Tag Archives: Tea party

GOP House caucus stampedes lame-duck speaker

It’s no secret that the U.S. House of Representatives Republican majority at times can turn into an unruly bunch.

The TEA party faction, along with the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus, drove former Speaker John Boehner batty enough to make him quit.

Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, is getting the same treatment. The House Freedom Caucus helped torpedo a new farm bill for reasons that hardly anything to do with farm policy.

Ryan is a lame duck. He isn’t seeking re-election to the House from Wisconsin. Indeed, his speakership has been no picnic from the get-go. He now is finding it difficult to keep his own partisan troops in line, let alone getting any help from Democratic House members who don’t much like or respect him to begin with.

The farm bill got entangled with immigration, according to The Hill:

The House bill became inextricably linked with immigration after the Freedom Caucus demanded a vote on the conservative measure as moderates neared the 206 signatures needed to force a vote on a separate immigration plan that falls well short of the proposal pushed for by the White House.

Despite leadership offering the group of conservative hardliners a vote on the immigration measure in June, the members refused to back the legislation.

House conservatives seemingly want to poison an important aid to farmers and ranchers with an issue that ought to stand on its own.

As for the speaker, he told the country he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to seek the job he now holds. I guess he meant it.

Speaker Ryan’s remaining time as the Man of the House appears headed for a rocky conclusion.

Empower Texans had its head handed to it

Empower Texans had a bad week.

The result of the rest of us is that Texas voters — primarily Republican primary voters — had a good week. That means Texas had a good week.

Empower Texans is a right-wing advocacy group that lowered its sights on a number of incumbents around the state. State Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo was one of them. Seliger managed to fend off a GOP primary challenge and skate to virtual re-election to another term; he does face a Libertarian challenger in the fall, but don’t bet the mortgage on Seliger losing that one.

Empower Texans — led by Michael Quinn Sullivan (pictured) — believes Republicans and other conservatives need to toe a strictly drawn line. It is based downstate, yet it poured lots of money into the far reaches of the vast state. The Panhandle got its taste of Empower Texans’ penchant for distortion and outright lies.

Seliger survived. So did state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican, who thumped challenger Drew Brassfield by about a thousand percentage points in the race for House District 87, which Price has represented well since 2011.

The Texas Tribune reports: “The forces of extremism, like Empower Texans … overplayed their hand, turned voters off and experienced significant losses in the March primaries,” said GOP consultant Eric Bearse, who helped (state Rep. Sarah) Davis and three other candidates win amid an onslaught from Empower and other critics. “It started to become clear in some of these races that it really was a choice between our local representative and someone who is wholly owned by outside groups and outside money.”

I love the irony of that assessment.

Conservatives are supposed relish local control over the interests of others. Isn’t that what they say?

Yet we have Empower Texans tossing that dogma out the window with its strong-arming of political discussion with money and power that derives from some centrally located source.

Seliger and Price — along with a host of other Texas incumbents — were able to persuade sufficient numbers of Texans to see through this sham.

It’s bad for Empower Texans. Good for the rest of us.

Empower Texans: It’s hitting the fan

Seliger’s GOP win was big, really big

I cannot overstate the significance this week of state Sen. Kel Seliger’s victory in the Texas Senate District 31 Republican Party primary.

It’s significant on at least two levels.

One is that he faced — count ’em — two GOP foes in this primary. Empower Texans, a far-right political action organization, decided to “primary” Seliger because its leadership wanted someone who’s “more conservative” than Seliger has demonstrated during the 14 years he has represented West Texas.

Empower Texans sought to outflank Seliger, a former Amarillo mayor, on the right. His response was to remind voters that he’s conservative. His voting record is mainstream — but he’s a conservative. He proclaims his pro-life, pro-gun rights voting record as demonstrable proof of his conservatism.

The second level of significance deals with this fact: Unlike in 2014, when he faced just one foe in the GOP primary, this year he had two of them. One of this year’s opponents was Mike Canon, the former Midland mayor who Seliger beat four years ago by just 4 percentage points.

