Tag Archives: Tea party

As if Sen. Cornyn needs to bend more to the right

I hear that Pat Fallon wants to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn next year.

Who is this guy Fallon? He’s a rookie Texas state senator from down the road in Prosper. He got elected to the Senate in 2018 by upsetting longtime Republican incumbent Craig Estes; Fallon is no political novice, though, having served in the Texas House of Representatives before moving to the other chamber at the other end of the State Capitol.

Fallon seems to think Sen. Cornyn isn’t conservative enough. He wants to steer public policy even farther to the right than Cornyn is willing to take it.

Hold on here! Cornyn, to my way of thinking, is pretty damn conservative. What in the world is young Sen. Fallon intending to do that Cornyn hasn’t already done?

Cornyn fought against the creation of the Affordable Care Act, along with everything else that President Barack Obama pitched during his two terms in the White House; he has resisted efforts to strengthen laws controlling firearms purchases; he is avidly anti-abortion rights; he stands pretty damn firmly in Donald Trump’s corner as the impeachment forces start gathering steam.

That isn’t good enough for Fallon … or so it might appear.

Fallon is a darling of what used to be called the TEA Party in Texas. The term “TEA Party” has fallen out of favor. It now operates under the name of the True Texas Project, apparently believing that only the most fervent right-wingers represent the “True Texas.” I happen to believe that is just so much horse manure.

As for Cornyn, he needs a strong challenger from the left, not the right. Cornyn has demonstrated, the way I see it, that he is as conservative in his thinking as almost any member of the U.S. Senate Republican caucus.

Fallon, for his part, sounds more like a stooge for Empower Texans, that ultra-right wing outfit led by Michael Quinn Sullivan, who’s waging a fight of his own with fellow conservative Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Good grief! Texas doesn’t need another GOP primary challenge to yank the state’s senior U.S. senator farther to the right. He’s already on the fringe!

Texas’ GOP congressional ‘dean’ calls it a career … wow!

I didn’t exactly call it, but I did wonder out loud about two months ago if U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry had all the fun he could stand in Congress.

Well, today the Clarendon Republican announced he is bowing out after 25 years in Congress. He’s calling it a career and will not seek re-election next year.

Before our Democratic friends get all lathered up over this news, I need to remind everyone that the 13th Congressional District is as Republican-leaning as any in the country. Donald Trump won the 13th in 2016 with 80 percent of the vote; Thornberry won re-election in 2018 with 82 percent. Thornberry has breezed back into office every two years since 1994 without breaking a sweat.

The 13th isn’t likely to flip from “red” to “blue” just because a Republican officeholder has called it quits.

I cannot begin to know why Thornberry has decided to bail. I have a theory or two that I shall share.

First, he doesn’t like governing from a minority position. Democrats took control of the House in 2018. Nancy Pelosi became speaker for her second tour as the Lady of the House. Meanwhile, Thornberry lost his coveted Armed Services Committee chairmanship as a result. Republican caucus rules also will require Thornberry to step down as ranking member on Armed Services at the end of the current term.

Second, I also wonder if Thornberry is going to get caught up in the sausage grinder that is churning at this moment over whether to impeach Donald Trump. Thornberry more than likely will stand behind, beside and with the president as he fights allegations that he compromised national security by seeking foreign government help in winning re-election in 2020. It won’t cost him much support among rank-and-file voters at home, but he is sure to face plenty of heat were he to vote against impeachment.

Thornberry has been an astute political observer for a long time. He once told before it actually happened that he suspected former House Speaker John Boehner would step aside over the fatigue he was suffering while fighting with the TEA Party element within the House GOP caucus. Boehner did and cited that very thing in his announcement that he was leaving public service.

This is a big deal for the 13th Congressional District. Thornberry becomes the sixth Texas GOP House member to announce his retirement. The others came as a surprise. This one, not so much, as the Texas Tribune has reported.

