back home. She wants their opinion on what the Senate GOP wants to do to — or with — their health care insurance.

How about that, dear reader? She wants her bosses to weigh in, to give her advice on what she should do when this matter comes to a vote, possibly as early as this week.

Here’s the deal, though. It’s fair to wonder a couple of things about the freshman senator.

Is she truly undecided, or has she secretly made up her mind and is using the poll as a ruse? And if she polls her constituents, will the questions be fair, without a hint of bias? You know how these surveys can work. If you ask questions a certain way, you can elicit certain answers.

Sen. Ernst might not have much time to collect responses from her Iowa constituents. I’ll hope for the best for her and hope that she’ll do the right thing by asking the questions straight up and will act on what her constituents tell her … one way or the other.

If her bosses back home share the views of so many other Americans — that they detest the GOP alternative — I think I know what they’ll tell her if they’re given the chance to speak freely.

This contest could get interesting … maybe, possibly

I get uncomfortable when friends of mine become engaged in politics.

It’s about to happen again. The campaign for the 13th Congressional District has just welcomed a newcomer to politics. His name is Greg Sagan, who told local media that he only recently became a Democrat. What drove him to become a member of a political party? He said it was the election of Donald John Trump this past November as president of the United States.

So now he’s a politician. He is going to run against longtime Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry for the seat Thornberry has occupied since January 1995.

Pass the Pepto, will ya? This one gives me heartburn.

You see, I happen to be fond of Sagan personally. My wife and I have socialized with him and his wife. We’re also former colleagues of a sort. You see, back when I was editing the Opinion pages of the Amarillo Globe-News, Sagan was a regular contributor to the newspaper. He wrote a weekly column for the G-N. It was then that our relationship took root and then blossomed. His contribution to the newspaper ended when I resigned in August 2012.

I know Sagan to be a patriot. He served in the U.S. Navy and saw duty in Vietnam during the war that defined our generation. He is an unapologetic political progressive. He’s also a hell of a good writer. The boy can turn a phrase.

The campaign for Congress will get pretty damn serious around the first of next year, if not a bit sooner. My quandary centers on a couple of key points. One is that my wife and I most likely will have moved on by the time the campaign kicks into gear. I’ll likely be ineligible to vote in that election.

Of course, this blog will be firing plenty of ammo at this and/or that political target, which won’t take me out of the game completely.

I do not yet know how Greg is going to craft his campaign or what specifically will constitute his platform. Knowing him as I do I am certain he’ll hammer out a theme that makes sense, is cogent and is well-crafted.

He’s got a steep — I dare say nearly impossible — barrier to clear. If he’s the only Democrat to run in the 2018 primary, he’ll have to face a well-funded, well-seasoned and well-established incumbent who represents one of the country’s most reliably Republican congressional districts. GOP and, yes, Democratic partisans in Texas are known to be fiercely loyal to their officeholder.

I’ve known Mac Thornberry even longer than I’ve known Greg Sagan. I like Thornberry personally and over the years we’ve had a solid professional relationship and a cordial personal one. However, he has disappointed me many times over that span of time.

Is this the time for a change in our congressional representation? I don’t yet know. I do sense, though, that local Democrats are coping with the palpitations they get whenever someone emerges who they think can upset the status quo.

You go, Greg!

Health care is ‘hard,’ yes, Mr. President?

What once was “easy” has become “hard.”

So said the president of the United States. Yep, Donald J. Trump has told TV interviewers that efforts to overhaul health care legislation is a “hard” task, that it’s going to take time.

Who knew?

Certainly not the man who, while running for president, called it “easy.” He boasted from many campaign podiums that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act almost immediately upon taking office and replace it with … um, something else.

“It’s easy!” he bellowed.

Sure thing, bub.

It’s not so easy. The American Health Care Act barely cleared the House of Representatives. Now it’s the Senate’s turn to discuss and debate this matter. Except that only Republicans are doing the dickering; Democrats aren’t in the game.

And, oh yes. Now we have five Republican senators saying they dislike the current Senate legislation “in its current form.” The Senate, with a 52-48 GOP majority, can afford to lose only two votes; that would result in a tie and Vice President Mike Pence could cast the deciding vote, as he did when the Senate confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to her Cabinet job.

So, the president bragged and blustered about the ease of overhauling one-sixth of the nation’s economy. Today’s reality is telling him the hard truth, which is that legislating is a complicated job.

It’s hard, man!

Most toxic ever? Well … it’s a different type of toxicity

An acquaintance of mine posed a question to me today. Since he asked it in a public social media venue, I’ll answer it here.

He wondered: “Has it always been this toxic? Or are we entering a new era?” The “it” to which he referred is the political atmosphere.

I’ve thought about it for several hours and I’ve concluded that it’s more likely a “new era” than the most toxic ever.

