Tag Archives: speaker of the House

Speaker ups the ante; now it’s ‘bribery’

Oh, brother. Here we go. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now is tossing out the “b” word in connection with the impeachment inquiry under way in the House of Representatives.

She believes Donald Trump has committed an act of “bribery,” one of two crimes mentioned specifically in the U.S. Constitutions as grounds for removing the president from office; the other crime is “treason.”

So, where do we stand? Pelosi has stated out loud that Trump’s attempt to obtain a political favor from Ukraine in exchange for sending weapons to Ukrainians who are fighting Russia-backed aggressors is a bribe.

I am left to say, um, wow!

The Constitution states that the president “shall be removed from office on impeachment for conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

OK. You got that? What does the handy-dandy American Heritage Dictionary say about what constitutes a bribe? “Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to induce or influence a person to act dishonestly.” 

As I try to connect these dots, I conclude the following: Donald Trump’s asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksiy for a “favor, though” falls directly into the definition of a bribe. He wanted dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; in return for the dirt, the president would release weapons slated to go to Ukraine.

Hmm. Is that a bribe? I believe it is.

The more troublesome question rests with how congressional Republicans are going to act on this conclusion. I fear they won’t consider it a bribe. They likely will insist that it’s done “all the time.”

But … is it?

I often have written about how “elections have consequences.” Well, consider this little observation: We are now reaping the consequence of electing someone with zero understanding of what the United States Constitution allows and prohibits.

Bye, bye … Speaker Bonnen

It’s one and done for Dennis Bonnen.

As in one term as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and now he’s gone, retiring at the end of 2020 from the Legislature.

The Angleton Republican won’t seek re-election next year to another House term. It’s is just as well, given that he squandered the trust of his fellow GOP lawmakers by engaging in a surreptitious conversation with a well-known right-wing radical political activist — in which Bonnen offered the radical the names of 10 GOP lawmakers the said radical could target in the next election.

I am referring to Empower Texans main man Michael Quinn Sullivan, who’s made a career out of targeting Republicans in Texas who don’t adhere to the same rigid ideology as he and his group. He has drawn a bead in the past, for example, on state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo and state Rep. Four Price, also of Amarillo. He lost those effort to unseat two fine legislators.

There are others, too, who have been victimized by this guy.

He now has brought down Speaker Bonnen, which the more I think about it might have been his aim all along. Sullivan and Bonnen aren’t exactly allies, but Sullivan recorded that meeting he had with Bonnen and former Texas House GOP caucus chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock. He said he had the goods on Bonnen, who denied giving up the names of those 10 legislators. Oh, but then the recording was released and Bonnen can be heard using some pithy language to describe his fellow Republicans.

At least 30 GOP House members had declared they either would not support him for re-election as speaker or flat out asked him to resign his speakership.

Bonnen took the least painful course. He won’t run for his Gulf Coast seat in 2020.

That’s all fine with me. I don’t want the Man of the Texas House to be a tool of a right-wing outfit such as Empower Texans, or of Michael Quinn Sullivan. My hope is that the next speaker of the House will stand up to this guy, tell him to take a hike and proceed to run the legislative chamber with at least a modicum of honesty and integrity.

Dennis Bonnen has failed to do so. For that reason I am glad to see him gone.

Trump tempts impeachment … but wait!

Donald Trump is tempting the U.S. House of Representatives to enter into a most dangerous political minefield.

The leader of the House, though, isn’t having any part of it.

At least not just yet.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to dig in on her resistance to impeaching the president of the United States. I happen to believe she is taking the correct course.

She wants more “evidence” to come forth in order to proceed with a full-blown impeachment inquiry. I agree with those who believe there’s a mountain of circumstantial evidence already building. However, I believe the House’s consummate political operative — the speaker — understands the consequence of impeaching the president only to have him “acquitted” if the Senate fails to convict him of a high crime or misdemeanor.

I also understand that momentum might be shifting under Pelosi’s feet. Trump keeps stiffing Congress’s effort to conduct oversight hearings. He instructs his staff and former staff to ignore congressional subpoenas. Trump, therefore, is building all by himself a case of obstruction of justice, but he’s not there just yet.

He also is losing court fights. Judges are ruling against the president’s efforts to keep his personal financial records out of congressional hands. He hasn’t yet been issued a court order to fork them over. If such an order arrives, and then the president decides to break the law by disobeying a direct order from a duly constituted judicial authority, well . . . there’s your high crime and misdemeanor.

This rush to impeachment, though, is a fool’s errand. Speaker Pelosi knows it.

I want Donald Trump to walk out of the Oval Office for keeps. I want voters to boot him out in November 2020. I intend to use this blog as a forum to boost that electoral result.

If impeachment is in this nation’s immediate future, I also intend to speak loudly and often in favor of this action.

However, I want the House of Representatives to get it right. I want there to be no room for Trump wriggle free.

Might that moment come? Perhaps. I am willing to wait for it.

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.

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.

Pelosi employs her superb ‘inside game’

This is what they mean, I suppose, when they say Nancy Pelosi plays an unparalleled “inside game” on Capitol Hill.

The Democratic leader in the U.S. House of Representatives is knocking off her former foes by “killing” them with promises. She intends to become the next/returning speaker of the House and she is lining up her friends to ensure they cast their votes in her favor.

Rep. Brian Higgins of New York had been a foe. He’s now on her side, thanks to a pledge to prioritize infrastructure legislation and Medicare expansion next year. Earlier, Pelosi struck a deal to win over Rep. Marsha Fudge of Ohio, who had considered running against Pelosi for speaker; Fudge climbed aboard the Pelosi haywagon after the presumptive speaker promised her a committee chairmanship and pledged to work to correct voting problems.

