Tag Archives: House GOP

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.

Is a GOP retirement announcement coming from the Panhandle?

The Texas Tribune published a story on Nov. 28, 2018 that speculated about the possibility of several retirement announcements coming from Texas’s substantial Republican congressional majority.

One section of the story said this: ” … many Republican operatives bet that U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the most senior Republican from Texas in Congress, could make the upcoming term his last. That’s because Thornberry, currently chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is term-limited out of being the top Republican on that committee, in 2021.”

Thornberry no longer is chairman of the panel. He currently serves as ranking GOP member, which gives him some clout on the panel. Still, it’s not the same as chairing it.

I want to defend my former congressman on one point. He campaigned for the office in 1994 while supporting the Contract With America, which contained a provision that called for limiting the number of terms House members could serve. Thornberry never said he would impose a personal limit on the terms he would serve representing the 13th Congressional District.

He has voted in favor of constitutional amendments in the House; the amendment proposals always have failed.

Twenty-four years later, Thornberry has emerged as one of Texas’s senior congressional lawmakers.

I, too, wonder whether he might pack it in after this term. I’ve speculated on it publicly in this blog.

I don’t talk to Thornberry these days, although I still believe we have a good personal relationship. I rarely have supported personally his policy pronouncements during his years in the House. I’ll admit, though, that my position as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News required me to write public statements in support of Thornberry against my personal beliefs; hey, it’s part of the job of writing for someone else.

The way I look at it, a Mac Thornberry retirement likely wouldn’t result in the 13th District flipping to a Democrat. The GOP majority in the Texas Legislature has created a rock-solid Republican district that stretches from the top of the Panhandle to the Metroplex.

If there’s a retirement announcement coming from Mac Thornberry, you can consider me as someone who won’t be surprised.

Listen to the ‘RINO’ chants regarding Will Hurd

I’m pretty sure we’ll all be able to hear the same chant from the Republican ideologues who have taken control of the Party of Trump.

It is that U.S. Rep. Will Hurd’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election from Texas’s 23rd Congressional District is no big deal, that he’s a Republican In Name Only. You know, a RINO who doesn’t stand for the wacked-out notions to which many of today’s Republicans adhere.

What utter crap!

Hurd has been a doctrinaire establishment Republican during his three terms in the U.S. House. His only “sin” in the eyes of the Trump Wing of the GOP is that he has criticized the Carnival Barker in Chief. He was one of four House Republicans to vote in favor of the resolution condemning Donald Trump’s racist tweets against the four Democratic House members, the women he told to “go back where they came from,” even though three of them were born in this country and all of whom are U.S. citizens.

His stance in favor of GOP policies don’t matter to the Trump cabal because Hurd, a former CIA officer and the only black Republican serving in the House, has been critical of Trump.

Hurd is the sixth GOP lawmaker to announce his intention to leave the House. He comes from a congressional district in South Texas with a large and growing Latino population. Hurd defeated a Democratic incumbent to win the seat and has won narrow re-election victories ever since.

He well might have thought he was done for in a district that is trending toward the Democrats.

Whatever, the House is losing a good man, a solid Republican and someone willing to put country ahead of his party.

That should be no one’s definition of a RINO.

Is it Rep. Thornberry’s turn to announce retirement?

About a half-dozen Republican congressmen and women have announced their intention to leave Congress at the end of their current term.

Some of those GOP lawmakers serve in reliably Republican congressional districts, so their re-election chances really are not in jeopardy.

My thoughts now turn to the man who was my congressman during my many years living in Amarillo, Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon.

Is it fair to ask whether he’s going to bail at the end of this term?

Hey, I just did. So there you have it.

Thornberry took office the same week I reported for duty at the Amarillo Globe-News. That was in early January 1995. I have kidded him over the years that we kind of “grew up together.” He served on Rep. Larry Combest’s staff before defeating incumbent Rep. Bill Sarpalius in that landmark Contract With America election in 1994 that saw Republicans take control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

He ascended a couple of terms ago to the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee. Then Democrats took back control of the House in 2018, relegating Thornberry to the role of “ranking member.”

He’s been in the House now for 24 years. I have disagreed frequently with his policy decisions or the votes he has cast. I say that while acknowledging that I like him personally. We had a good professional relationship and I always thought I worked well with his staff.