Let’s throw in a second right-wing opponent, Amarillo businessman Victor Leal. Between them, Canon and Leal garnered 49.5 percent of the vote. Seliger finished with 50.5 percent, or one-half of a percent more than he needed to avoid a runoff.

I have been unable to analyze the vote as it developed from top to bottom of District 31. My first glance at the vote totals tells me that Canon and Leal battled between themselves for the TEA Party wing vote, leaving the rest of the West Texas Republican voting bloc open for Seliger to harvest.

Canon’s first run for the state Senate in 2014 revealed to me that he spoke mostly in TEA Party slogans when the lights came on. In private, I found him to be personable, intelligent and articulate.

As for Leal, he spent much of his effort accusing Seliger of alleged nefarious relationships and too little of it explaining in any detail how he planned to represent West Texas differently than what Seliger has done.

Thus, Canon and Leal fought for the Republican fringe vote that exists out there. Critics of the senator are liable to say he “barely” won the primary. However, I look at it differently: He beat Canon by nearly 20 points and Leal by more than 30 points.

I would call that a serious drubbing.

Is a GOP incumbent benefiting from split in nut-case vote?

West Texas Republicans — at this very moment — are showing that they’re a pretty smart bunch of voters.

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo might be able to stave off a runoff against one of two men who are challenging him for his Texas Senate District 31 seat.

Mike Canon of Midland is running No. 2 with nearly half the vote counted; Victor Leal of Amarillo is running in third place.

Which brings to mind this notion: It might be that the TEA Party wing, powered by Empower Texans, has split what I call the “nut-case wing” of the Texas Republican Party, leaving Seliger to harvest what I consider to be the “reasonable wing” of the Grand Old Party.

We’re still some distance from the Texas GOP primary finish line.

But … I am hoping.

Empower Texans needs a comeuppance

COLLIN COUNTY, Texas — Empower Texans has done it. This far-right political action group has p****d me off royally.

It has spent lots of PAC money on races all across the state, trying to influence voters’ decision on these local legislative races. Empower Texans has managed, through its lies and distortions, managed to do the impossible. It has fielded candidates to challenge legislative incumbents on the basis that these rock-ribbed Republican lawmakers just aren’t conservative enough to suit the tastes of those seeking to centralize power in Austin.

My wife and I have traveled to this North Texas community, where I’ve been struck by the deluge of campaign signs. They all tout candidates’ “conservative” values. I’ve seen mailers delivered to our granddaughter’s house that make me laugh to keep me from puking.

One flyer from Philip Huffines, who’s running for the Texas Senate against Angela Paxton, calls Paxton a closet liberal. I don’t know much about Paxton, other than she is the wife of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is, um, hardly a liberal. I’d be willing to be real American money that Huffines is getting bankrolled by Empower Texans, or some arm of this GOP extremist group. Paxton’s campaign signs refer to her as a “constitutional conservative.”

Back home in the Texas Panhandle, Empower Texans has rolled out the heavy artillery to fire at two veteran legislators: state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price, both of whom are Amarillo Republicans.

Price drew a GOP primary challenge from Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield, whose candidacy has crossed at least a couple of ethical lines by virtue of his publicly funded job and the conflict of interest he faces if he were to be elected to the state House. Empower Texans has lied about Price’s legislative record, suggesting he supported legislation that doesn’t exist and has somehow become “pro-choice” on abortion, despite his fervently pro-life voting record in his four terms in the Texas House of Representatives.

And then there’s the hatchet job being done on Sen. Seliger, who’s drawn two GOP foes — TEA Party golden boy Mike Canon of Midland and Amarillo businessman Victor Leal.

Leal has launched an egregious attack on Seliger, calling him “liberal” and “corrupt.” Leal’s use of the “corrupt” label is rich, given the questions that arose when he ran for the Texas House in 2010 about whether he actually was a resident of the House district he sought to represent.

For his part, Seliger has vowed to remain positive, citing his long-held conservative voting record and his effort to protect rural West Texas from well-heeled urban interests.

My strong sense that Seliger’s biggest “sin” is that he hasn’t endorsed Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s re-election effort. Why? Because Patrick is in the hip pocket of Empower Texans and its No. 1 brainiac, Michael Quinn Sullivan — who also has crossed swords with Seliger on several occasions during his 14 years in the Texas Senate.