Isn’t that the sign of someone who knows how to turn foes into friends and start the process of organizing an occasionally unruly caucus of partisans with their own agendas, their own concerns and their own constituents?

This kind of skill is precisely what made her such an effective speaker during her first go-round, from 2007 until 2011.

Republicans will continue to demonize her. They do so at their peril.

Democrats suffer a gigantic electoral shock

Something happened to U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley’s inexorable march to the chair occupied by the speaker of the House of Representatives.

He got beat! In a Democratic Party primary no less!

His conqueror is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, a first-time political candidate, a self-proclaimed “Democratic socialist,” a community activist who worked the neighborhoods of Queens and The Bronx in New York City.

Crowley had poured lots of money into this race. He outspent Ocasio-Cortez by about 18 to 1. All that money went for naught, given that Ocasio-Cortez beat Crowley by double digits Tuesday night.

One problem emerged with Crowley’s re-election effort, just as it did in 2014 when Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his Virginia GOP primary contest. It turns out Crowley was more interested in his own political ambition than in the problems facing the constituents who sent him to Congress in the late 1990s. He wanted to push Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi aside; he kept yapping about the need for “new leadership” among the House Democratic caucus.

His hope has been that Democrats could retake the House this year and he — not Pelosi — would be chosen as the next speaker of the House.

Did he care about the home folks? They spoke Tuesday night and delivered their verdict that, nope, he didn’t give a damn about them.

Is there a lesson here. Yep.

Somewhere, the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill is laughing out loud. It was O’Neill who coined the well-worn phrase: “All politics is local.”

‘Haven’t paid … close attention’? Really, Mr. Speaker?

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan needs to be called out for telling a lie. So, I think I’ll do that.

He said this today in response to a question about whether he had faith in Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt:

“Frankly I haven’t paid that close attention to it … I don’t know enough about what Pruitt has or has not done to give you a good comment.”

Really and truly, Mr. Speaker? He is saying that all this tumult over EPA Administrator Pruitt’s mounting ethical troubles have gone unnoticed by the nation’s third-in-line for the presidency. He hasn’t paid “close attention to it,” he said.

Good grief, Mr. Speaker. Do you expect anyone to believe this?

I am quite certain he knows quite enough to make a comment on Pruitt’s troubles. He just doesn’t want to say anything about it.

Let me refresh his memory: Pruitt secured a dirt-cheap rental agreement for himself and his wife from a lobbyist who represents a company that is subject to EPA rules and regulations; Pruitt has been spending extravagantly for such things as a “secure telephone booth” in his office; his travel tabs have been exorbitant as well.

These are ethical matters that keep on piling up.

It’s been in all the papers. Cable news networks have been reporting on these matters.

The speaker of the House hasn’t heard enough about it to make a comment, to answer a reporter’s simple and direct question?

I don’t believe the speaker is telling the truth.

House chaplain to stay on the job … good deal!

Politicians can and do have second thoughts, yes?

Consider what happened with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to ask for the resignation of House chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy.

He pulled it back. Father Conroy will stay on the job, offering prayers for legislators as they grapple with the issues of the day.

Ryan had incurred considerable national anger when he asked Conroy — a fellow Catholic, as is Ryan — to resign. Ryan hasn’t yet explained his reason for seeking the chaplain’s resignation. Reports have swirled that Father Conroy had offered a prayer that some had taken as criticism of the Republican caucus’s passage of a tax-cut bill that Donald Trump signed into law.

Ryan asked Father Conroy to submit a letter asking the speaker to rescind his request to resign. Conroy did and Ryan accepted it.

As The Hill reported: “I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House,” Ryan said. “My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves.

 “It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body,” Ryan added, “and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post.”

The speaker is correct that the House need not be battered by a “protracted fight” over the chaplain.

Except that Ryan started the fight by issuing the resignation request in the first place.

I am one American who is demanding an explanation from Ryan why he picked the fight with the priest. Please tell us, Mr. Speaker, that your initial request had nothing to do with partisan politics.

A ‘wave is coming’

Terry Sullivan, a Republican political strategist who ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign had this to say about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress:

“It’s just another illustration of the harbinger of things to come. There’s no Republican who’s optimistic about the November elections. It’s the 300th example that there is a wave coming.”

Is this the Gospel According to Sullivan? Is he all-knowing, all-feeling, all-understanding? Does he know something the rest of us cannot know or can possibly know?

I have no clue.

However, I am beginning to rethink my view of Ryan’s stated reason for leaving the speakership. He said he wants to spend more time with his wife and young children.

Ho … hum.

It is sounding more like a standard dodge than anything that’s actually real.

Ryan became speaker reluctantly after John Boehner quit the House. He said he didn’t want the job and the headaches that came with it. Then he slid into his post as Man of the House. I considered him initially to be somewhat of a grownup.

And then Donald Trump got elected president of the United States. That’s when it all fell apart. Ryan sought to be a good soldier. He considered himself to be loyal to the party. The problem appeared to expand and explode as Trump began to assert himself while trying to learn a thing or two about the process of governing.

It has been a cluster-fudge since the beginning of Trump’s time as president, putting the man who stands third in line to the presidency in the line of fire.

I cannot pretend to know what is in Speaker Ryan’s head and heart. It just strikes me today, just a bit after Ryan’s startling retirement announcement, that he really didn’t want to become speaker.

It now becomes apparent that despite his stated desire to be more of a family man that he just might realize that the speaker’s job didn’t pay him enough to deal daily with the chaos that emanates from the White House.

Yep, Sen. Rubio’s strategist just might be on to something about a “wave coming.”