I’ve known Thornberry pretty well for the past quarter-century. I’ve joked with him over that time that we kind of “grew up together,” given that I started my job in January 1995 at the Amarillo Globe-News the same week he took office as congressman.

I’ve gnashed my teeth at times over some of his decisions. He knows my political leanings. I hope he also knows I have a deep reservoir of respect and affection for him personally.

Mac Thornberry has made a huge decision in the wake of a raucous political climate.

Former GOP Rep. Walsh now set to challenge Trump

Joe Walsh hasn’t been in the public eye all that long, but his time in the spotlight has been fraught with, shall we say, uncomfortable moments.

The former Republican member of Congress has thrust himself back onto the stage with an announcement that he’s going to challenge Donald J. Trump for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

Does this TEA Party adherent stand a chance of wrestling the nomination away from the president? Ohhh, probably not.

However, the guy who now works as a right-wing talk show host could make this primary fight entertaining in the extreme.

Walsh served a term in the U.S. House. Then his district got redrawn in a way that favored Democrats. He sought to switch districts and then lost to Tammy Duckworth, who since has gone on to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Walsh, though, has been far from silent. Yes, he once spoke harshly against President Barack Obama, but has all but apologized for the intemperate language he used against Trump’s immediate predecessor.

In a way, though, it kind does my heart good to hear him say things many millions of us have been saying about the president since before he won the 2016 election.

He calls Trump unfit, frightening, incompetent, crass, callous, lacking in empathy. And this is from a Republican who once stood foursquare behind Donald Trump.

Joe Walsh isn’t exactly the kind of politician I want to see elected. He tilts too far the other way than I do. He was elected as a TEA Party advocate. I am not crazy about TEA Party candidates or officeholders.

However, he stands on a set of principles in which he believes strongly, which happens to be something that is foreign to Donald Trump, who doesn’t appear to have a single guiding principle other than what benefits him.

So, with that I wish former Rep. Joe Walsh well. Give POTUS the dickens. He deserves every lick he’s going to get.

Pelosi knows how Boehner felt?

She likely would dislike the comparison, but I’ll make it anyway: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is feeling some of the pain that was inflicted on one of her predecessors, former Speaker John Boehner.

Indeed, Pelosi handed the gavel over to Boehner when Republicans took control of the House in 2011; she was speaker during the previous congressional session, but the Democrat had to surrender her speakership to the GOP and to Boehner.

What happened to Boehner? He ran into the TEA Party buzz saw that made his speakership a form of holy hell. He eventually quit the House and disappeared from public life.

Now it’s Pelosi’s turn to deal with renegade elements within her political party. The culprits this time are the likes of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. They are the progressives in her Democratic caucus who don’t want to wait any longer before launching impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. They’ve seen enough and want action … now!

Pelosi ain’t budging. She doesn’t want to impeach the president, at least not yet. She wants more evidence. She wants some Republican buy-in, but so far she isn’t getting it.

Will this intraparty fight doom her speakership the way the GOP’s internal struggle sent Speaker Boehner heading for the door? Oh, I doubt it. However, it does go to show that divergent views do have this way of causing sleeplessness among political leaders, no matter which side of the aisle they do business.

Oregon GOP returns to work, but one lawmaker faces complaint

The current Republican TEA Party/Freedom Caucus lunacy has taken a weird turn in Oregon.

Oregon’s Republican state senators ran into the tall grass, preventing the Senate from voting on a climate change bill that the state’s Republicans opposed. State Senate rules required at least 20 members to conduct business; the GOP holds 12 of 30 seats, leaving the Senate with just 18 lawmakers.

The bill couldn’t get a vote.

The renegade GOPers came back to work, but the Senate had to scuttle the bill because it still lacked the number of senators needed to do business.

Here is where it gets weird. One of the runaway Republicans, Sen. Brian Boquist, had threatened to shoot an Oregon state trooper who had been dispatched by Gov. Kate Brown to find the renegades. Fortunately, Boquist never took a shot.

