Tag Archives: House of Representatives

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.

Whoever wins had better deliver in the House of Reps

Jon Ossoff vs. Karen Handel has turned into a serious spectator sport.

Ossoff is a Democrat running against Handel, a Republican, for a little ol’ congressional seat representing a district in Georgia.

But here’s the deal: The contest is going to cost more than any congressional election in U.S. history. Why is that? Well, Democrats see it as a referendum on Donald J. Trump, the Republican who is president of the United States. Republicans want to keep the seat in GOP hands and hope Handel is the candidate who can do it.

The former member of Congress from this district, Tom Price, is now secretary of health and human services. Trump carried the district during the 2016 presidential election. It’s a solidly Republican district. It should remain Republican Red, yes?

Hold on! Ossoff won the primary a month ago over a large field of opponents. He didn’t run up a 50-percent victory to win outright, so now he and Handel — the second-place primary finisher — are competing in a runoff election set for Tuesday.

Political analysts are crowing about the size of the early-vote turnout. Let ’em crow. We’ll know soon whether it represents a gigantic total turnout.

With all this attention and money being heaped on this special election, my own view is that whoever wins had better be ready for prime time the money he or she takes the oath of office. The media being what they are, you can bet there will be loads of attention piled on to the winner.

My own hope — not surprisingly, I’m sure — is for Ossoff to win. It doesn’t matter. I don’t live there. I have no tangible voice, other than use this blog to say that Donald Trump needs to face the prospect of his party possibly losing control of Congress after next year’s mid-term election.

There goes ‘unity’

That was a brief respite from the calls for “unity” in the wake of that terrible shooting in Alexandria, Va.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sat together and pledged to put bitterness aside. They sought to honor wounded colleague Steve Scalise, the GOP House whip.

Democrats and Republicans prayed together after their charity baseball game Thursday. They hugged each other. Democrats won the game and then gave the trophy to Scalise, who is recovering from his serious gunshot wound.

All is good, yes? Hardly.

Now comes the Republican in Chief, Donald J. Trump, who launched a Twitter tirade. He wonders why Hillary Clinton isn’t being investigated; he calls special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president’s connection with Russian government officials a “witch hunt.” Indeed, he calls it the worst witch hunt in American political history.

And to think he did that while calling for “unity” in a recorded message delivered before the start of the charity baseball game.

Talk to us, Rep. Thornberry

The fellow who represents me in Congress has made his point pretty clear: He doesn’t intend to conduct “town hall meetings” with constituents during these lengthy congressional breaks.

I beg to differ with Rep. Mac Thornberry’s reluctance to speak to groups of his constituents.

The Clarendon Republican lawmaker has just voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to replace it with a Trumpcare version of health care overhaul.

Congress is taking some time off. Its House members and senators have fanned out across the land. Some of them are facing their critics, namely their constituents, who are questioning them about their votes in favor of Trumpcare. Rep. Thornberry, to my knowledge, hasn’t scheduled any such public events.

He ought to rethink his schedule.

Do I expect him to get a dressing down from angry 13th Congressional District constituents? Well, I don’t know. He is considered a lead-pipe cinch for re-election in 2018; his district is as reliably Republican as any in the country. Then again, other GOP House members who are equally safe and secure have been getting pounded by their constituents.

I actually want to applaud those Republicans who have voted for Trumpcare to stand before their “bosses” and explain themselves. I think much less of those who have chosen other pursuits while they are at home, ostensibly tending to “constituent business.”

Thornberry’s been in Congress for a long time now. He took office in 1995. He chairs the House Armed Services Committee. He’s got a big job. He once led a GOP effort to come up with ways to protect us against cyber-crime. I’m hoping whatever he came up with is being employed by our spooks to protect our national security secrets against hackers from, oh, Russia!

However, health care is on people’s minds these days. Even, perhaps, out here in the 13th Congressional District.

We’ve been represented in Congress by someone who has aligned himself with those who want to throw out the Affordable Care Act. The Trumpcare replacement well could cost a lot of Thornberry’s constituents their health insurance.

I believe he owes them a thorough explanation of why he cast one of the House’s “yes” votes.

As if we needed reminding … POTUS is clueless

Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of the Australian universal health care system confirms what many of us have thought for as long as this individual has been involved in politics.

He doesn’t know anything. Not about public policy. Or governance. Or public service. Nothing outside the realm of personal enrichment and self-aggrandizement.

The president and his Republican colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives had just passed a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with something called the American Health Care Act. Then he jetted to New York and sat next to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — and then lauded the Australian health care system.

The president said we should pattern our system after the Aussies’ system of providing universal health care for every citizen. How do they do it? The government pays for it.

But wait! Didn’t the GOP members of Congress want to do away with government mandates? Didn’t they insist on letting the marketplace set the price for health care insurance? Haven’t they been savaging the ACA as some sort of “socialized medicine” scheme cooked up by the socialists ensconced in the White House, led by President Barack Obama?

The GOP’s main man, the president of the United States, just endorsed a government-run health care system that reportedly works pretty well for the people it serves.

The president doesn’t know anything! He is utterly and completely unaware of the very public policy he says he favors.

He’s been involved in politics for less than two years. He rode down the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his presidential campaign. He got elected and has continued almost daily to demonstrate his absolute ignorance of the office he now holds and the awesome responsibility he has assumed.

I truly don’t expect him to learn all there is to know about everything in such a short span of time. However, it wasn’t too much to expect that he at least had some semblance of a grasp of policy matters before deciding to run for president of the United States.

Get set for next fight over health care overhaul

Congressional Republicans kept their vow to vote — no matter what — on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

It was a squeaker, 217 “yes” votes to 213 “no” votes. Every congressional Democrat voted “no,” which gives the minority a faint claim of bipartisanship, as some moderate Republicans joined them in voting against the Trumpcare health bill.

I want to make only a couple of observations about this effort.

First, Republicans yapped and yammered that Democrats shoved the ACA down the GOP’s throats in 2010. The GOP response was to do precisely the same thing to Democrats. Payback is a bitch, right?

The GOP throat-shoving, though, took on a little different tone than what the Democrats did in 2010. President Obama tried to get Republicans to sign on, but was unsuccessful. Donald J. Trump didn’t make that effort; neither did House Speaker Paul Ryan. Oh, no. They relied on their healthy Republican majority to win the day — barely, it turns out — in a now-or-never vote on the House floor.

Second, the initial effort to repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Health Care Act, ran into a Congressional Budget Office “score” that told a grim story of 24 million Americans losing their health insurance under the new plan.

This time the GOP didn’t bother to wait for the CBO to “score” this latest rendition of the replacement bill. Republicans forged ahead anyway. Damn the scoring! Who needs to know how this is going to affect Americans?

Oh, and the polls around the country indicate a growing base of support for the ACA. Hmm. Imagine that. The House of Representatives isn’t exactly representing its constituents.

The AHCA now heads to the Senate, where it faces an even steeper climb than it had in the House. The GOP majority in the upper chamber is pretty skimpy and the Republicans cannot afford to lose any support among their ranks. The initial signs don’t look good for final approval in the Senate.

House Republicans sought to win over reluctant conservatives by sweetening the pie for them; then they assuaged some moderate GOP concerns by tossing in some money to pay for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

What say you, senators?

Now it falls on the Senate to decide what to do with this legislation that doesn’t yet have any analysis on how much it will cost and how many Americans might lose their insurance.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are back-slapping each other like crazy. They said they’d cast that vote to repeal President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

They got the job done. Now they can go home for their 11-day recess. I would bet real American money they’re going to run into a good bit anger among the home folks.