Tag Archives: U.S. Senate

DeVos gets a job for which she is unqualified

Betsy DeVos is going to assume her new job in the federal government with one of two outlooks.

The first one suggests that with a 50-50 vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm her — and with the vice president of the United States casting the tie-breaking vote — DeVos is assuming the education secretary job with virtually no mandate to do anything.

Half the Senate opposes her. The president who nominated her got nearly 3 million fewer votes than his 2016 election opponent — while winning enough electoral votes to become president. The vice president cast the first in history tie-breaking vote to confirm a Cabinet nominee.

Mandate, shmandate!

Or, she’ll thumb her nose at those of us who opposed her confirmation and say, “Hey, winning by an inch is as good as winning by a country mile.  So … get over it!”

I suspect she’ll adopt the latter point of view.

Senate Democrats gave it their best shot, trying to talk for 24 hours straight on the Senate floor seeking to persuade one more Republican to follow the lead of GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who voted against DeVos’s nomination.

Betsy DeVos has zero qualifications to lead the nation’s public education system.

She gave a lot of money to Republican politicians, which I guess is qualification enough.

Sad, man. Sad.

Reid weighs in on Rubio’s (lack of) attendance

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland March 14, 2013. Two senators seen as possible candidates for the 2016 presidential election will address a conservative conference where Republicans will try to regroup on Thursday after their bruising election loss last year.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR3EZQO

Is it really and truly the business of the Senate minority leader to comment on the attendance record of one of his colleagues?

Well, yes it is.

Harry Reid is a Nevada Democrat; Marco Rubio is a Florida Republican. Reid said this week that Rubio ought to quit his Senate seat if he’s going to keep running for president of the United States.

Why does it matter to Reid?

Well, it matters to Reid because it ought to matter to all Americans. Senator are federal employees. They get paid $174,000 annually from the federal Treasury, into which we all contribute with our tax money.

Rubio has indicated he doesn’t much like serving in the Senate. It’s too, um, tedious for the young man. He wants to become the Leader of the Free World, to make things happen in a hurry. He’s not seeking re-election to the Senate in 2016.

Reid’s call is on point, as Rubio keep racking up no-shows on Senate votes.

A newspaper in Rubio’s home state, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, has called on Rubio to quit. He’s ripping off the state’s taxpayers and his constituents, the Sun-Sentinel said. And this is a paper that endorsed Rubio when he ran for the office in 2010.

Let’s be clear: Rubio isn’t the first rookie senator to take a pass on doing his day job while looking for a better-paying public service gig. Sen. Barack Obama did the same thing in 2007-2008 when he ran for president. Should he have quit his Senate seat when he ran for the White House? Yeah, probably. But that’s all water over the dam now.

What’s on the table now is whether Marco Rubio should keep collecting that fat — taxpayer-subsidized — salary without doing much of the work that’s required of him.

Hit the road, Sen. Rubio. Campaign for president all you want, but do it on your own time … not ours.

 

Memo to Marco: Quit your day job

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., presides over Senate Foreign Relations Committee, subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, And Global Women's Issues hearing on overview of U.S. policy towards Haiti prior to the elections, Wednesday, July 15, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Marco Rubio doesn’t like his day job.

Too bad. He ought to quit and concentrate on the other job he is seeking.

He’s a United States senator from Florida seeking to become president of the United States.

Rubio told the Washington Post that the Senate frustrates him. His friends and close associates say he “hates” the Senate. It’s too slow. Too bound by procedure. Too this and too that. Rubio is a young man on the move and he wants a job that will enable him to get things done in a hurry.

Rubio wants out of a job that pays him a pretty handsome salary, about 175 grand annually. But now that he’s seeking the presidency, he’s been off the Senate grid for most of the year.

His Senate absenteeism has drawn fire from the home folks. According to the Post: “On the campaign trail, Rubio comes under attack from rivals who say he’s become an absentee federal employee. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, in a less-than-subtle knock on his former homestate ally, has said senators who miss work should have their pay docked.

“’It’s just, kind of, like, dude, you know, either drop out or do something,’ Bush’s son, Jeb Bush Jr., told New York University College Republicans earlier this month, in comments first reported by Politico Florida. The junior Bush, a Floridian, cast himself as an aggrieved constituent. ‘We’re paying you to do something, it ain’t run for president.’”

