Tag Archives: John Boehner

Paul Ryan: big-time letdown

I had high hopes for Paul Ryan when he was dragged kicking and screaming into the speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Wisconsin Republican reportedly didn’t want to become the Man of the House when John Boehner resigned his speakership and left public office in 2015. Ryan had to be talked into it.

He took the job. I was hopeful that this policy wonk, a serious young man who knows the ins and outs of public policy would be able to manage the House effectively and work to enact meaningful legislation. I had hoped he could work effectively with the Democratic minority in the House chamber.

Then I had hope that after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 that he could resist some of the new president’s more bizarre impulses.

Well, he didn’t deliver the goods. He didn’t work well with the other party. He certainly didn’t resist the president. He became a Trump Man. Not a Republican Party Man. But a Trump Man. He became the president’s enabler.

Ryan ran on the 2012 GOP ticket for vice president. He and Mitt Romney lost that election to President Obama and Vice President Biden. He went back to the House, resumed his post as Budget Committee chairman. Then fate — and Speaker Boehner’s frustration with the TEA Party wing of his party — delivered him to the House’s highest post.

If only he could have shown a bit of spine as the Republican In Name Only president proceeded to hijack a great political party. There were faint signs of spine-stiffening, such as when he would offer mild criticism of some crazy Trump utterances.

But then he would roll over as Trump pushed through the House a tax cut that over time will benefit only the wealthiest of Americans.

Speaker Ryan gave a farewell speech today, bidding goodbye to the House where he served for two decades. He lamented the “broken politics” that afflicts the House. Uh, hello, Mr. Speaker? You helped break it.

I, of course, live far away from Janesville, Wis., from where Ryan hails. However, given that he managed the legislative body that approves legislation that affects all Americans, I have a significant stake in the job he did.

Thus, I shall declare that I won’t miss Paul Ryan.

Democrats might ignite firestorm if they oust Pelosi

Newly empowered U.S. House Democrats are playing with fire if they find a way to push their longtime congressional caucus leader out of the speakership.

Nancy Pelosi once served as the nation’s (so far) only female speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. She wants her old job back now that Democrats have retaken control of the People’s House.

But … not so fast, Mme. Presumptive Speaker.

Some of her colleagues want her kicked to the curb. They want “new leadership.”

Let’s ponder this for a moment. The 2018 midterm election resulted in more than 100 women will join the House in January 2019. That makes this the Year of the Woman. Or does it?

I happen to believe Pelosi deserves to become speaker when the new Congress convenes next year. Thus, I want to caution the Democratic insurgents that they are dousing their own message if they manage to boot the veteran lawmaker out of the office she presumes is hers for the taking.

I just learned that one of the Democratic insurgents is U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Brownsville, who is casting doubt on Pelosi’s intended speakership. He says he believes “new leadership” is in order.

Yes, that’s a man saying it.

Pelosi’s first tenure as speaker (2007-2011) proved to be successful in terms of her organizational skills and her ability to hold her party caucus together. Indeed, she enjoyed far more success at that aspect of her job than her two Republican successors as speaker — John Boehner of Ohio and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — who had to battle with TEA Party and Freedom Caucus members of their own caucus.

It was on Pelosi’s watch that Democrats were able to enact the Affordable Care Act, legislation I consider to be a success.

So now Democrats think they need “new leadership”? They don’t, even though Pelosi has become a favorite punching bag for Republicans to pummel whenever they can find the opportunity. Indeed, one could hear Pelosi’s name in TV ads criticizing Democratic candidates for Congress. Here’s the catch: One of those Democrats, Colin Allred, had been joined at the hip to Pelosi by North Texas U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions; however, Allred defeated the Republican Sessions in the midterm election.

So, is it really a negative to be led by a speaker who knows how to legislate, how to organize an unruly body of lawmakers? I don’t believe so.

My advice to House Democrats? Be very careful if you seek to topple Nancy Pelosi in this Year of the Woman.

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.

Do you recall the GOP lawsuit to toss out Obamacare?

Once upon a time — it now seems so long ago — then-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner filed a lawsuit that sought to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Barack Obama was president of the United States. Boehner and his congressional Republican colleagues had tried but failed to toss out the ACA. So, Boehner thought he’d try another course, through the court system.