OK, with all that on the record, here is my hope: Price drubs Brassfield, who has shamed himself with his dishonest campaign against a hard-working incumbent; I also want Seliger to win the GOP primary outright, without a runoff against whoever finishes second.

Both men’s records have been distorted to the point of defamation. They have done what they were elected to do: represent West Texas.

As for Empower Texans, it needs to go away. Far, far away.

Seliger stays on high road in this fight

Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger wants to be re-elected so badly that he’s staying totally positive in his campaign.

That is how the Amarillo Republican is casting his campaign. You know what? I am all for his approach.

Now he’ll get to find out whether the strategy works or whether Texas Senate District 31 Republican primary voters are drawn instead to mud-slinging and innuendo.

Seliger’s recent TV ad push highlights how he has stayed positive. All he says about his foes is that they have gone intensely negative with “false” accusations about his voting record, which Seliger insists is a conservative one.

Indeed, Seliger — who has served in the Senate since 2004 — has followed what I would call a “traditional conservative” track in the Texas Senate. He doesn’t align with the TEA party wing of his party and some of the principal elected officials elected on TEA party platforms; I think of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick as one example.

He has drawn the wrath of Patrick’s major political benefactor, PAC boss Michael Quinn Sullivan, whose latest incarnation is something called Empower Texans, which has been savaging Seliger with baseless attacks.

Meanwhile, Seliger campaigns on his conservative record; he touts his record standing up for rural interests against urban power centers; he talks about his strong pro-life stance and his endorsement by gun-rights advocates.

Seliger also has earned standing among his state Senate colleagues and has chaired the Senate Higher Education Committee through two legislative sessions.

I, too, want him to be re-elected. I detest the campaign that has been launched against him.

My hope for Sen. Seliger is that his high-road track plays better with West Texas Republican primary voters than the low road his foes have taken against him.

The primary is just a few days off. We’ll know quite soon a lot about the character of the Texas GOP primary voter.

All hell is about to break loose in Austin

You want to hear the rumble of thunder under your feet?

Put your ear to the ground and get a load of the racket emanating from a Texas legislator’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election in 2018.

That would be House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, who stood firm, tall and steady against the onslaught of the far right within his party. Straus is calling it quits.

The Texas Tribune is reporting that a political earthquake is under way in Austin. A Rice University political scientist says the “political center in Texas” has just collapsed.

That might be the truth.

Straus fought against the TEA Party and other fringe elements within the Republican Party. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sought to shove the Bathroom Bill down our throats. Straus was having none of it; a bill that would require people to use public restrooms according to the gender noted on their birth certificate. The Bathroom Bill discriminates against transgendered individuals and Straus wouldn’t stand for it.

His stubborn refusal to let the bill get a vote in the House has drawn the outrage from those on the right. So the speaker is out of there.

And the successors are starting the line up. One of them might be a friend of mine, Rep. Four Price, an Amarillo Republican first elected to the House in 2010. I asked Price about the speaker’s future a few weeks ago, but he said he was standing behind his guy, Straus.

Now that the speaker is on his way out, there exists an opportunity for one of Straus’s key lieutenants — that would be Price — to step in and maintain the moderate tone that the House ought to keep.

As the Texas Tribune reports: More than any other Texas Republican with real power, Straus was seen as a voice of moderation. On issue after issue, he and his team alone stood in the way of the kind of runaway populism that Donald Trump championed and major statewide Republicans endorsed.

Here’s the Tribune article

Will another moderate step up? Might it be Four Price? And would a Speaker Price resist the pressure that’s sure to come hard from the far right?

Meanwhile, the ground continues to rumble.

Former congressional loudmouth pops off

Joe Walsh once was known as a loudmouth politician from Illinois.

Now he’s just a former loudmouth pol, who has entered the discussion about health care reform in a most undignified and ironic manner.

Late-night TV comedian Jimmy Kimmel went on the air Monday night and revealed that his newborn son was born with a heart ailment. Nurses detected a problem with the baby, a renowned cardiac surgeon was summoned and he repaired the infant’s heart.