However, a Democratic senator has filed a complaint over Boquist’s threat. As The Hill reported: “State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Conduct, told Oregon Public Broadcasting … that he had filed a formal complaint against Boquist, adding that a hearing would held early next month.”

This is not how you govern any of our 50 states. To be fair, Oregon Republicans aren’t the first legislators to pull off such a stunt. Texas Democrats, nicknamed the “Killer Bees,” did something similar in the early 1990s in defiance of then-Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby. I don’t recall, though, any of the Killer Bees threatening to shoot a Department of Public Safety trooper.

Good governance requires sanity. It’s missing in action way up yonder on one side of the aisle in the state of my birth.

Weird.

Good riddance to this legislative … blowhard

I want to be among those who say so long, farewell and good riddance to a Texas legislative blowhard.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a onetime member of the Texas Freedom Caucus, has announced he won’t seek re-election in 2020.

The Republican from Bedford distinguished himself mainly through his fervent debates on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. He got little legislation enacted into law.

Although he did finally score something of a win when the Legislature approved — and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law — a measure that bans cities from using red-light cameras to help fight lawbreakers who run through street signals that order them to come to a complete and full stop.

Nice going, pal.

He quit the Freedom Caucus — a group aligned with the TEA party faction of the GOP — to concentrate on “grassroots issues.”

Well, now he is soon to be gone from the Legislature. He represents a district on the other end of the Metroplex. Still, his votes matter to all of us, given that state laws cover everyone who lives in Texas.

I will not miss this man’s fiery objection to normal rules of order in the Texas House. Indeed, he managed to anger many within his party — and damn near lost to a Democratic challenger in 2018.

So, maybe he read something into those election results and decided to pack it in.

See ya, dude.

Democrats take page from Republicans

It wasn’t that long ago when congressional Republicans were clawing at each other. You had the TEA Party wing vs. the Establishment wing.

The TEA Party cadre was far more ideological, far more zealous in pursuit of its agenda. The TEA Party wing ended up driving John Boehner out of the speaker’s chair and out of public office. They tore a page out of the Democrats’ playbook that called the shots during the 1960s, when the Hawks battled the Doves over whether to fight the Vietnam War.

A decade later, Republicans have (more or less) settled in behind the president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Which brings me to the Democrats’ current state of play. The progressive wing is battling the Democratic version of the establishment wing.

The progressives want to impeach the president now. The more seasoned of them say “no.” They’re fighting openly with each other.

One big difference? I do not expect Speaker Nancy Pelosi to give up the fight. She doesn’t want to impeach the president, at least not  yet. The progressives in her caucus aren’t hearing the last part of it; they seem to hear “no impeachment” and go ballistic.

My own advice to the Democrats’ far-left wing is to wait for the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to finish his job. Attorney General William Barr is going to let his collusion probe finish under its own power.

If Mueller produces the goods, then they can talk openly about impeachment. Not beforehand.

Still steamed over Sen. Seliger getting stiffed

I should be moving on, looking forward . . . but I cannot stop gnashing my teeth over the way Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick treated a man I respect and for whom I also have a fair amount of personal affection.

I refer to state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, who belongs to the same Republican Party as Patrick, except they’re both Republicans in name only.

Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate, decided to remove Seliger from a key committee chairmanship, Higher Education. He also took him off the Education Committee, and put him in charge of the newly formed Senate Agriculture Committee. Then he yanked him out of the Ag Committee chairmanship after Seliger made an impolite remark about a key Patrick aide.

Why did Patrick seek to punish West Texas — which Seliger has represented since 2004? I keep rolling around some theories. I’ve come up with one that I think makes sense.

Seliger has too many Senate friends who happen to be Democrats. Patrick doesn’t enjoy that kind of bipartisan camaraderie.

I remember not long after Seliger was first elected to the Senate in 2004 when he began talking about the friendships he had forged with Democrats. He would mention Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a South Texas Democrat, as a colleague with whom he would work on legislation.

