Tag Archives: Senate

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.

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.

Get ready for more impeachment talk

Impeaching a president of the United States isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires a stout gut among those who bring it, not to mention the target of such a drastic action.

The bar must be high. It must have a solid basis on which to make such a move.

Where am I going with this? I have this sinking feeling that the current president well might find himself in the crosshairs of those who want to bring such an action against him.

We’re hearing a growing — but still muted — rumbling in D.C. about the prospect of Donald J. Trump facing impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m attaching an item from The Hill in which former Labor Secretary Robert Reich — an acknowledged political liberal — has lined out at least four impeachable offense already committed by the president.

Here it is.

Reich says that Trump’s accusation that Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower offices constitutes an impeachable offense, saying the president has recklessly accused his predecessor of committing a felony. He notes that the Constitution prohibits president from taking money from foreign governments; Trump, Reich alleges, has done so by “steering foreign delegations” to hotels he owns. Reich contends that Trump violates the First Amendment’s provision against establishing a state religion by banning travelers from Muslim countries into the United States. Reich also says the First Amendment bans any abridgment of a free press, but Trump has labeled the media the “enemy of the people.”

There’s a fifth potential cause, which Reich has asserted. It involves the possibility that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian government officials to swing the election in the president’s favor. Reich said such activity, if proven, constitutes “treason.”

Will any of this come to pass? I have no clue.

Think of the politics of it. Trump is a Republican; both congressional chambers are controlled by the GOP. Will the Republican House majority bring articles of impeachment to a vote, no matter how seriousness of whatever charges are considered?

The collusion matter strikes me as the most serious and the most likely to align Republicans along with Democrats in considering whether to impeach the president. I am not suggesting there is, indeed, proof of such collusion.

Remember as well that the GOP-led House managed to impeach a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, in 1998 on three counts relating to his seedy relationship with that White House intern. Conviction in the Senate, though, required a super majority of senators; the GOP fell far short on all three counts. Thus, the president was acquitted.

They based that impeachment on the president’s failure to tell the truth under oath to a federal grand jury that questioned him about the affair. He broke the law, Republicans said. There was your “impeachable offense,” they argued.

My major concern about the Clinton impeachment was whether the president’s offense had a direct impact on his office. It did not. Any of the issues that Secretary Reich lists, however, certainly do have a direct impact on the president’s ability to perform his duties.

The bar for whatever might occur with the current president is set even higher than it was for President Clinton, given that the president and the congressional majorities are of the same party.

You might not believe this, but I do not prefer an impeachment to occur. I do, though, want the unvarnished truth to be revealed about what the president thinks he can do with — and to — the exalted office he occupies.

If the truth is as ugly as some of us fear, then Congress should know how to repair the damage.

Bipartisanship returns to Senate

corker and cardin

Take a look at this picture.

You see two U.S. senators — Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee and Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland — yukking it up after the Senate approved a measure to require senatorial review of the Iranian nuclear deal worked out by the Obama administration with the mullahs in Iran.

Why is this picture so noteworthy? It’s because the measure passed 98-1 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner.

It’s not often these days you see Democratic and Republican congressional leaders standing side by side in front of cameras to bask in something they’ve done together.

They did so this week.

Good for them.

What’s brought the smiles to both men? It’s a measure that says the Senate gets to sign off on a treaty that administration officials hope to finalize later this spring or perhaps in early summer. It calls for Iran to scale back dramatically its nuclear development program and its aim is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon — which Israel says it intends to do and which no one this side of Tehran wants to occur.

It’s good that the Senate and the House will weigh in when the time comes.

According to RealClearPolitics.com, “The legislation gives Congress 30 days to review a deal once the full details are submitted to them. They then have the right to approve or disapprove of the deal, or do nothing, which would allow it to go forward. If they disapprove, President Obama can veto that measure, which would require 67 votes to override and actually halt an agreement, an unlikely outcome.”

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/05/07/senate_nearly_unanimous_in_backing_review_of_iran_deal_126524.html

The lone “no” vote came from upstart freshman Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, the author of that letter that GOP senators sent to the Iranian mullahs threatening to void any treaty that President Obama signs.

Well, that’s Cotton’s view.

I prefer to hope that the Senate will deliberate this treaty carefully when it arrives on Capitol Hill.

I also prefer that it do so in the same bipartisan spirit it showed in approving the measure granting its authority to do so.

Now the House of Representatives will consider it. Follow the Senate lead, House members.

Lynch gets key GOP ally

Politics occasionally produces peculiar alliances that develop at key moments.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Attorney General-designate Loretta Lynch’s confirmation vote over an unrelated bill dealing with human trafficking. Then the Senate approved the trafficking bill. What did McConnell do then? He rounded up enough votes to get Lynch confirmed.

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/239938-mcconnell-whipped-for-lynch-avoiding-nuclear-fallout

His work to end a filibuster that had stopped Lynch’s confirmation apparently has angered the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and other members of the Senate’s TEA party caucus.

My reaction? Live with it.

This seeming reversal gets to a key element of McConnell’s leadership. He can be a fierce partisan when the opportunity presents itself, but he knows how the Senate is supposed to work and he knows how to deal with the “other side,” namely Democrats, when that opportunity presents itself.

Compromise, therefore, isn’t a bad thing when a failure to compromise gums up the legislative works — as it did while Loretta Lynch waited an interminable length of time to be confirmed as the nation’s next attorney general.

So, now let’s move on to the next congressional crisis.

 

Race enters Lynch debate over AG vote

I didn’t predict it would happen, but the debate over when to vote on the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general has taken an unsurprising turn.

The issue of race has entered this debate, as Lynch is the first African-American woman ever nominated to head the Justice Department.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/dick-durbin-loretta-lynch-back-of-bus-116180.html?hp=t1_r

The introduction was made by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who said the delays in voting on Lynch’s confirmation has forced the nominee to “sit at the back of the bus.” Durbin’s reference, of course, was to the great Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon who famously refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in the 1950s.

To my mind, the issue more about partisan politics than it is about race and Durbin should not have gone there during his Senate floor speech.

Durbin drew the expected criticism from Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the Senate’s lone black Republican, who accused Durbin of being a race-baiter.

“It is helpful to have a long memory and to remember that Durbin voted against Condoleezza Rice during the 40th anniversary of the March [on Selma]. So I think, in context, it’s just offensive that we have folks who are willing to race bait on such an important issue as human trafficking,” Scott said. “Sometimes people use race as an issue that is hopefully going to motivate folks for their fight. But what it does, is it infuriates people.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is wrong to hold up the Lynch vote. She needs to be confirmed and the Justice Department needs to get refocused exclusively on its job, which is to enforce federal law.

I just wish we could have kept the race argument out of this so we can stick instead to the raw political gamesmanship that the GOP leadership is playing while delaying Lynch’s confirmation vote.