Kimmel gave a heartfelt and tearful testimony that saluted the medical staff at the hospital where little Billy was born — and argued on behalf of efforts to guarantee health insurance for all Americans.

Then came Joe Walsh, who tweeted, “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.”

Social media erupted with outrage at Walsh’s insensitive reaction. Walsh is a former Republican lawmaker who once popped off with remarks about Black Lives Matter and President Barack Obama that some folks had interpreted as a threat. Walsh, who’s now a TEA Party activist and a talk-radio host (imagine that), was defeated for re-election.

There’s more — of course.

Walsh also once was caught failing to pay child support for his own children; he reportedly owed about $117,000 in support payments.

Tsk, tsk, tsk …

For this clown to interject himself into a heartwarming story involving an entertainment personality and his family speaks pretty graphically about this individual’s profound lack of character and compassion.

The word “hypocrite” also comes to mind.

GOP fluffs chance to make good on promise

All the commentary in the wake of the monumental failure of the president and his Republican congressional colleagues on health care overhaul has produced many fascinating observations.

Two of them stand out to me.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday that “doing big things is hard.” No kidding, Mr. Speaker. He then added that Republicans have been the opposition party for so long that they’ve forgotten how to govern.

Donald Trump and Ryan failed to get enough conservative Republican House members to sign on to a health care plan they said would replace the Affordable Care Act. Rather than suffer the greater embarrassment of having their new health care plan fail in a floor vote, Ryan pulled the measure. Done! No vote!

Then he went about trying to explain how the GOP needs to know how to actually govern rather than be a political party that gripes continually about a president from the other party.

Which brings me to another point I’ve heard.

It came from Jeffrey Lord, a CNN contributor and a strong supporter of Trump and his agenda.

Lord said today that congressional Republicans had nearly eight years to come up with a plan to replace the ACA. Eight years!

Instead, they focused on repealing a plan they detested. They had no plan to replace the ACA.

Lord noted that on Inauguration Day, GOP leaders should have been standing on the steps of the Capitol Building waiting for the new president with a draft replacement plan in hand. After all, Lord said, they had all that time to come up with something. They could have hammered all their differences out with various party caucuses within the GOP: TEA Party, Freedom Caucus, more moderate elements.

They squandered their opportunity to deliver on that promise they made during the 2016 election campaign, which was to deliver an ACA replacement plan to the president on “Day One.”

What’s the message? Quit your yapping!

AHCA may be DOA in U.S. Senate

Hey! Wait a second!

Didn’t the Republican majority in Congress promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act? Didn’t they assure us they would produce a plan that would provide health insurance for Americans at a cost they can afford?

Wasn’t that their solemn pledge? Didn’t they all but guarantee it once they won the presidency and retained control of both chambers of Congress?

Hah! Guess again. It seems that the American Health Care Act that the GOP rolled out this week doesn’t go far enough, according to the TEA Party wing of the Republican Party. They might launch a big intraparty fight to derail the AHCA.

These right-wingers are making GOP moderates look better all the time.

House Speaker Paul Ryan assures us that he’ll get 218 votes to approve the AHCA. The problem appears to be in the Senate, which has a very small margin for error among GOP senators. Only three of them need to bolt to drive the whole health care overhaul into the ditch.

There appears to be a rebellion building.

As I look at the proposed legislation, it seems to resemble the Affordable Care Act at some level. It does do away with the “mandate” provision that would penalize Americans who fail to have health insurance. It emphasizes tax credits for Americans seeking to buy insurance.

Some Senate GOP moderates don’t like it, either. There also are the conservatives who want the ACA to be repealed fully and that the AHCA doesn’t wipe the ACA off the face of the planet.

I am one who won’t be disappointed if this GOP overhaul doesn’t work. While I understand that the ACA needs tinkering, some fine-tuning, I would say only that we should simply tinker and fine-tune what we have on the books.

Oh, man … the great Winston Churchill had it right when he declared that democracy was the “worst form of government” ever devised — but was better than anything else.

If only he were around today to watch the U.S. Congress tie itself in knots over this health care insurance matter.