I don’t begrudge the Republican senator for wanting to seek higher office. I’ve noted already that other senators have done the same thing.

But the way I see it, if Rubio dislikes the job he has so much that he’s willing to admit it publicly, then perhaps it’s time for him to quit that job., let the governor of his state appoint a suitable successor — who’ll do the job and actually earn that six-figure salary — and then devote all his waking-hours energy to seeking that White House gig.

Rubio already has declared he won’t seek re-election to the Senate next year. He’s decided one term is enough.

Here, though, is a bit of history that Rubio should consider.

In the event he gets elected president next year, he’s likely to find that the presidency is hamstrung as well by certain processes. An anecdotal story has been bandied about Washington for the past 50-plus year about how another young, go-go senator got elected president and became frustrated that he couldn’t snap his fingers to get things done instantaneously.

President John F. Kennedy learned that his new job tied his hands on occasion and that he had to learn to work through the process. Then again, he hated the Senate, too.

Give up your day job, Marco.

Rubio steps in it with Senate speech

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., presides over Senate Foreign Relations Committee, subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, And Global Women's Issues hearing on overview of U.S. policy towards Haiti prior to the elections, Wednesday, July 15, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

I’ve been all over the pea patch on this one, but I’ve decided to give U.S. senators seeking higher office a break … most of the time.

Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who’s running for president of the United States, has become the object of some criticism because of his lousy attendance record in the Senate. He’s been busy seeking the presidency and doesn’t have time to the job to which he was elected.

Hey, a guy can be only in one place at a time, right?

Rubio’s been absent a lot

I do not begrudge Rubio’s ambition to become commander in chief, leader of the Free World, the Man with the Veto Pen. Other senators are spending a lot of time on the road running for the White House: Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham. A couple of governors have gotten into some hot water back home for spending too much time away from the statehouse; Chris Christie and Scott Walker (before he dropped out of the race) come immediately to mind.

They all have the right to pursue the big prize.

Texas has had its share of senators aspiring to higher office. In addition to Cruz, we’ve had the likes of Lyndon Johnson and Lloyd Bentsen taking their fair share of time away from the job.

So, I’d say give Rubio a break. Leave him alone.

Except for this: Rubio took to the Senate floor to say, “All we’re saying here is if you work at the (Veterans Affairs Department) and aren’t doing your job, they get to fire you. This should actually be the rule in the entire government – if you aren’t not doing your job you should be fired.”

Ohhhh, Marco.

Dadgummit, young man. You shouldn’t have said such a thing.

 

Win or lose, Cruz may pay steep price

cruz

Ted Cruz stormed onto the U.S. Senate floor in January 2013 and began immediately demonstrating his lack of understanding of institutional decorum.

The Texas Republican began making fiery floor speeches. He accused fellow senators — and former senators — of doing things detrimental to national security. He sought to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act.

Along the way, he decided to run for president of the United States … and while running for the White House, he accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of being a liar.

Cruz facing hurdles

The Texas Tribune reports that win or lose in his bid for the presidency, Cruz faces a serious problem with his Senate colleagues. Many of them don’t like him. They don’t like his brash attitude. They dislike his lack of manners. They believe he’s self-serving and egotistical — which, coming from U.S. senators with monstrous egos of their own is really saying something, if you get my drift.

If the Cruz Missile gets elected to the presidency next year — which I do not believe is going to happen — he’ll have to cut deals with the very senators he’s managed to anger. If his campaign falls short, he’ll return to Capitol Hill and, well, he faces the same chilly reception from his colleagues.

The Tribune reports that some political observers doubt Cruz’s ability to legislate. “Texas has been short a senator since the day Cruz was elected,” said Jenifer Sarver, an Austin-based GOP consultant and former staffer for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Cruz’s predecessor. Sarver continued: “As someone who worked for Senator Hutchison, who was an absolute and constant champion for Texas, it’s disappointing to see his lack of regard for how his political posturing could impact Texans.”

Sure, Cruz has his fans among conservatives in Texas and around the country. I surely get that many Americans applaud the man’s in-your-face style. Cruz calls his approach merely “anti-establishment.”

But the young man is just one of 100 men and women from both political parties who need to work together on occasion to get something done for the good of the country or for their own states.

To date, as near as I can tell, Sen. Cruz — who is serving in his first-ever elected office — hasn’t yet read the memo that reminds him of how a legislative body is supposed to function.

