Tag Archives: House of Representatives

Trump claims victory, but wait a minute!

Donald John Trump was right to declare victory (of a sort) in the wake of the 2018 midterm election.

His fellow Republicans gained a couple of seats in the U.S. Senate. The president did campaign on behalf of GOP candidates and most of them won their contests.

The Senate now has a bit of wiggle room for Republicans to operate. That wiggle room makes it a bit less critical when a GOP senator decides to bolt, as was the case when Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate.

But then … we have the House of Representatives.

Democrats didn’t ride home the “big blue wave” that many had predicted would occur. The “wave” turned out to be a success nevertheless. They got control of the House. Nancy Pelosi is likely to become the next speaker. The president did phone her Tuesday night to congratulate her.

Trump should have acknowledged the Democrats’ House victory today. He didn’t. He chose instead to ascribe a bit too much importance to the Senate victory. That’s fine. It’s the president’s call.

Just as George W. Bush learned quickly when he became Texas governor in 1995 with a Democratically controlled Legislature, Trump needs to learn now how to work with Democrats who control one legislative chamber of Congress. Gov. Bush learned how to develop alliances with Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney and Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.

Donald Trump needs to find a way to forge an alliance with a speaker of the other party, just as Bill Clinton did with Newt Gingrich, as Ronald Reagan did with Tip O’Neill and George H.W. Bush did with Tom Foley.

Sure, Trump won a victory. It wasn’t a total win. He took it on the chin in one house of Congress. He has some learning ahead of him. If he is capable.

Cool it with the accusations, Democrats

So much to say about the 2018 midterm election … so I’ll start with this item.

The presumptive speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said prior to the election that Democrats should cool it with talk of impeaching Donald J. Trump. She said impeaching the president is a non-starter and she didn’t want the campaign to be decided on that issue.

Here is her chance to make good on that plea.

Democrats seized control of the House last night. Senate Republicans gained a couple of seats, cementing the GOP control of the upper legislative chamber. The former House “ranking members” will become committee chairs. They’ll be able to call the shots in the House. The ballots were still being counted Tuesday night when word came out of Washington about Democrats wanting to subpoena the president’s tax returns, which he has (in)famously refused to release for public review.

I want to see them, too. However, Democrats also campaigned for office demanding that “pre-existing conditions” are honored if the House considers amending the Affordable Care Act. They have health care to consider.

They also have budgeting issues to ponder. They have to consider potential new tax cuts. That budget deficit is spiraling out of control.

The president called the new speaker last night to congratulate her for the Democrats’ House victory. The two of them reportedly talked about bipartisanship and working together to get things done on behalf of the people.

I don’t know if Trump actually means it, given his propensity for lying. Pelosi should heed that call, even if the president reneges down the line.

Those of us who want to see government re-learn how to function on behalf of the “bosses” — that’s you and me, folks — must demand that a divided Congress learn to unite within itself. We also must demand that the president and Congress set aside the fiery rhetoric and start acting as if they mean what they said about cooperation and compromise.

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.

‘Great job’ doesn’t preclude impeachment

Donald J. Trump Sr. was in full rant mode in Billings, Mont., earlier this week.

He went to Montana to stage a campaign rally and then launched into a bizarre riff about the possibility of his being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. He mentioned Rep. Maxine Waters, the Democrat who vows that Trump will be impeached. “I’m doing a great job,” Trump bellowed, wondering how he could be impeached even though his presidency — he says — is the most successful in the history of the republic.

Trump seems to assert that a president who does a “great job” shouldn’t be impeached. We can debate until hell freezes over whether Trump is doing anything approaching a great job. We’ll save that one for another day.

However, let’s review a bit of recent history … shall we?

President Bill Clinton also was doing a great job during his second term in the White House. The economy was on fire. We were heading toward a balanced federal budget. Joblessness was low. Times were good.

Then the president committed what Republicans believed was an impeachable offense. Special prosecutor Kenneth Starr was conducting a wide-ranging investigation that turned up a relationship that the president had with a young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

Starr summoned the president to talk to a grand jury, which then asked him about the relationship. The president who took an oath to “tell the whole truth” didn’t tell the truth. He committed perjury.

Boom! There you have it! Republicans had their impeachable offense!