However, many Republicans in the House are finding it difficult to legislate in this Age of Trump. The president is untrustworthy and I am left to wonder whether his capriciousness wears thin even on those legislators who have supported him and his agenda.

That well could be you, Mac Thornberry.

If Thornberry decides he has had enough, I certainly would understand. Rest assured, too, that Thornberry is one of those politicians who represents a rock-solid Republican congressional district. The 13th Congressional District isn’t going to turn Democratic.

I don’t live in the 13th any longer, but it’s difficult to turn away from a politician with whom I share some history.

Rep. Amash ‘outs’ himself; calls for Trump to be impeached

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash stands atop the back bench of the House of Representatives as a lone Republican voice.

The GOP lawmaker from Michigan has become the first in his political party to say that Donald Trump, the nation’s Republican president, has committed an impeachable offense . . . or three.

Will this relatively unknown legislator be the first of other Republicans to declare they are fed up with the president’s conduct, his disregard for the rule of law, his ignorance about checks and balances, his hideous conduct?

I have no idea.

It does fascinate me that this libertarian-leaning lawmaker who reportedly is at odds often with his party’s congressional leadership would be the first to say what many on the far left of the Democratic Party are saying: that Trump should be impeached immediately.

Of course, Amash used Twitter to make his views known. It does annoy me that so many people in public office are using that particular medium to make these grand pronouncements . . . but that’s a topic for another blog entry.

One lone voice in a particular party doesn’t signal a political tsunami in the making. After all, the House is just the accusatory chamber. The Senate, which still is run by the GOP, has to provide a two-thirds vote to convict a president of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see this Senate with its current partisan makeup following the trail that would be blazed in the House of Representatives.

Which makes all this talk a waste of time.

Why no expressions of love for POTUS from GOP?

I have one more takeaway from this past week’s congressional hearing involving Michael Cohen, the former friend and fixer for Donald J. Trump.

Cohen sat before the House Oversight and Reform Committee and called the president a “racist, con man and a cheat.” He blistered Trump with a series of allegations involving campaign spending violation, tax fraud, potential conspiracy to collude with Russian officials and a host of other matters.

The House panel that heard Cohen’s remarks. Democrats asked him to elaborate on his allegations. The Republican response was most instructive.

The GOP members on the committee did not defend the president. They did not stand up for his morals, for his ethics, his behavior.

Instead they focused their fire directly at Cohen. They pointed out time and again that Cohen was an admitted liar. They sought to remind us that Cohen is going to prison for pleading guilty to lying to Congress. They sought to shred his credibility.

Of course Cohen is not a good guy. He is a liar, even though he proclaimed that he is not — despite having admitted that he lied to Congress. Go figure, will ya?

The point here is that congressional Republicans on the Oversight and Reform panel did not bother to defend the guy outwardly, verbally and with any sense of sincerity. They didn’t say that the president is an upstanding man of high moral character; they didn’t stand up for him as a dedicated public servant.

They sought instead to divert our attention away from what their witness was telling them.

How come? Is the president’s conduct, um, indefensible?

Cohen lays it out there for all to see and hear

Michael Cohen, the most listened-to congressional witness in recent memory, offered a compelling statement today at the end of his day of interrogation by the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee.

His remarks included this passage:  “I did things and I acted improperly, at times at (Donald) Trump’s behest. I blindly followed his demands. My loyalty to Mr. Trump has cost me everything: my family’s happiness, friendships, my law license, my company, my livelihood, my honor, my reputation and soon my freedom. And I will not sit back, say nothing and allow him to the same to the country.”

That sounds like a man who has lost damn near everything. Therefore, had nothing to lose today by testifying before the committee. He also had little, if anything, to gain.

Cohen is heading to the slammer in a few weeks. He’ll have to spend three years in federal prison for admitting to lying to Congress.

He admitted to lying, but then added — rather ridiculously, in my view — that “I am not a liar.” Actually, he is a liar. That, however, is not the point of the man’s testimony today. I believe he is capable of telling the truth and I also believe he did so today.

Michael Cohen is about to surrender a great deal. His reputation and his honor have been shattered by what he has admitted to doing.

