Tag Archives: Senate GOP

What? GOP is about to stand up to POTUS? Wow!

I had to blink once or twice, shake my head a bit, clean my eyeglasses and rub the sleepy stuff out of my eyes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.

The U.S. Senate Republican caucus is poised to issue a stern rebuke of Donald J. Trump, who continues to exhibit shocking, stunning, jaw-dropping naivete regarding foreign policy crises.

The Senate is planning to push forward an amendment that warns the president about the dangers of a “precipitous withdrawal” from Afghanistan, given the ongoing threat posed by the Taliban and the Islamic State.

Trump (in)famously declared ISIS to be “defeated” in Syria. He is wrong. The Senate is going to respond by saying in a resolution that ISIS and al-Qaida pose a “continuing threat” to the United States and our allies around the world.

So, there you go. The Senate GOP majority has finally grown a set of . . . you know.

Mitch McConnell is MIA

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s absence at Donald Trump’s Rose Garden press conference was so very conspicuous it has become a serious back story in the government shutdown drama that goes on and on and on.

The Senate majority leader once all but guaranteed that there wouldn’t be a partial shutting down of the government. Indeed, he and the president reportedly agreed on a deal approved by the Senate unanimously to fund the government until early February.

Except the measure didn’t have money for The Wall that Trump wants to build along our southern border. Trump got a gut full from right wing talkers, so he changed his mind.

Yep. He stabbed the majority leader in the back.

Which makes me wonder if McConnell and Trump are at each other’s throats yet again.

He wasn’t standing with the president as Trump talked about the meeting he had with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. He hasn’t spoken publicly for several days about the status of the shutdown, other than to say the Senate would not take up the House bill that Pelosi promised to send to the Senate.

Aren’t he and Trump big-time pals these days? Don’t they stand together in favor of The Wall and opposed to any measure that doesn’t include money to build it?

He should have been in the Rose Garden. Mitch McConnell is missing in action. Given that no one seems able to talk sense to the president, then maybe McConnell is planning a mutiny.

Senate GOP to Trump: Find a new AG … quickly!

It seems that the Senate Republican caucus — which heretofore in the era of Donald Trump had been a routinely spineless group — apparently has stiffened its backbone a bit.

This is good news … if the stiffening continues.

GOP senators are urging the president to find a permanent attorney general nominee in short order. They apparently are unhappy with the controversy that has erupted over the president’s choice of Matthew Whitaker to be acting AG after Jeff Sessions got fired a week ago.

Whitaker was elevated from the No. 3 post at the Justice Department, hurdling over the No. 2 man, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who’s heading special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government operatives.

There’s a problem, however. Whitaker hasn’t been approved by the Senate; what’s more, he’s been openly critical of the Mueller probe, calling it a “witch hunt” and a “fishing expedition.”

Senators seem intent on ensuring that Mueller is allowed to complete his task. They don’t place much stock in Whitaker’s promise to ensure the completion of the Russia investigation by Mueller.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, is among the leaders pushing for a quick AG nomination. He doesn’t believe Whitaker should be the acting attorney general for very long.

I happen to concur with all of that. I also am heartened by the seeming newfound courage being exhibited by a few Senate Republicans. Granted, they aren’t likely to lock arms with their Democratic “friends” and colleagues in the Senate, but they just might be moving closer to their friends across the aisle than they were before.

Matthew Whitaker shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Mueller investigation. If he had any sense of propriety, he would recuse himself from the Mueller matter … even if it angers the president, just as Sessions did when he bowed out of the Russia probe.

Are we entering Watergate 2.0?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m beginning to sense a certain frenzy developing around the White House that — if memory serves — resembles the climate that fell over the place during the Watergate scandal.

Yes, Watergate happened a long time ago. President Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974 just as he was about to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. As Carl Bernstein — one of the Washington Post reporters who covered the story — noted the other day, the “real heroes” of the Watergate saga turned out to be congressional Republicans — led by Sen. Barry Goldwater — who told the president he had no Senate support were the impeachment to go to trial.

That kind of “heroism” is missing at the moment.

Still, my sense is that there is a growing tension beginning to develop in Washington, on Capitol Hill and the White House as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his work to determine if there was any “collusion” between the Trump campaign team and Russians who attacked our electoral system in 2016.

I am in no position to know how this case will conclude. It well might end with Mueller saying, “I got nothin’, folks” — which I doubt will happen. He might recommend criminal proceedings against key White House aides, maybe even the president himself.

Or … he could scold the president and his team and leave all the political consequences up to the House of Representatives and the Senate.

However, those of us of a certain age — such as Americans, like me, who came of age politically during the Watergate era — might be feeling a bit of deja vu as we watch the current White House writhe and squirm as the special counsel goes about his complicated task.

I know I am.

Listen to this former GOP leader, Republicans

Bill Frist needs to be heard and heeded.