A Dallas Morning News article published a few weeks ago noted that Democratic senators think highly of Seliger. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, is considered one of Seliger’s best friends in the Senate. Another Democratic senator, Royce West of Dallas, also spoke highly of Seliger in the Dallas Morning News feature.

Does the lieutenant governor — a fiery TEA Party conservative — get that kind of love from across the aisle? I have the strong feeling he does not.

I don’t know if Lt. Gov. Patrick is prone to petty jealousy. However, I cannot rule it out, as I don’t know the man; I only know of him and know of the highly partisan legislation he likes to push through the Senate.

Sen. Seliger isn’t wired that way. He calls himself a proud conservative. He pushes for local control and doesn’t like the state meddling in matters that are best decided by local governing bodies.

Seliger also is a champion of public education; Patrick favors vouchers funded by tax money to send students to private schools.

Sen. Seliger also stood as a bulwark in favor of the Texas Tech University school of veterinary medicine planned for Amarillo. I am not at all sure what Patrick feels about that, but his removal of Seliger from the Higher Ed Committee chair has the potential of putting the vet school in some jeopardy.

I hope for the best for West Texas. I also hope Seliger rises to the occasion and is able to have his voice heard despite being stripped of political power.

Indeed, Sen. Seliger might need to reach across the aisle now more than ever.

Dems worry about intraparty conflict? Get over it!

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly is worried that factions within the Democratic Party are too busy fighting with each other while not fighting hard enough against, oh, Donald Trump and the Republicans.

Hey, get over it, Mme. Speaker and your fellow party honchos.

Your friends on the other side have had their share of intraparty squabbles, too. There have been spats between the so-called Establishment Republicans and the TEA Party wing of the GOP; the TEA Party has morphed more or less into something called the Freedom Caucus, which continues to raise Cain against the Establishment types.

The Republican Party is going through much of the same kind of tumult, tempest and turmoil that plagued the Democrats back in the 1960s. Perhaps some of today’s Democratic leaders recall when the Vietnam War split the party — and the nation — between the Hawks and the Doves.

Fights sometimes are worth having

I don’t believe there’s as much to “worry” about as some within today’s Democratic Party seem to suggest there is.

A little internal fighting is good for the organization. It keeps everyone sharp, on both sides. Republicans have sought to take that lesson away during their own ideological struggles.

These lessons know no partisan boundaries.

Freedom Caucus loses a member . . . more to follow?

Jeff Leach has just emerged as one of my favorite members of the 2019 Texas Legislature.

The Plano Republican state representative has just bolted from the Texas Freedom Caucus, a cabal of far-right wing legislators intent on steering the Legislature toward ultra-conservative government policies.

Leach says his goal now is to “unite” the Republican majority in the House. The Freedom Caucus — which morphed from the TEA Party wing of the Republican Party — has fought with fellow Republicans through the past legislative session. It tangled with outgoing Speaker Joe Straus and other GOP moderates who want to chart a more reasonable and, yes, “moderate” course for the state to follow.

It’s too bad Straus won’t be around after January when the next Legislature convenes. The new speaker-to-be, Dennis Bonnen, R-Arlington, appears at first blush to be more in the Straus model of legislator than the Freedom Caucus model.

That’s fine with me.

It’s also quite fine with me that the Freedom Caucus’s numbers have been diminished by one; it’s down to just 11 members, a tiny fraction in the 150-member Texas House. These yahoos, ‘er, legislators do have an outsized influence on the rest of the legislative chamber.

The Texas Tribune reports that Leach’s departure from the wacky Freedom Caucus appears to be an amicable one: “There appears to be no hard feelings between Leach and caucus leadership, at least publicly,” the Tribune reports.

Even if there are hard feelings, my own sense is . . . too bad.

Welcome back to the real world of legislative moderation and good government, Rep. Leach.