Tag Archives: House of Reps

In defense of a congressman’s non-commitment

Mac Thornberry is now officially a lame-duck member of Congress, given his announcement today that he won’t seek re-election in 2020 to another term representing the 13th Congressional District of Texas.

I have plenty of issues with Thornberry and his tenure as a member of Congress. However, I feel compelled to defend him on a point for which he was pilloried and pounded over many years since taking office.

Mac Thornberry did not, despite claims to the contrary, ever make a personal pledge to limit the number of terms he would serve in the House of Representatives.

He ran in 1994 for the House under the Contract With America banner waved at the front of the Republican ranks by future Speaker Newt Gingrich. The CWA contained among other items a provision to limit House members to three terms. The idea was to serve six years and then bow out, turning the seat over to new faces, with new ideas.

The term limits provision needs a constitutional amendment. The House has not referred an amendment to the states for their ratification. Thornberry, though, has voted in favor of every proposed amendment whenever it has come to a vote of the full of House.

Thornberry never made a personal pledge. Indeed, he has been elected and re-elected 13 times to the 13th District seat. He ascended to Republican leadership over the course of his tenure, being awarded the chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee.

I just feel the need to defend Thornberry against false accusations that he reneged on his pledge to limit the amount of time he would serve in Congress. Thornberry knew better than to make a pledge he well might be unable or unwilling to keep, such as former Rep. George Nethercutt of Washington state, who defeated the late Tom Foley in that landmark 1994 CWA election. Nethercutt pledged to limit his terms, then changed his mind … and eventually faced the wrath of his constituents for reneging on his promise.

Mac Thornberry doesn’t adhere to my own world view of how government should work. Indeed, I happen to oppose congressional term limits, believing that elections by themselves serve the purpose of limiting the terms of congressmen and women who do a bad job. That’s not the point here.

He didn’t deserve the pounding he took from within the 13th Congressional District for allegedly taking back a campaign promise … that he never made.

Speaker putting her political skills to supreme test

Nancy Pelosi is one of the shrewdest, most adroit politicians of this era. And I mean that in a positive sense.

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives had held out on whether to impeach Donald Trump, wanting instead to let the 2020 election play out.

Then something really big happened. The nation learned that Donald Trump talked with Ukrainian President Zellenskiy and asked him for a “favor”: Would he be able to provide some dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for military aid to help the Ukrainians fight their aggressor-neighbors, Russia?

Pelosi then said, in effect: That did it!

She launched an “impeachment inquiry.” The ranks of congressional Democrats favoring impeachment exploded. As I write this blog, more than half of the entire House favors impeaching the president.

Now, what does this portend for Pelosi’s legendary political skill? It puts that skill to the most arduous task imaginable. She will need to manage this impeachment train, preventing it from running away and becoming something unrecognizable to the form it should take.

Donald Trump clearly — in my view — is unfit for the office of president. His statement to his Ukrainian colleague merely ratifies that view. He has enlisted the Ukrainian government to help him fight a domestic political foe. That is illegal and it is unconstitutional.

Pelosi, who grew up in a political household as the daughter of a former Baltimore, Md., mayor, knows the stakes. She is a veteran member of Congress. She is serving her second tenure as House speaker. She understands her Democratic caucus. She is tough and disciplined.

I don’t yet know if Pelosi is banking on that skill to help her shepherd this impeachment inquiry through the House. However, I am unwilling to bet against her and the skill she continues to demonstrate.

Speaker Pelosi hears enough to change her mind

I understand the reasons why U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has changed her mind regarding whether to launch impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

I get it. She has heard enough now to proceed. Trump has provided the impetus all by himself. He admits to talking to Ukrainians about information they might have on Joe Biden, a potential 2020 political opponent. The question now looming over all of Washington is whether he pressured the Ukrainians for information or whether he offered them something in return.

That’s bad stuff, man. It’s impeachable. It’s enough in my mind to go all the way.

However, does Pelosi really want to risk obtaining articles of impeachment in the House only to watch a Republican-led U.S. Senate acquit the president of wrongdoing because they are loyal to the man and not the Constitution or the nation they all took an oath to defend?