The former U.S. Senate majority leader worries that the Republican Party he served on Capitol Hill has become something foreign, something he doesn’t recognize.

He has written an essay for the Washington Post in which he says it is imperative to let special counsel Robert Mueller to complete his investigation into whether the Donald Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians who meddled in our 2016 election.

Read the essay here.

Frist, a heart and lung transplant surgeon, doesn’t believe Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians. Nor does he suggest the Senate where he served lacked partisanship. He does say that it was his belief that politicians should put patriotism above party.

He suggests that’s not the case at this moment in our history. It’s dangerous in the extreme to undermine Mueller, Frist writes: Every American should be rooting for Mueller’s success in determining precisely how Russia interfered in our fundamental democratic process. I had no illusions about the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and I have none about Putin now. Mueller’s most recent court filings indicate that Putin is seeking to meddle in this year’s elections. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray — all Trump appointees confirmed by the Republican-led Senate — have also warned of foreign interference. We should heed these warnings and empower Mueller to see his important work through to its conclusion.

The president is intent on derailing Mueller. Indeed, to the extent that Mueller is under such attack by fellow Republicans, it looks to me that Putin has succeeded in undermining our electoral process.

And please … spare me the notion that Bill Frist is a Republican In Name Only. He is no such creature.

Dr. Frist served his country with honor and distinction. Did I agree with every decision he ever made? No. However, he is speaking a fundamental truth about the deteriorating condition of our national political discourse.

Listen to this man!

As he has written: No matter who is in the White House, we Republicans must stand up for the sanctity of our democracy and the rule of law.

Mitch McConnell: partisan powerhouse

Oh, how I wanted to give U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the benefit of the doubt.

I didn’t like the way he stonewalled Barack Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court after Antonin Scalia died in 2016. Then he turned around and said all the right things about Roy Moore, the religious zealot — who also has been accused of sexually abusing girls; McConnell said Moore is unfit to serve in the Senate and he wanted him to end his candidacy.

Now the Republican from Kentucky is showing who he really is: a partisan powerhouse hack.

He doesn’t want to wait for Alabama U.S. Sen.-elect Doug Jones — the Democrat who beat Moore this week in that special election — to take his seat before voting on the GOP-authored tax cut bill. Moore is a certain “no” vote on the bill.

But wait! Seven years ago, a Republican was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts and McConnell insisted that the Senate wait for Scott Brown to take his seat before voting on whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Which is it, Mr. Majority Leader? Is it right for one party to gum up the works, but not for the other party?

I refer to McConnell’s successful obstruction of President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the high court for a reason as well. McConnell wanted to hold off on confirming a Supreme Court pick until after the 2016 election. He was hoping Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton, even though almost no one thought he would. His gamble paid off.

However, while obstructing the president, he accused Democrats of “playing politics” with the nomination by insisting that Judge Garland get a hearing and a vote. I trust you see the irony in that statement, as McConnell was “playing politics” like the master politician he has proven to be.

Now the Senate Republican majority is poised to foist a tax cut that will explode the federal budget deficit on Americans; analyses suggest it will benefit the wealthiest Americans while burdening the rest of us. But that’s OK, says Mitch. Bring it on!

Don’t wait for a duly elected Democrat to take his seat. We gotta get this bill to the president’s desk because we’re desperate for a win.

Oh, and never mind what he said before about Sen.-elect Brown. Hey, if Americans can ignore what the president says about his political foes, surely they’ll give McConnell a pass on his brazen duplicity.

GOP plans to read tax bill eventually

Let’s call it the same song, second verse … or just the same ol’ same ol’.

U.S. Senate and House Republican leaders have cobbled together a tax cut bill that the rest of their GOP colleagues haven’t yet read. They say they plan to examine the legislation before voting on it.

Gosh! What a concept!

The tax bill is drawing some independent analysis, however, from those who tell us it will jumpstart an economy that’s already moving along pretty well. Others say it helps the rich more than it helps the middle class.

Donald Trump calls it the biggest tax cut in U.S. history.

What I find most amazing/amusing/troubling is that the GOP plans to rush this bill through before Thanksgiving. I am not alone in wondering about the wisdom of such a fast-track effort. The most recent landmark tax reform package took months of debate and hearings before it went to President Reagan’s desk in 1986. How in the world does this version of GOP leadership plan to enact the nation’s most historic tax cut in such short order?

The idea that legislators haven’t read it, of course, isn’t new. Democrats said much the same thing before they brought the Affordable Care Act forward in 2009 and 2010. Yes, the ACA had some serious hiccups during its rollout, but it is working — despite what GOP leaders keep saying to the contrary.

Congressional Republicans are feeling the heat to do something of substance. They couldn’t repeal and replace the ACA; they haven’t secured money to build the president’s “beautiful wall” across the southern border. Now they’re hanging their fortunes on tax reform.