 

 

VP teeters on brink of huge decision

biden

Vice President Joe Biden is giving me heartburn.

Will he run for president in 2016 … or not?

I’ll stipulate up front that I’m not going to predict what he’ll do. I didn’t think Democrat Hillary Clinton would run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 after she and her husband left the White House; she did. I thought Republican Colin Powell might run for president in 1996; he didn’t.

I’ve waffled on the vice president’s immediate political future so much I’m giving myself motion sickness.

Biden ponders run

Part of me wants him to run. I happen to like the vice president and admire his long record of public service — gaffes and all.

He’s experienced immense personal tragedy, with the deaths in 1972 of his wife and daughter in a car crash that injured his two sons; then came the death of his older son, Beau, of brain cancer just a few months ago.

Biden has shown courage and grace in the face of these tragic events.

Another part of me, though, wants him to avoid being labeled for the rest of his life as a “loser” if he fails to win the Democratic nomination. Clinton is the frontrunner, although she’s been damaged by controversy involving e-mails and Benghazi. Biden has run twice already, in 1988 and again in 2008.

Joe Biden isn’t the perfect alternative to Clinton, but he’ more perfect than, say, socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s polling quite well these days head to head against Clinton.

Only the vice president and his family know what he’ll decide. He’s expected to announce his plans within the next 10 days or so.

As tempting as it is in this forum to try to guess out loud what he’ll do, I’ll remain quiet. It’s Joe Biden’s call to make all by himself.

It’s clear that Biden wants to be president. It’s not at all clear whether he believes he’s got what it takes to derail the frontrunner.

I’m trying to imagine the immense pressure that accompanies a decision like the one facing the vice president. I can’t comprehend it.

You do what your heart tells you to do, Mr. Vice President.

 

Hutchison came to region’s aid

Kay

BEAUMONT, Texas — A news story in the Beaumont Enterprise brings to mind a memory I have about a former U.S. senator who came to the aid of a region that had been struck by what’s been called “the forgotten hurricane.”

It was nearly a decade ago when the Gulf Coast, which was reeling from what had occurred in August 2005 in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina stormed ashore, suffered another killer storm.

Its name was Rita and it slammed into the coast at Sabine Pass, which borders Texas and Louisiana. It roared inland and tore into Beaumont.

City, county and state officials were having trouble getting the feds’ attention. Then came Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, who managed to parlay her good relations with Senate Democrats to fast-track aid to the region that had been walloped by Mother Nature’s fury.

As the Enterprise reported today: “I’ll never forget what Sen. Hutchison and her staff did for us, as a community,” said former Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith. “(Hutchison) made a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

What she did was work with Louisiana U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, to obtain military aircraft to aid in evacuation and the delivery of supplies to the region. Other efforts to get the White House — where Republican President George W. Bush lived at the time — had fallen short.

Hutchison’s work made the difference.

Hutchison came through

Indeed, my memory of her familiarity with this part of Texas is quite vivid. I had the honor during my nearly 11 years working at the Enterprise to interview Sen. Hutchison as she would come by to, um, chat and to update us on senatorial goings-on.

And almost always, without fail, Hutchison would remind me of how she spent time visiting extended family members living in Old Town, a noted residential district in Beaumont.

She knew the region and wasn’t about to let bureaucratic bumbling stand in the way of relief for the home folks.

Nor was Hutchison going to waste the political capital she had piled up with her friends across the aisle.

Bruce Drury, a retired political science professor at Lamar University — who I knew fairly well while I worked in Southeast Texas — said that Hutchison’s ability to cross party lines is not nearly as evident with today’s Texas congressional delegation. “We have two Republican senators, neither one of whom have attempted to cultivate goodwill with the administration,” Drury told the Enterprise, adding that “to some extent the administration hasn’t been overly active in trying to establish links.”

As the former senator demonstrated, it’s nice to know people in the right places.

 

Senate saves Obama’s Iran deal

iran-nuclear-deal-2

With “approval” — if you want to call it that — of the Iran nuclear deal all but sewn up, it’s good to examine briefly how President Obama will be able to declare victory.

This is not what you’d call a smashing mandate. He will have won this fight on a split decision, a legislative technicality.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., today delivered the 34th Democratic vote in favor of the deal. What does that mean? It means that if the Republican-led Senate approves a resolution opposing the deal, Democrats now have enough votes to sustain a presidential veto when it comes; the Senate needs a two-thirds vote to override a veto but Mikulski’s endorsement of the deal prevents that from occurring.