This is where I retain my reluctance over whether to actually impeach the president.

Do I want him out of office? Yes, with emphasis and all due prejudice I want him gone, away from the Oval Office. However, impeachment might be too steep a hill to climb if Senate Republicans — who hold 53 of 100 seats — continue to cling to their fealty to this charlatan masquerading as president.

Pelosi has said she needs national buy-in. I am not sure she has obtained it.

Trump continues to cast this weird spell over Republicans in Congress. He isn’t a real Republican. He brought zero GOP credentials into the 2016 presidential campaign, other than to say he would run as a Republican. So, he did and he won.

Pelosi expresses “sadness” over the course she is taking. She said she doesn’t see impeachment as a political process, but rather as a constitutional duty that the House must pursue.

I get that, too. Except that the political element looms over whether the House Judiciary Committee passes impeachment articles out and sends them to the House floor for a vote.

Yes, I get why Pelosi changed her mind on impeachment. I am with her in principle. However, I am dubious about whether impeachment will achieve the goal many millions of Americans want, which is to get Donald Trump out of the Oval Office as quickly as possible.

I believe we now should all hold on with both hands. It’s going to get rough out there.

Memo to AOC: You’re playing with fire

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is beginning to get on my nerves. As in really getting on my nerves.

The rookie New York City congresswoman is seeking to disrupt the political power structure within the Democratic Party by challenging one of her fellow Democrats, who also happens to one of the more skilled politicians ever to lead the U.S. House of Representatives.

AOC needs to mind her manners. I don’t mean to suggest that she sits silently on the back bench of the House. I do mean to suggest that Ocasio-Cortez is getting far more attention than she deserves this early in her congressional career.

Pelosi vs. AOC heats up

The freshman lawmaker is re-igniting her feud with Pelosi by hitting back at the speaker, who criticized Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left pols in the House for their outspokenness. She said all they have is “social media” and added that there’s no outright support among the rank and file to back them up.

AOC, of course, said she does have “public sentiment” on her side, which is to demand immediate impeachment of Donald Trump. Pelosi is digging in against that idea, saying it is too early and that she wants significant Republican buy-in were she to initiate impeachment proceedings against the GOP president.

I tend to side with Pelosi, although the evidence does seem to be mounting that the president has committed impeachable offenses. Pelosi, the shrewd pol that she is, understands that to impeach the president in the House cannot guarantee removal from office, given the Republicans’ control of the Senate, which must put the president on trial. Moreover, the bar for conviction is much higher than it is for impeachment; the Senate needs 67 votes to convict, while the House only needs a simple majority to impeach.

Pelosi is the veteran here. She is the politician with lots of wisdom and knowledge of how the system works. She also is every bit as ideologically progressive as AOC and her other congressional newbie allies.

The only difference is that Speaker Pelosi knows better than to rush headlong into a confrontation that she well could lose.

Trump v. Pelosi: May the better person win

Donald Trump apparently has difficulty with strong, opinionated women. I make that presumption based on how he reacts to their challenges to him. He resorts to insulting them with varying levels of disgusting references.

So it is against that backdrop that the president of the United States is entering a new era in his so-far futile attempt at learning how to govern. The Woman of the House will be Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who is returning to her post as speaker of the House, one half of the legislative branch of the federal government.

I have this sneaking, gnawing suspicion that the president is not going to do well as he battles Pelosi over legislative priorities.

You see, Pelosi is something that her immediate predecessor Paul Ryan is not. She is no patsy who is likely to roll over to demands from (a) the White House and (b) rebellious members of her own partisan caucus. Indeed, Ryan’s predecessor as speaker, John Boehner, quit the speakership and the House because he got fed up with the TEA Party wing of the GOP House caucus.

Pelosi certainly faces her own challenges from the far-left-wing base of her Democratic caucus. Do you think she’s going to knuckle under to its every demand? My gut tells me “no.” She is a stern leader, but one who also knows how to schmooze malcontents.

Trump possesses none of those political skills. He barks insults, makes demands and little happens. He gets on his Twitter feed and fires off policy pronouncements, surprising his own key aides and Cabinet. He calls himself a razzle-dazzle dealmaker, but couldn’t cobble together a deal to keep the government functioning even when he and his Republican Party controlled the entire Congress and the White House.