The House impeached the president who was doing a “great job.” Clinton went to trial in the Senate. He was acquitted on all charges.

So … for the current president to suggest that he shouldn’t be impeached because he’s doing a “great job” is to ignore recent political history.

Donald Trump well might be found to have committed an impeachable offense. Impeachment, let us remember, has nothing to do with the president’s performance in office. It has to do with conduct.

Not all Republicans are applauding Trump’s Iran decision

Republicans across the nation generally are applauding Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear arms deal.

Democrats universally oppose the president’s decision.

But wait! There’s this from a key congressional Republican, who I happen to know fairly well. U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, said today he wishes Trump would have delayed a pact pullout so that he could find a way to improve the agreement worked out in 2015.

“I have no doubt that the [Iran deal] was flawed and that for years Iran has been deceptive about its nuclear and other programs,” Thornberry said.

“My preference would have been to give our European allies a few more months to strengthen the deal, but now that the president has decided that the United States will withdraw, we must have two critical priorities.”

“One is to further enhance our own military capabilities,” the Clarendon Republican added. “The other is to strengthen our alliances. A strong, international effort is required to curtail Iran’s aggressive behavior in a number of areas.”

Indeed, the president has decided to stiff our European allies, all of whom strongly lobbied Trump to remain a party to it. Trump didn’t go there, preferring to keep a pledge to toss the Iran nuclear deal aside.

I ought to add that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford both testified before Congress that Iran was abiding by the agreement requirements. Moreover, the agreement placed strict inspection protocols in place to ensure that Iran complies with the demand to rid itself of nuclear weapons technology.

The president today has tossed all of that away. In the process he has sent a clear message to our allies that the United States of America no longer is to be trusted to keep its word.

Which brings me back to Chairman Thornberry’s statement. How are we going to “strengthen our alliances” to ensure “a strong international effort” when the president has ignored the pleas of our allies to keep this deal intact?

GOP pols hedge their support for Trump … so far

It’s rare for politicians of the same party as the president to withhold their support for a president who declares his intention to seek re-election.

That is what is happening within the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney, who wants to represent Utah in the U.S. Senate, says he cannot commit to supporting Donald Trump, who Romney once described as a “phony” and a “fraud.” Same for Sen. John Cornyn of Texas; ditto for Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin; also ditto for lame-duck House Speaker Paul Ryan, also of Wisconsin.

Hey, what’s going on here?

Is the president,  um, toxic to Republicans? Are his GOP brethren afraid to get too close to the guy who is the titular head of their political party?

Hmm. Maybe they’re looking at recent history.

Trump backed a sitting U.S. senator from Alabama, Luther Strange, only to watch him lose that state’s GOP primary to Roy Moore, the guy accused by several women of sexual assault; Trump then threw his backing behind Moore, who ended up losing to Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in the special election.

Trump then backed a Republican candidate for the U.S. House in Pennsylvania. Oops! Then the GOP candidate lost to the Democrat.

I’m thinking the Republicans might be taking stock of the president’s actual political clout, looking past the braggadocio that flies out of the president’s mouth.

Trump boasts about all the “winning” he has brought to government and to public policy. The way I look at it, he isn’t winning nearly as much as he would like us all to believe.

The act of “winning” in Trump’s world bears no resemblance to the reality the president is facing as he confronts what is looking more and more like a difficult ride through the 2018 midterm election.

That, of course, presumes the president is able to discern the politically obvious. Of that I am not at all certain.

Rep. Pelosi sets a blab record

This record needs to stand for a long time.

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California believes strongly in immigration reform. She believes so strongly in it that she is able to talk for a verrrry long time about why Congress needs to enact it.

Pelosi put her commitment to the test today. She took the floor of the House and spoke — non-stop, without a break — for eight hours. She argued passionately on behalf of “Dreamers,” those undocumented immigrants who were granted a reprieve under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established near the end of the Obama administration.

That’s a filibuster-length harangue, only they cannot call it that in the House; only the Senate allows filibusters, which enables senators to talk about whatever the heck they want for as long as they want.

Here, though, might be the most remarkable element of the Pelosi gabfest.

The former House speaker happens to be 77 years of age. Do not accuse me of being sexist by mentioning Pelosi’s age; I would say the very same thing about a comparably aged male member of Congress if he were able to talk as long as Pelosi has done.