This fellow seems to think I’m an expert on political matters. I’m not. I am, however, a 67-year-old red-blooded American patriot who’s been witness to a lot of anger, anxiety, fear and loathing in the halls of power.

One highly toxic era occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The first trigger was the Vietnam War, followed immediately — and in a related sort of way — the Watergate scandal. I served in that war for a time, came home and then got involved politically as a newly married college student.

Politicians were angry at each other because of their respective views on the war. That anger spilled into the streets. People died during riots. Then came Kent State in 1970 when National Guard troops opened fire and killed four student protesters. The nation was grief-stricken.

The Watergate break-in — in June 1972 — stirred Americans even more. The scandal that ensued threatened to swallow the nation in one big bite. It didn’t. The U.S. Constitution did its job; a congressional committee approved articles of impeachment against President Nixon, who then quit.

There was plenty of anger then, too.

Two decades later, a newly elected president became the focus of intense Republican anger. The GOP detested President Clinton. Republicans won control of Congress in 1994 and began their quest to get rid of him. They hired a special counsel, who then stumbled onto a discovery: the president’s relationship with a young White House intern. The counsel summoned the president, made him swear to tell the “whole truth” to a grand jury; the president didn’t uphold that oath when he was asked about the intern.

There you go. Impeachment proceedings began. Was there intense anger then? Uh, yeah. The air was poisoned by partisan bias. The House impeached President Clinton in 1998, but the Senate acquitted him in a trial.

Now comes the Donald John Trump era. The air is toxic. It’s full of bitterness. Democrats cannot stand the very idea of this guy being elected president of the United States. The president’s core supporters are firing back, telling Trump foes to get over it; he won fair and square.

Another special counsel is now on the job. He’s researching whether the president had an improper relationship with Russian government officials. The president has impugned the integrity of the political system, the nation’s intelligence network that has concluded Russians sought to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s tweet storms have infuriated his foes, energized his friends.

The president cannot seem to tell the whole truth. The only difference between this president’s penchant for prevarication and Bill Clinton is that Trump hasn’t lied under oath … yet.

Trump’s candidacy for president ushered in a new political era. His election as president hammered it all home. The reaction to his election has generated yet another storm the likes of which many of us never have seen.

Is it the worst ever? I won’t say that. It damn sure feels like something brand new.

Can’t get past the ACA repeal process

As I look over the outlines of the congressional Republicans’ effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I see precisely one element that’s worth supporting.

That would be the end of the “individual mandate” that requires all Americans to have health insurance or else face a federal penalty. That particular part of the ACA has bothered me from the get-go.

The rest of it? I cannot accept what the GOP has tried to do — in secret, with no Democratic input, no public testimony (other than the angry rhetoric members of Congress have heard at town hall meetings across the country).

This is star chamber legislation, despite what Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today said to the contrary.

***

Which brings me to my major point.

The process stinks to high heaven. Yes, it stinks even more than the way the ACA came into being, which wasn’t ideal, either. Still, the Democrats who ran Congress in 2009 at least were able to solicit public commentary while seeking in vain for contributions from their Republican colleagues in crafting the legislation.

Now we hear from former President Obama, who today weighed in with his scathing critique via Facebook. “Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm,” Obama wrote. “And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

The Hill story on Obama post is here.

Why is it mean? It gives tax breaks to the wealthy; it rolls back Medicaid insurance for poor Americans; it wipes out federal money for Planned Parenthood, a major contributor of health services to women.

The Senate version of this new measure resembles the House version. The House managed to approve it with a 217-213 vote. Today, four conservative GOP senators said they can’t support the Senate version, which — if they hold their ground — dooms the measure.

McConnell is going to tempt them with goodies and other amendments. We’ll have to wait for whatever rabbit McConnell pulls out of his hat.

If the end justifies the means by which congressional Republicans have cobbled this legislation together, then we’re witnessing an exercise in political cynicism at its worst. The GOP aim — to my way of thinking — has been solely to strip Barack Obama’s legacy of this landmark law.

Let’s all wait now for the Congressional Budget Office — the famously non-partisan auditing agency — to “score” this latest GOP monstrosity. If the numbers show what previous CBO analyses have revealed — that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance — then we’ll get to listen to GOP lawmakers criticize the CBO for being too, oh, dire or negative.

The dance, then, will continue.

13 men writing major legislation — affecting women

There’s a certain sense of astonishment at this bit of news.

Thirteen members of the U.S. Senate have written a draft of a bill that affects one-sixth of the nation’s gross domestic product.

They’re all Republicans; no Democrats are allowed.

They’re all men.

And here’s the astonishing part of it: The draft legislation seeks to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of health care services for women.

Where are the women of the Senate? Why are none of them working on this bill?