That’s is changing, effective today.

Nancy Pelosi will take the speaker’s gavel. Democrats will manage the legislative flow from the House. She will do battle when necessary with her GOP House “friends” as well as those who still control matters at the other end of the Capitol Building, the Senate.

Donald Trump will be whipsawed by the back-and-forth in the House.

Checks and balances, anyone?

Here we go!

Term limits for congressional leaders? Why not?

I dislike the idea of term limits for members of Congress.

However, the idea of imposing such limits on congressional leaders is another matter. To that end, the next speaker of the House of Representatives is on to something constructive.

Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the House Democratic caucus, has agreed to serve only two terms as speaker once she takes the gavel in January. She is set to favor a vote among congressional Democrats to impose similar limits on committee chairs, following the lead set by their Republican colleagues.

Pelosi getting push back

I like the notion of imposing those limits on leadership, despite my aversion to mandatory limits on the number of terms House members can serve on Capitol Hill. I have said all along that we already have limits on terms; they occur in the House every two years and every six years for senators. The 2018 midterm election demonstrated quite vividly the power of the electorate to give incumbents the boot.

Congressional leaders, though, aren’t necessarily beholden to the voters for the power they obtain in the halls of Congress. They are beholden to their fellow lawmakers.

Why not enact mandatory regular changes in committee chairmanships — as well as the speaker of the House?

It’s a good call from the new speaker.

Congress makes sausage-making look appealing

Watching the U.S. Congress stumble and bumble its way through legislating a budget makes the act of sausage-making look downright attractive.

The old saying about how legislating resembles sausage-making seems somehow kind of quaint. Turning a poor little piggy into something edible now doesn’t seem so grotesque.

Congress avoided yet another government shutdown on Friday. The House of Representatives approved a $1.1 trillion spending package over the objections of the TEA party wing of the Republicans and the leftist/progressive wing of the Democrats.

As President Obama noted, the legislation represents a classic “compromise.” You remember that, right? That’s when both sides give up something for the greater good. In this case the greater good amounted to keeping the government functioning.

Now the Senate is going to convene a weekend session and will begin to resolve its own differences. Meanwhile, senators are supposed to start processing some of the dozens of presidential appointments that have been languishing since the Beginning of Time.

That won’t come easily, though. The TEA party senators want to punish the president for that immigration executive action and want to defund it legislatively. Democrats, who for now still own the majority, won’t have any of that.

I totally understand that a representative democracy by definition is supposed to be messy and inefficient.

But this is taking messiness and inefficiency to new levels.

Isn’t there a better, less-heartburn-producing method of doing something so essential as approving a budget that keeps the government working for those who are paying for it?

 

 

POTUS plans immigration push

As one who generally endorses the notion of presidential prerogative, I welcome the news that Barack Obama is going to use the power of his office to move immigration reform forward — with our without congressional buy-in.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/210995-obama-pledges-to-take-executive-actions-on-immigration

Obama is steamed that Congress won’t vote this year on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. It seems to matter little that most members of Congress — including Republicans — want reform legislation enacted. House Speaker John Boehner says it won’t happen because, he says, lawmakers and “the American people” don’t trust the president to enforce immigration laws.

Obama’s response: “If Congress will not do its job, at least we can do ours.”

He hasn’t yet specified how he’ll act. He plans on the Fourth of July to naturalize several U.S. military men and women who aren’t yet citizens.

“I don’t prefer taking administrative action,” Obama said in a Rose Garden event, standing beside Vice President Biden. “I’ve made that clear multiple times. … I only take executive action when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing.”

Congress already is angry over what it says is the president’s “excessive” use of executive authority. That’s a phony argument on its face, given that Barack Obama has issued fewer such orders than any president of the past 100 years.

The president has asked for more money to secure our borders in the wake of the Central America immigration crisis that has stranded thousands of illegal immigrants — mostly children and young adults — on our southern border. Boehner’s response to date? He’s just content to dig in his heels even more.

The Constitution and federal law give the president wide latitude on taking action. As the president has noted, Congress should lead, follow or get out of the way.