Tag Archives: Senate

This impeachment thing appears to be growing more tentacles

As I seek to follow the ongoing impeachment crisis threatening the presidency of Donald Trump, I am getting a sense that the story is getting bigger than many Americans would prefer.

Just three weeks ago we learned about a phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodormyr Zellenskiy in which he sought a favor from Ukraine in exchange for releasing money to help Ukrainians fight Russian aggressors.

The phone call prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry. The thought as I understood at the time was that the House would move rapidly toward an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving. It would be a narrowly focused matter: whether the president violated his oath by seeking foreign government help in his re-election and seeking foreign help in digging up dirt on Joe Biden, a potential foe in the 2020 presidential election.

Now it seems as if this story is getting many more tentacles.

Trump appeared to suggest that the vice president, Mike Pence, had conversations with Ukrainians as well; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at first denied knowledge of the Trump-Zellenskiy phone conversation, then acknowledged he was “on the call”; questions have now arisen about Turkey and whether the president’s decision to abandon our allies in Kurdistan in the fight against ISIS is somehow related to a Trump Towers deal in Istanbul.

My head is spinning, man.

Does all of this come together quickly? Can there be an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving? Can the Senate commence a trial and make a decision by, say, spring 2020? Is all of this getting so muddy that we won’t have a resolution until after the 2020 presidential election?

As if it needed to get more complicated. The juxtaposition of a re-election fight and an impeachment muddies matters beyond anything the nation has experienced. President Clinton was a lame-duck second-term president when the House impeached him in 1998; President Nixon was in the same boat when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment in 1974. Neither man faced re-election.

This whole scenario is vastly different. Moreover, it keeps growing in its complexity as more Cabinet officials get sucked into the debate over what they knew and when they knew it.

I need something to settle my nerves.

I also want this saga to end — either through impeachment and Senate conviction, or at the ballot box — with Donald Trump vacating the Oval Office for a final time.

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.

Sen. McConnell: partisan hack supreme

There could be little, if any doubt, about Mitch McConnell’s partisan credentials.

The U.S. Senate majority leader, though, has just removed any possible benefit of the doubt. The man plays pure, raw, partisan politics better (or worse) than anyone else in Washington, D.C.

Consider his answer to this question recently: If a seat on the Supreme Court came open in 2020, the final full year of Donald Trump’s term as president, would he seek to confirm the nominee?

McConnell’s answer: “Oh, I’d fill it.”

Just four years ago, he had the chance to “fill” a seat on the high court upon the sudden and unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. His response in 2016, the final full year of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, was markedly different from what he said to the crowd in Paducah, Ky.

McConnell said immediately upon Scalia’s death that Obama would not fill the vacancy. McConnell would block any attempt for a Democratic president to replace a conservative justice appointed by a Republican president; in this case, it was President Reagan who nominated Scalia.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS. The Senate didn’t give him a hearing. Key Republican senators never even met the fellow. His nomination withered and died. We elected a new president in November 2016 — and it happened to be Donald Trump!

Oh, but now we have a GOP president in office. If a vacancy were to develop on the court, McConnell — also a Republican — would move to fill the vacancy.

Just think that this partisan hack has the gall, the stones, the chutzpah to suggest Democrats are “playing politics.”

This guy, McConnell, plays the political game with the best of ’em.

Sen. McConnell’s thinly disguised contempt for fairness — to my way of thinking — is what gives politics and politicians a bad name.

Veto likely will hold up, but then what?

Donald Trump’s first veto of his presidency is likely to withstand congressional efforts to overturn it.

It’s good to ask, though: What happens next?

The president vetoed House and Senate bills that sought to toss aside his national emergency declaration that he sought to build The Wall along our southern border. Congress based its action on a couple of key issues: there is no national emergency, the president’s action sets the stage for future presidents to do the same thing and it usurps congressional authority to appropriate money for specific projects.

Trump wants to divert funds allocated for various programs to build The Wall.

Twelve Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to wipe out the declaration. Democrats control the House, so that vote was a done deal from the get-go. Neither vote was veto-proof, however.

Trump is messing with fire with this veto. Sure, the Constitution grants him the authority to do what he did. However, it’s not yet clear whether his action will withstand a legal challenge if it comes from congressional Democrats.

Never mind that Attorney General William Barr said when Trump signed the veto document that he was within his right legally; we all expected the AG to stand with the president.

The animosity between the legislative and executive branches of government is as vivid as ever. Trump’s veto is likely to stand. However, the fight over The Wall is far from over.

Trump ‘leadership’ takes a huge hit

Donald J. Trump has spared little effort in disparaging the leadership of his immediate presidential predecessors.

He actually has praised dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un as being “strong leaders” who govern with iron fists while denigrating the leadership of our own president at the time, Barack Obama.

So . . . how did the current president “lead” as it regarded the government shutdown?

He agreed with a Senate deal that he assured leaders he would sign, even though it didn’t contain money for “The Wall” he wants to build along our southern border.

Then right wing blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter blast him for “caving” to Democrats and sensible Republicans; they want the wall built, period! They made their displeasure known to Trump.

The president then caved to them! He reversed course! He took back his pledge to sign the bill. Then he blamed Democrats for failing to achieve a compromise.

Is that how we define leadership? Is that the mark of a strong leader? Is that how a committed statesman governs?

Donald Trump has demonstrated jaw-dropping weakness. In the face of political pressure, he kowtows to a radical right wing radio blabbermouth and a right wing commentator known for her intemperate utterances about anyone with whom she disagrees.

Take a look at how two PBS commentators, liberal columnist Mark Shields and conservative columnist Michael Gerson, characterize the president’s behavior this week:

Oh, and then we have the James Mattis resignation as secretary of defense as well.

Are you frightened yet? If so, you are part of a growing number of Americans.

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.

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.

Trumpcare in trouble … put on hold

Trumpcare is in trouble. There’s no way to spin this any differently.

Nine Senate Republicans are now on the record that they oppose their party leadership’s version of the alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is as adept at tea-leaf reading as anyone in Washington, delayed the vote on the GOP plan until after the Fourth of July recess.

I live out here in Flyover Country, in the heart of Trump Land, where the president polled something like 80 percent over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

But my gut tells me that rank-and-file Trumpkins are none too happy about what the GOP Senate leadership has come up with.

We’ve got a lot of folks out here who depend on Medicaid to cover the cost of medical care. The GOP plan guts Medicaid. A lot of those same folks voted for Donald J. Trump on his promise that he wouldn’t touch Medicaid, or Medicare, and would ensure a better, cheaper, more efficient health insurance plan than the one provided by the ACA. He isn’t delivering the goods, based on what the House of Representatives has approved and what’s on the table in the Senate.

Republicans can afford to lose just two votes in order to approve a Senate version of Trumpcare. They hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate; two “no” votes means Vice President Pence casts the tie-breaking vote to approve Trumpcare.

McConnell said today that Democrats have no intention of working with Republicans to craft an ACA replacement. Really!

How about this, Mr. Majority Leader? How about agreeing to preserve the good aspects of the ACA and work to improve those elements that need work? I’ve heard Democrats say they would be willing to with Republicans to mend the ACA. One of them happened to be the former president, Barack H. Obama, who has said repeatedly that if Republicans can improve the ACA he’d be willing to work with them.

Obama is out of office now. Republicans are in complete charge. They control Congress and the White House. They had eight years to come up with a reasonable alternative to the ACA. They dickered, dawdled and dissed the Democrats for that entire time and then came up with a plan that cannot please enough Republicans to make it law.

Cue music. The dance goes on.

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.