But there’s more to this drama.

Senate Democrats now are seeking seven more votes to give them 41 votes in favor of the deal, which would enable them to filibuster the GOP resolution opposing it to death. It takes three-fifths of the body to stop a filibuster. If Democrats get to the magic number, then the resolution won’t get to President Obama’s Oval Office desk.

Game over.

This is a big deal for the president. It would have been far better for him to win outright approval of the deal, which — according to negotiators — “blocks all pathways” for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. That has been goal No. 1 all along. No one with a semblance of sanity want that rogue state to develop an atom bomb. The deal is designed to prevent it from happening.

Of course, Republicans oppose it. Maybe it’s just because they detest the Democratic president so much that they’ll seek to deny him any kind of diplomatic victory.

The alternative to this deal? That remains a mystery. As Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., said, there’s no better deal out there. Bennett is officially in the “undecided” category of senators.

If a Plan B includes going to war with Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuke, I’ll settle gladly for this diplomatic solution.

Don’t look for any payoff in the near future. The impact of this deal will become known long after Barack Obama leaves office.

Senate saves Iran deal

What has become of Hillary the Invincible?

hillary

There once was a time — not that long ago — when Hillary Rodham Clinton was considered a shoo-in not just for her party’s presidential nomination, but for the office itself.

She was Hillary the Invincible. The 2016 Democratic presidential nomination was, to borrow that cliché, “hers to lose” — although I’ve never quite understood what phrase actually means.

Then came some nasty stuff.

The Benghazi matter doesn’t count. I do not consider the Benghazi tragedy to be a “scandal,” as some media blowhards on the right have called it.

Here’s what is more troubling in my view: the e-mail matter.

The former secretary of state revealed some months ago that she used her personal e-mail server to communicate with others about, um, State Department business. That disclosure troubled me when I heard and I troubles me even more now. Why? Because of reports that — as some have feared — messages sent out into the public domain contained classified information.

The Justice Department has now ordered Clinton to turn over her personal e-mail server to the spooks at DOJ, who’ll look over all the material that went out on it. But as the Washington Post’s Chis Cillizza notes:  “It’s impossible to see this as anything but a bad thing for her presidential prospects.”

The trustworthiness issue is beginning now to dog the former first lady/U.S. senator/secretary of state. Is she for real? Is she authentic? Can she be trusted to tell us the truth all the time?

Yes, I am having doubts about all of that, right along with a lot of other Americans.

The Democratic field already has three other candidates seeking the party’s presidential nomination. I’m waiting to hear whether a fourth non-Clinton will jump in … that would be Vice President Joe Biden, about whom much has been written during his lengthy career in government.

He’s become the target of late-night comedians’ jokes because of his occasional gaffes. No one, though, doubts his authenticity or his motives for seeking a career in public service.

Whether he runs, though, likely might depend on how much damage gets done to Hillary Clinton’s once-seemingly invincible image.

 

Texas AG faces possible indictment

This one seems cut-and-dried, but it’s probably not going to be determined that way.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has actually admitted to securities fraud. He was elected anyway in 2014 as the state’s top lawyer, its chief litigator. He should be above reproach. Isn’t that correct?

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/07/28/grand-jury-looming-paxtons-team-and-prosecutors-sp/

He’ll be investigated by a Collin County grand jury, which will get evidence presented by the Texas Rangers, the elite investigative arm of the Department of Public Safety.

Cut-and-dried?

The Republican attorney general admits to soliciting investment clients for a friend without notifying the state in accordance with state law.

So, is Paxton guilty as charged?

Let’s walk back a few years to around 1998.

President Bill Clinton took an oath to tell the truth while testifying before a federal grand jury. The panel asked the president some questions relating to his relationship with a young White House intern. The president didn’t tell the truth about that relationship.

What did the House of Representatives do? It impeached President Clinton.

Ostensibly, the impeachment really wasn’t about the inappropriate affair with the intern. It was about whether the president followed the law. The House said his lying to the grand jury constituted an impeachable offense.

The Senate, though, acquitted the president of the counts brought against him.

So, when a state constitutional officer — the attorney general — admits to breaking state securities law, does that constitute an indictable offense?

Cut … and … dried. Maybe.