Then a funny thing happened. Boehner quit the speakership and left Congress. He got really frustrated with the TEA Party wing of his Republican caucus in the House. So he walked away.

Oh yeah, then we had this election in 2016 and a Republican, Donald J. Trump, got elected president. He’s tried to toss out the ACA, too. He cannot get the job done.

I keep wondering: Whatever became of that lawsuit? Boehner seems to have walked completely away from the public policy discussion that fueled so much of his awake time when he was speaker of the House.

As for the court system, I keep wondering if it has taken a powder on this notion of adjudicating a civil lawsuit that seeks to rid the law books of the Affordable Care Act.

Is the law perfect? No. Is it the “disaster” that Donald Trump says it is? No. It has put millions of Americans on health insurance who otherwise didn’t qualify or who couldn’t afford it.

As for the Boehner lawsuit he filed with considerable fanfare before he decided he’d had it up to here with the TEA Party, its dormant status suggests to me that when it came to throwing his weight around, the House speaker was all hat and no cattle.

So … what about cyber security?

Those nagging, knotty questions about cyber security keep recurring.

Robert Mueller’s legal team has indicted 12 Russian goons for conspiring to meddle in our 2016 election. Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman, likely ordered it. Our intelligence brass has concurred, as has the intelligence arms of our major allies.

Donald Trump hasn’t yet acknowledged the existential threat to our electoral system. What’s more, the Russians likely are seeking to screw up our 2018 midterm elections, too.

Back to a question I have posed before: Where is our cyber security reform?

About a decade ago, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, gave my former congressman, Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, the task of developing a way to protect our nation’s cyber network.

Thornberry’s all-GOP task force issued a detailed report. Then they were done. They all went back to doing whatever it is they do.

As the nation wrings its hands over cyber security and wonders how it is going to protect its secrets from foreign foes — such as Russia — I haven’t heard a sound from Rep. Thornberry!

Speaker Boehner spoke quite highly of Thornberry’s skill in leading this reform effort, if my memory serves me. Yes, Thornberry is a smart fellow.

But what in the world are we doing to deter the kind of manipulation and possibly decisive meddling that occurred in 2016? Have there been improvements to our cyber network to prevent future interference?

The fellow who used to represent me in the U.S. House of Representatives presumably led the effort to make us safer against such meddling. Didn’t he?

Boehner: Victory surprised Hillary … and Trump

John Boehner has been involved in national politics longer than most of us. The former speaker of the House of Representatives, therefore, has plenty of relevant thoughts to share about the state of politics today.

The Republican politician says his party has taken a powder. It no longer exists. It’s now the Trump Party.

That’s not a big surprise. A lot of us have seen the GOP surrender itself to the whims and the anger fomented by someone who had never sought a public office of any kind before running for president.

But then Boehner offered an interesting analysis concerning Trump and his 2016 election foe, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

According to Politico: Boehner cracked that Trump and his 2016 general election foe, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, were likely “the two most surprised people in the entire world” when the president clinched his victory. And he speculated that the president’s stunning defeat of Clinton likely did not sit well with first lady Melania Trump.

“I think Donald Trump promised Melania that he would not win, she didn’t have to worry about ever living in the White House,” he said. “[That’s] probably why she doesn’t look real happy every day. Well, maybe one reason.”

Really? Do you think, Mr. Speaker?

I’ll just add that the election outcome surprised a lot of us. Count me as one American who never saw it coming.

As for Donald Trump and whether he has prepared sufficiently for the challenges that continue to loom in front of him, my sense is that he is nowhere close to getting it.

Boehner said Trump is “clearly the most unusual person we’ve elected as president.”

Most unusual? Do you think?

GOP House caucus stampedes lame-duck speaker

It’s no secret that the U.S. House of Representatives Republican majority at times can turn into an unruly bunch.

The TEA party faction, along with the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus, drove former Speaker John Boehner batty enough to make him quit.

Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, is getting the same treatment. The House Freedom Caucus helped torpedo a new farm bill for reasons that hardly anything to do with farm policy.