That all makes me believe that what he said today about the president of the United States was the truth as he understands it. I do believe he and I understand the truth in the same manner.

Cohen saw ‘no evidence’ of collusion

Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee today called Michael Cohen everything but the spawn of Satan himself.

Cohen, the former lawyer and fixer for the president of the United States, spent a full day talking to the committee about Donald Trump.

Republicans weren’t in the mood to listen intently to what Cohen had to say. They called him a liar repeatedly during the day. Cohen has acknowledged as much already.

But Cohen did say something that should have given the GOP committee members some pause in their attack on Trump’s former confidant. Cohen said today that he has seen “no evidence” of collusion between Trump and the Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016 and who had dirt to deliver on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean that there is no evidence. Cohen’s statement merely acknowledges that he hasn’t seen it. He has no personal knowledge of collusion. Cohen doesn’t speak for special counsel Robert Mueller, who reportedly is wrapping his lengthy investigation into alleged collusion.

Cohen’s lack of personal knowledge of collusion, though, does buttress his credibility as a witness before the House panel. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings did warn Cohen at the start of the hearing that lying to the committee is a crime and asked Cohen if he is aware of that fact. Cohen said “yes,” he is aware.

So, he spoke the truth quite clearly about his lack of personal knowledge of collusion. I also believe that his acknowledgment of such gives the rest of his testimony today more credibility than committee Republicans were willing to give.

However, I am not going to accept Cohen’s lack of personal knowledge of collusion as a declarative statement that collusion did not exist. I’m waiting for Robert Mueller to provide that testimony.

If that is what he has learned.

How do these politicians get away with this?

Get a load of this picture, taken today at the House Government Oversight Committee grilling of Michael Cohen, the former friend/fixer/lawyer for Donald J. Trump.

Committee Republicans are attacking Cohen as a liar, a convicted liar at that, a guy who’s headed for the slammer in the very near future. They don’t believe him when he says he’s telling ’em the truth about what he knows about Trump.

What astounds me to the max is how these individuals can take themselves seriously, given that their party’s chieftain, the president of the United States, is arguably the most egregious liar ever to take up residence in the White House.

Donald Trump lies to our faces. He lies when he doesn’t have to lie. He says things he must know are false, but he says them anyway.

My amazement stems from Republicans’ inability or unwillingness to recognize what the president has done while seeking the nation’s highest office and while has served in it.

He has lied repeatedly, gratuitously and without regard for the consequences of what his lying has done.

And so now they are attacking Michael Cohen, who has acknowledged his guilt as a convicted felon, an admitted perjurer, as a liar? Give . . . me . . . a . . . break!

‘Checks and balances’ principle gets new life

I do not believe it is an overstatement to presume that those of us who watched acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s skewering on Capitol Hill has provides us with a harbinger of what Donald Trump can expect for the next two years.

Whitaker spent most of the day today in front of the House Judiciary Committee, which was conducting an “oversight hearing” on the Department of Justice. He got pounded. He stonewalled the committee in return. It was an angry day of recrimination.

Whitaker is leaving the Justice Department soon. William Barr will be confirmed soon as the next attorney general. Whitaker was hardly an inspired choice to fill in for Jeff Sessions, who Trump fired a few weeks ago because the former AG recused himself from anything to do with “The Russia Thing.”

Now that Democrats control the House of Representatives, their caucus has assumed committee chairmanships. I believe that Democrats, who became fed up with Republican resistance to asking difficult questions of the Trump administration, are seeking to release some of that pent-up anger. We saw it on full display today as Whitaker appeared before the Judiciary Committee.

I also want to propose that this is not a bad thing. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress a measure of power that is equal to the presidency; throw in the federal courts and you have three equally powerful government branches.

Democrats challenged Whitaker; Republicans on the Judiciary panel challenged Democrats, who pushed back hard on the “points of order” that their GOP “friends” were asserting.

It wasn’t a pretty thing to watch today as Whitaker and Judiciary panel Democrats clashed openly. We might as well get used to it, though, ladies and gentlemen. Indeed, once the special counsel finishes his probe of alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government, there likely is going to be even more rhetorical grenades being tossed.

It won’t be pretty. Then again, representative democracy is a damn ugly form of government. However, as the great Winston Churchill noted, it’s far better than any other governmental system devised.