They haven’t read the bill. They aren’t commenting on its specifics.

I keep wondering the same thing that I asked about the ACA repeal/replace effort: Why can’t — or won’t — these majority congressional members work with Democrats to get their input in legislation that affects all Americans?

Buh-bye, latest GOP effort to kill the ACA

Well, here’s where we stand with the persistent Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It’s a goner. Kaput. Finished. Party’s over, man.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, today announced she won’t vote for the latest Senate GOP-engineered effort to repeal the ACA and replace it with an abomination that we’ll call Trumpcare.

You know what interests me about this latest death knell being run over the GOP’s ACA repeal effort: The three senators who’ve announced their opposition to it have done so for wildly varying reasons.

Collins opposes the bill because it cuts too much money from state Medicaid assistance programs for Americans who cannot afford health insurance. Sen. John McCain of Arizona hates the partisan process that brought this bill forward; he wants Democrats to be involved in this effort. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky doesn’t like the block grant provision, which he says simply renders the replacement as an “Obamacare light” version of the ACA.

There might be more Republicans who’ll abandon this effort. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has strong reservations. So does Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who contends that his buddy Sen. Mike Lee of Utah also might vote “no.”

That all might be a moot point. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said today he doubts the bill will get to a vote. Senate Republican leaders have conceded likely defeat.

The Senate GOP has until Saturday to repeal the ACA with a mere 50-vote (plus one) majority; after that the rule shifts back to the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.

What now?

Hey, here’s an idea: How about sitting down with congressional Democrats to work out ways to repair the ACA? Are congressional Republicans so hell bent on removing President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement from the books that they simply won’t look for common ground with their Democratic “friends”?

Premiums are too high. Health insurance isn’t as “affordable” as it was advertised. Surely there are ways to tinker, tweak and fine-tune the legislation to make it better. Aren’t there?

We aren’t re-inventing the wheel here, folks. Members of Congress did that very thing more than 50 years when they approved Medicare legislation. It wasn’t perfect, either, but they sought — and found — common ground to improve it to older Americans’ satisfaction.

That, I submit, is a sure-fire formula for furthering the cause of good-government legislation.

Is the party over for ACA repeal? Let’s hope so

On the day earlier this summer when he voted “no” on a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., made an impassioned plea for the body where he has served for three decades to return to “regular order.”

Meaning that both parties, Democrats and Republicans, need to work for common ground, to seek compromise, to actually get things done for the good of the citizens they all serve.

The Vietnam War hero’s plea fell on deaf ears. Senate Republicans decided — against logic and good judgment — to proceed yet again with a GOP-only repeal of the ACA.

Sen. McCain has stuck the shiv into the GOP’s efforts by announcing he plans to vote “no” once again on this ACA repeal effort. It likely blows the effort to smithereens. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will vote against it because it doesn’t go far enough in getting rid of the vestiges of the ACA; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is a likely “no” vote, as is Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.

Senate Republicans — who have hardly any room for defections given their slim Senate majority — face a Sept. 30 deadline to get this deal done with a 50-vote plus one (Vice President Mike Pence) majority; after that, Senate rules return to a 60-vote supermajority requirement.

So, what about that “regular order” thing that McCain sought earlier this year?

The ACA isn’t perfect. It likely isn’t even a good piece of legislation. Barack Obama’s signature bill needs work. It needs to be amended, nipped and tucked. To do that, though, requires that “regular order” that McCain wants to see restored. That would mean bipartisan cooperation, the search for commonality.

That’s how legislation gets done.

President Lyndon Johnson knew how to legislate. He employed his overpowering persuasive skills to bring Republicans along. President Richard Nixon was no slouch, either, at working with Democrats. Nor were Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton or Bush 43.

President Obama needed to work better at developing that skill. Then again, the Republican intransigence was too big a hurdle for him to overcome.

Sen. McCain has called repeatedly for a return to the old way of legislating. His decision today only drives home that call even more deeply.

The question now becomes: Is anyone in a leadership position going to heed those calls ever again on Capitol Hill?

Grassley tells ‘truth’ about ACA repeal effort

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said this about Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered … But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill.”

Well now …

The GOP rush to repeal and replace the ACA is meant to fulfill a campaign pledge. Does it not matter, then, what the Republican bill does? Or who it harms? Or whether it’s an actual improvement over the ACA?

The Senate Republican caucus is up against the wall on this one. It has until Sept. 30 to get this bill approved with just 50 Senate votes; a tie would bring in Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote. After that date, Senate rules roll back to a 60-vote supermajority requirement, which the Republicans don’t have.

I’m going to give Sen. Grassley kudos for candor, though. There’s been so little of it as it relates to this discussion. It’s rare to hear a leading U.S. lawmaker speak the truth about political motives.

Not that it makes it any better …