Pelosi’s astonishing display of endurance is likely to remain on the books for a long time.

Nice going, Mme. Minority Leader.

Cyber security remains a (pipe) dream

CIA Director Mike Pompeo has issued a dire warning, which is that it is a near certainty that Russia is going to try meddling in our 2018 midterm election.

Yep, just like they did in the 2016 presidential election, the event that the president of the United States — Donald John Trump Sr. — keeps denying publicly.

Mr. President, please talk to the CIA boss. He knows more about this stuff than you do.

However, I keep circling back to an initiative that was launched in 2011 in Congress. It was designed to improve cyber security and was to be led by my own member of Congress, Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry.

House Speaker John Boehner appointed Thornberry to lead a select committee to iron out the wrinkles in our nation’s cyber security system. It’s interesting to me that this was a GOP-only panel, comprising just Republican members of the House. I guess Thornberry and Boehner didn’t think there were any Democrats who could contribute to what ought to be a bipartisan/non-partisan concern.

Thornberry said in a statement after the panel’s work was done:

Cyber is deeply ingrained in virtually every facet of our lives.  We are very dependent upon it, which means that we are very vulnerable to disruptions and attacks.  Cyber threats pose a significant risk to our national security as well as to our economy and jobs.

At least 85 percent of what must be protected is owned and operated by the private sector.  Government must tread carefully in this area or risk damaging one of our greatest strengths — dynamic, innovate companies and businesses that are the key to our economy and to cybersecurity advances.

A “significant threat to our national security.” Yep, Rep. Thornberry, that is so very correct.

That threat presented itself in the 2016 election. There remain myriad questions about whether the Donald Trump campaign played a role in that threat. We’ll know the answer in due course, once the special counsel, Robert Mueller, finishes his work.

However, I do believe it’s fair to wonder: With all the work that Rep. Thornberry’s committee did to improve cybersecurity, did it do enough to protect our electoral system from the hanky-panky that came from this country’s preeminent foreign adversary?

I do not believe it did.

Time for Conyers to call it a career?

OK. I’ll answer the question posed in the headline over this blog post.

Yes, I believe it’s time for U.S. Rep. John Conyers to call it quits. It’s time for the congressman who has served for more than five decades in the House of Representatives to return to civilian life.

Conyers, a Democrat, is facing mounting pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to resign in the wake of a third woman who’s accused Conyers of making improper sexual advances.

Conyers is damaged

Conyers already has acknowledged paying one woman a $27,000 settlement, even while denying he did anything wrong.

He is the longest-serving member of the House. He’s been called an “icon” by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said he is entitled to “due process.”

Well, I’m not sure how you define due process in a political climate. Conyers has not been charged with a crime. He has now become a major “distraction” for legislative colleagues.

This sexual abuse network of scandals is reaching across party lines. It is insidious and it is inflicting serious — and potentially grievous — damage in the halls of government. Members of both congressional chambers stand accused of extreme misbehavior toward women; indeed, similar allegations have soiled the president of the United States.

A Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate also is facing calls from within his own party to pull out of his contest.

Conyers already has stepped down from his leadership post on the House Judiciary Committee. I am afraid that isn’t enough.

Rep. Conyers’s career is sullied and soiled by the accusations of sexual harassment.

It’s over. Or at least it should be.

Rep. Murphy quits Congress … see ya later

Tim Murphy is about to become a former member of Congress from western Pennsylvania. He had toiled in relative obscurity until he decided to make a politically fatal mistake.

This Republican lawmaker got involved intimately with a young woman, who became pregnant as a result of their extramarital affair.

Now, what grows legs under this story is that Murphy — whose main claim to fame as a member of Congress is that he has been fervently anti-abortion — asked his paramour to obtain an abortion. 

As the saying goes: Oops!

Murphy had intended initially to retire at the end of his current term. He has decided to quit the House and will depart Capitol Hill in about a month.

Good. I recognize that Congress is full of hypocrites. There will be more hypocrites coming along even as some of the current congressional hypocrites depart the scene.

When one of those hypocrites sacrifices his moral authority in such a callous matter, it’s good to show him the door and urge him to avoid letting that door hit him in the … you know.