Tag Archives: House of Representatives

The Woman of the House shows her mettle

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has laid it on the line to the president of the United States.

Donald Trump is no longer invited to speak before the U.S. House of Representatives to deliver his State of the Union speech.

She wrote the president a note telling him of her concerns over “security,” given the government shutdown and how the furloughing of critical security personnel makes it impossible for Congress to protect the president, the vice president, the full congressional membership, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the diplomatic corps.

So, her message to the president? Deliver the SOTU speech in writing, as other presidents have done. That’s if he is wedded to the Jan. 29 date scheduled for his in-person, live TV speech.

Pelosi wants the government reopened fully before the president speaks to a joint congressional session.

Thus, she is demonstrating — as if the president needed any proof of it — that she is the Woman of the House and that Donald Trump has met his match.

Elections always have consequences

I have long understood and appreciated the consequences that elections bring to those in public service.

It’s an accepted part of the electoral process. If the individual you want doesn’t get elected to any office, you then must face the prospect of the other individual doing something with which you likely will disagree.

It happened certainly in 2016 with the election as president of Donald J. Trump. He won the Electoral College as prescribed by the Constitution, but more of us cast ballots for his major foe than for the winner. Still, we are paying the consequences of the previous presidential election.

Well, here we are. Two years later and the president finds himself facing his own consequential electoral result in the wake of the congressional midterm election. The House of Representatives, half of the legislative branch of government, is about to flip from Republican to Democratic control; the gavel-passing occurs on Jan. 3 when Nancy Pelosi ascends to the speakership. Committee chairs will get their respective gavels, too.

Get ready, therefore, for hearings. Get ready for lots of questions that House Republicans so far have been  unwilling to ask of the president of their own political party.

The president appears to be in trouble. His GOP “allies,” and I use that term guardedly, have been reticent in seeking the truth behind the many questions that swirl around the president. They aren’t “friends” with Trump as much as they are frightened by him. He has bullied them into remaining silent.

The president won’t be able to play that hand with Democrats who are in charge of the lower chamber of Congress. Thus, it remains increasingly problematic for the president to do something foolhardy, such as fire the special counsel who is examining those questions concerning the alleged “collusion” between the president’s campaign and Russian government agents who interfered in our electoral process.

Yes, indeed. Elections have serious consequences. We are likely to witness them play out in real time . . . very soon.

Pelosi employs her superb ‘inside game’

This is what they mean, I suppose, when they say Nancy Pelosi plays an unparalleled “inside game” on Capitol Hill.

The Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives is knocking off her former foes by “killing” them with promises. She intends to become the next/returning speaker of the House and she is lining up her friends to ensure they cast their votes in her favor.

Rep. Brian Higgins of New York had been a foe. He’s now on her side, thanks to a pledge to prioritize infrastructure legislation and Medicare expansion next year. Earlier, Pelosi struck a deal to win over Rep. Marsha Fudge of Ohio, who had considered running against Pelosi for speaker; Fudge climbed aboard the Pelosi haywagon after the presumptive speaker promised her a committee chairmanship and pledged to work to correct voting problems.

Isn’t that the sign of someone who knows how to turn foes into friends and start the process of organizing an occasionally unruly caucus of partisans with their own agendas, their own concerns and their own constituents?

This kind of skill is precisely what made her such an effective speaker during her first go-round, from 2007 until 2011.

Republicans will continue to demonize her. They do so at their peril.

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.