Tag Archives: House of Representatives

‘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.

‘Backbencher’ thrusts himself into the limelight

I had never heard of Tim Murphy before today.

He used to be an obscure member of Congress from western Pennsylvania. The Republican lawmaker was known mostly to his constituents and, I presume, his colleagues in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives.

To the rest of this vast nation, he was a stranger.

No … longer.

Many more Americans now know Murphy as a duplicitous politician who got caught doing something he shouldn’t have done. The married pol got involved with an extramarital affair with a much younger woman. That relationship resulted in the woman becoming pregnant.

What did Murphy do at that point? He reportedly asked the woman to obtain an abortion. And why is that a big deal? It’s because Murphy has been an ardent political opponent of abortion. He’s a “pro-life, family values” Republican.

Murphy is going to finish the rest of his term. Then he’ll retire from Congress.

There you have it. An individual who labels himself a certain way behaves at a couple of levels like someone quite different.

He’s not the first politician to fall off the virtue wagon. He won’t be the last one. Politicians of all stripes have said one thing and done another. Former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Edwards used to proclaim his love for his late wife — only to be revealed to have fathered a child with another woman. Ex-GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich wailed aloud about Bill Clinton’s misbehavior with a White House intern while taking a tumble with a female staff member.

The list is endless.

I just have to believe Tim Murphy wishes for a way he could return to the farthest end of the back bench — out of sight and out of mind.

Sorry, Rep. Murphy. You brought this unwanted attention on all by yourself.

Housing allowance? Don’t think so, Rep. Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz is about to walk away from his public service job as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Before he goes, he is leaving with a parting gift in the form of an idea that fellow House members ought to reject out of hand. Chaffetz thinks Congress should enact a $2,500 monthly housing allowance for its members. It would give members of the House and Senate a little bit of financial cushion to enable them to live like normal human beings.

I don’t think so, young man.

Chaffetz earns $175,000 annually to serve his Utah congressional district constituents. It’s a handsome salary to be sure. However, during his time in office, Chaffetz decided to perform a bit of a publicity stunt by sleeping on a couch in his office, rather than renting an apartment/condo/flat somewhere like many other members of Congress.

As The Hill reports: “A $2,500 monthly allowance would cost taxpayers about $30,000 a year per lawmaker, or roughly $16 million a year for all 535 members.”

That’s a lot of money

I’ll stipulate that $16 million doesn’t measure up when compared to the size of the federal government budget. It’s not even significant compared to the size of the annual budget deficit, let alone the national debt. It’s still 16 million bucks. Boil that down to terms as they relate to me — and perhaps most of you who are reading this post — then we’re talking about some real money.

Again, according to The Hill: (His idea) “would allow the non-millionaires to participate and you would be able to have your spouse join you here,” said Chaffetz, 50, who’s spent 1,500 nights away from his wife and children during his eight-plus years in Congress. “If I wasn’t buying as many airline tickets, it would ultimately be less expensive.”

I wish the Utah Republican well as he embarks on a new career and life, reportedly as a “contributor” to the Fox News Channel. He represents a political party, though, that prides itself on personal responsibility and fiscal prudence.

Tossing potentially another $16 million a year at Congress to create what amounts to a public housing fund for well-compensated lawmakers, though, strays a bit too far from the GOP’s long-standing tradition.

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.