It’s like the Senate has become a boys’ club. I am now waiting for the sign on the conference room door that tells us “No girls allowed.”

This is how you produce legislation affecting such a huge portion of the national economy? This is how the Senate Republican leadership is developing a bill that seeks to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

It’s un-democratic. It’s un-American.

If you’re going to craft legislation that has a tangible impact on more than half of the nation’s population, it should be incumbent on lawmakers to include members of that demographic — the women of this nation — in putting it together.

So much for the Democratic ‘tide’ forming in Georgia

Jon Ossoff got thumped. Karen Handel is the new congresswoman from Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.

It was supposed to be a potential sign of a Democratic Party “wave” that could sweep the minority party back into control of the House of Representatives.

One little thing happened, though. Democrats fielded a candidate with an eligibility problem. He doesn’t live in the district. 

Ossoff lives about six miles outside the district; he’s sharing a residence with his fiancée. Ossoff said he grew up in the district, he knows it well and the fact that he didn’t abide by the electoral rules didn’t matter. Well, actually, young man — it does matter. A lot.

As for Handel, she tied Ossoff at the hip to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose name has become a four-letter word among Republican political operatives.

Did I want Ossoff to win? Sure. I’ve said that already. I did express some concern earlier about this residency issue and how it might nip him in the backside. It did.

The Sixth District is a reliably Republican one. It’s former representative, Dr. Tom Price, now serves as health and human services secretary. Donald J. Trump carried the district by a percentage point in 2016, while Price was being re-elected by double digits.

If Democrats have any hope of peeling off GOP districts in the future, my suggestion is to find better-quality candidates to carry the message forward.

They can start by ensuring their candidates actually live in the district they seek to represent.

Wake up, Congress, to greater civility

Ted Cruz believes this past week’s shooting at a baseball practice that wounded several of his fellow Republicans should be a “wake up call” for members of Congress.

The Texas U.S. senator is right, of course. He almost seems to state the obvious, that the tenor and tone of current political discussion has been filled with too much poison.

Five people were hurt in Alexandria, Va., while practicing for Congress’ annual charity baseball game. The shooter was angry at Donald J. Trump and, apparently, at GOP U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, who was wounded by a rifle shot from the gunman. Scalise’s condition is improving and for that we all are grateful.

The gunman died in a shootout with police.

“We may disagree on whether the federal government should have a simple flat tax or a massively confiscatory federal income tax, but those differences should not lead to demonization, vilification and personal attacks,” Cruz said in remarks to supporters.

But that’s what we’ve been hearing. It goes back many years. It’s been a bipartisan mantra. Democrats and Republicans point at each other across the aisle on Capitol Hill and question each other’s motives for whatever it is they seek to accomplish.

Politics used to be a noble calling. That’s not the case these days. It has become a contact sport. Some suggest politics has turned into a blood sport.

The dips*** shooter in Alexandria exemplified the danger of letting our emotions get the better of us.

Divine intervention in Georgia?

We’re going to know soon who will win the special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.

Democrat Jon Ossoff reportedly won a significant majority of the ballots that were cast early. Republican Karen Handel is hoping for a big turnout today to win the seat once occupied by Tom Price, who’s now secretary of health and human services.

Then the rain came. Lots of rain. I watched video of the torrent. It looked, dare I say it, downright biblical in the volume. Flooding occurred. Cars were stranded.

If the turnout is depressed today because of the rain that inundated suburban Atlanta, are to presume something special is occurring?

Might someone out there suggest out loud that God wanted Ossoff to win this seat?

Just askin’, man.

Americans are numb to congressional hypocrisy

It’s no surprise to anyone that hypocrisy exists in the halls of federal government power.

What I think is a surprise is how we are now so numb to it, that it doesn’t bother us.

U.S. Senate Republicans are in the process of doing precisely what they criticized their Democratic colleagues of doing just eight years ago. They are meeting in secret to cobble together a health care overhaul they say will replace the Affordable Care Act. In 2009, Republicans were frothing at the mouth because of what they said was occurring when Democrats crafted the ACA.

Video recordings of Republican Senate and House leaders bear out their anger then. Eight years later, well, here we go again.

The weirdness of it, though, shows itself in the apparent tolerance among average Americans at what’s going on.

A newly elected president, Barack H. Obama, sought Republican help in crafting the ACA. He didn’t get it. They stiffed him. The ACA process did include public hearings and testimony from those who favored and opposed it.

Another president new to his office, Donald Trump, hasn’t extended his hand to Democrats. Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are plowing ahead with an ACA replacement with no input from Democrats, no public hearings, no testimony.

Same song, different verse? Yes. The major difference appears to rest in the tacit acceptance that hypocrisy is now the norm in Washington, D.C.

I’ll go on record here to say that not all Americans accept this as business as usual. I believe it stinks to high heaven!