Ryan is a lame duck. He isn’t seeking re-election to the House from Wisconsin. Indeed, his speakership has been no picnic from the get-go. He now is finding it difficult to keep his own partisan troops in line, let alone getting any help from Democratic House members who don’t much like or respect him to begin with.

The farm bill got entangled with immigration, according to The Hill:

The House bill became inextricably linked with immigration after the Freedom Caucus demanded a vote on the conservative measure as moderates neared the 206 signatures needed to force a vote on a separate immigration plan that falls well short of the proposal pushed for by the White House.

Despite leadership offering the group of conservative hardliners a vote on the immigration measure in June, the members refused to back the legislation.

House conservatives seemingly want to poison an important aid to farmers and ranchers with an issue that ought to stand on its own.

As for the speaker, he told the country he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to seek the job he now holds. I guess he meant it.

Speaker Ryan’s remaining time as the Man of the House appears headed for a rocky conclusion.

Now it’s the House chaplain who’s on the hot seat

It’s not every day that the chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives finds his or her name in the news.

The Rev. Patrick Conroy has just entered a new realm of celebrity status. House Speaker Paul Ryan asked Fr. Conroy to resign — but he hasn’t told the chaplain why he wants him out.

What’s going on here? Why push the House’s spiritual leader out of the way?

Fr. Conroy, a Jesuit priest, has served as chaplain since 2011; then-Speaker John Boehner, selected him.

Boehner left office. Ryan — another Catholic — succeeded him as the Man of the House. Now, Ryan wants Fr. Conroy to hit the road.

The New York Times reports: Father Conroy’s resignation is all the more contentious in Catholic circles because Mr. Ryan is a Catholic conservative, whereas Father Conroy is a Jesuit, a branch that is viewed by some as more liberal.

To his huge credit, Fr. Conroy has declined to engage in that discussion.

I certainly understand that we are functioning in highly contentious times these days. To ask the chaplain of the House, the fellow who opens congressional sessions with an invocation seems to take contentiousness to a new level.

Speaker Ryan not only owes the chaplain an explanation, but he ought to give offer one as well to the rest of us. He doesn’t need reminding, but I’ll do so anyway: The speaker works for us.

Those of us who pay for the People’s House deserve an explanation, too. Come clean, Mr. Speaker.

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.

GOP turns tables on Democrats

John Boehner was a year away from becoming speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but he stood on the floor of the House to express his intense anger at his Democratic colleagues.

They were rushing the Affordable Care Act into law, the then-House minority leader declared. Democrats were shoving this “down our throats,” he hollered. He bellowed that no one had “read the bill!”

The ACA passed with no Republican votes.

Now the GOP is in charge of Congress. Boehner became speaker in 2011 and served until 2015. Republicans sought to repeal the ACA many times during Boehner’s tenure. They failed.

Now it’s Paul Ryan’s House. Speaker Ryan is working with a Republican president to enact something called the American Health Care Act.

What is the GOP strategy being mapped out by Ryan and Donald Trump. Why, they’re trying to rush this to a vote. They’re trying to “shove this down the throats” of conservative lawmakers who oppose it. They aren’t bothering to persuade Democrats, who are lined up en masse to oppose the AHCA, just as the GOP locked arms against the ACA in 2010.

Is it good enough now for Republicans to do the very thing they accused Democrats — with good reason, candidly — of doing?

Of course it isn’t!

The president declared that repealing and replacing the ACA was his top priority. The House was supposed to vote tonight on the AHCA. Ryan backed away from the vote. It’s now scheduled for Friday.

The president says a Friday vote — up or down — will be the end of his negotiating a replacement for the ACA. He said today he’s going to “move on” to other issues. Whether he does will depend on who gets to him. Trump does have this way of changing his mind.

Has there been sufficient comment and analysis on this Republican alternative to ACA, which was trotted out less than a month ago?

Nope. Not even close.

One difference between now and 2010: You aren’t going to hear the current House minority leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, screaming on the House floor about not having enough time to consider this health care insurance replacement. Rep. Pelosi is actually chuckling at what she calls the president’s “rookie mistakes.”

That’s the major difference. The tactics of today’s Republicans certainly resemble those employed by yesterday’s Democrats.