Tag Archives: US House

Vets could bring a return to congressional collegiality

I long have lamented and bemoaned the lack of collegiality in the halls of Congress. Political adversaries become “enemies.” They drift farther and father apart, separated by a deepening chasm between them.

There might be a return to what we think of as “collegiality” and “comity” in the halls of power on Capitol Hill.

It might rest with a large and hopefully growing class of military veterans seeking to serve the public in a political capacity.

They have shared experiences. They know the pain of loss of comrades in battle. They endure similar stresses associated with their time in battle.

I posted earlier today a blog item about U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw, a wounded Navy SEAL who is among 15 veterans elected to Congress in this past week’s midterm election. Crenshaw is a Republican from Houston. I don’t know the partisan composition of the congressional freshman class of veterans. It doesn’t matter. My hunch is that they are going to find plenty of commonality once they settle into their new jobs and get acquainted with each other’s history.

The Greatest Generation returned home from World War II and the men who served in the fight against tyranny developed amazing friendships when they found themselves serving under the same Capitol Dome.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii became lifelong friends with Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas; they both suffered grievous injuries in Italy near the end of the war, went to rehab together and developed a friendship that lasted until Inouye’s death. There were so many others. Fellow aviators, Democratic Sen. George McGovern and Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater became friends for life, as did Sens. McGovern and Dole.

The Korean War produced its own crop of veterans who entered political life together.

Then there is the Vietnam War generation, which also featured lasting friendships that transcended partisan politics. GOP Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. John Kerry worked together to help restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel both represented their native Nebraska in the Senate, serving briefly together on Capitol Hill. Former Vietnam prisoners of war found commonality: Sen. Jeremiah Denton, Rep. Sam Johnson, Sen. McCain — all Republicans — were among that particular clique of lawmakers with a special bond.

The latest class of vets joins a cadre of veterans already serving in Congress. Democratic Sen. (and double amputee) Tammie Duckworth is among the most notable.

There always is much more to life than politics. My hope now is that the new crop of vets find a way to lead the way back toward a more civil era in Congress. I pray they can find a way to bridge the chasm that divides men and women of good will.

I am filled with a new sense of hope that these individuals with common life experience can cleanse the air of the toxicity that has poisoned it in Washington.

Civility now appears farther away than ever

Those of us who lament the lack of civility in our public debate between elected officials are going to be disappointed when the next Congress takes its seat in January.

We’ll have a divided legislative branch: Democrats will control the House of Representatives; Republicans will run the Senate.

The White House, of course, remains in GOP control.

Donald Trump has called — ostensibly — for “peace and harmony.” He said he wants it. He has vowed to work toward it. His performance in the wake of the midterm election suggests he doesn’t mean what he said.

Democrats are gearing up for a subpoena blizzard. The new congressional committee chairs are threatening to summon White House officials left and right to Capitol Hill. They want to question them on, oh, damn near everything under the sun.

Donald Trump now is declaring that the election that produced a Democratic takeover of the House and narrowing of the GOP margin of the Senate is a product of electoral fraud. Sound familiar? Sure it does. It’s the president’s fall-back position when the balloting doesn’t go his way.

Democrats are sure to be angry. Republicans are certain to be defiant.

Donald Trump is a lead-pipe cinch to continue his habit of lying through his teeth.

Peace and harmony are nowhere to be found.

Count me as one American who is continuing to be disappointed in our federal government.

Clinging to a hint of conventional wisdom

Donald John Trump’s election as president of the United States should have taught us all a valuable lesson.

It would to be toss conventional wisdom straight into the crapper.

A first-time candidate for any public office had no business defeating a former first lady, former U.S. senator and former secretary of state. But he did. He whipped Hillary Rodham Clinton. Not by a lot. But he won.

That all said, I am going to cling to a bit of conventional wisdom as the 2018 midterm election comes hurtling toward us. It is this: 29 million ballots were cast nationally in early voting, compared to 21 million early votes cast prior to Election Day 2014. The conventional wisdom holds that the bigger the turnout the better it is for Democratic Party candidates.

This could portend a good thing for the immediate future of our system of government.

I know what you’re thinking. Sure, you’d say that. You’re a Democratic partisan. You’re biased toward those weak-kneed, socialist-leaning Democrats. You’ve stated your bias against the president. You can’t get over the fact that he was elected president.

Actually, my bias rests with divided government. Yes, I am unhappy that Trump won. I wanted Hillary Clinton to be elected president and I would support again today if I had the chance.

I’ll continue to rail against the president for as long as he holds the office to which he was elected legitimately and according to the U.S. Constitution.

However, good government needs a better form of “checks and balance” to stem the tide that Trump is trying to ride. He has hijacked the Republican Party and has turned into the Party of Trump. It’s now a party that foments fear, incivility, prejudice. It speaks Trump’s language. By that I suggest that absent any serious dissent from within the GOP’s congressional ranks, Trump is virtually unfettered, given that the GOP controls both congressional chambers.

That well might change after the midterm election. The House of Representatives appears likely to swing into Democratic control. The Democrats will handle the committee gavels. Democrats will decide the flow of legislation. Democrats will call the shots in the People’s House.

Moreover, they will act as a careful check against the Republican stampede that Trump wants to trigger.

Tax cuts for the wealthy? Slashing Medicare and Medicaid? Appropriating money to build that damn wall across our southern border? If Trump and the GOP maintain control of Congress — both House and Senate — the game is over. If Democrats manage to wrest control of the chamber where tax matters originate, then we’ve got a chance that Trump will be taught a lesson in how divided government works.

Conventional wisdom might be an endangered species. It’s still alive and breathing. It well might rise again to help produce a federal government that actually works.

If you haven’t voted already, you have a big day awaiting you next Tuesday. Be sure your voice is heard.

Birthright citizenship far from ‘absurd’

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is trying to cover Donald Trump’s backside with a plan to introduce legislation in the Senate to reverse a constitutional amendment that provides U.S. citizenship to anyone born inside the United States of America.

Nice try, senator.

Trump declared his desire to issue an executive order that would end the right of instant citizenship to anyone born here. The big problem facing the nutty idea is that the rule comes to us in the form of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which was proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868.

Now it’s an “absurd” notion, according to Sen. Graham, who wrote in a Twitter message: “Finally, a president willing to take on this absurd policy of birthright citizenship. I’ve always supported comprehensive immigration reform — at the same time — the elimination of birthright citizenship.”

Graham jumps in

In order to amend the Constitution, this legislation needs a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and must be ratified by three-quarters of the 50 states. It is a steep hill to be sure.

It’s also a ridiculous and gratuitous attack on a U.S. tradition that has been part of the law of the land for 150 years.

Donald Trump has sought to demonize all illegal immigrants, even those who were brought here as children by their parents — and now those who were born here to parents who came this country illegally. He suggests that all illegal immigrants come here to do harm, to commit crimes, to perform terrible acts of violence.

This is the answer? This is the solution?

No. It isn’t.

Good grief, if we’re going to get tougher on illegal immigration, then let’s use existing laws and modernize security policies. We don’t need to build a wall along our southern border.

Nor do we need to repeal the clause contained in an existing amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Rep. Jordan seeks to follow Speaker Hastert; oh, the irony

This cannot possibly be happening. But it is.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan wants to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives. The current speaker, Paul Ryan, isn’t running for re-election. Ryan has endorsed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as his successor, according to The Hill.

That hasn’t dissuaded the young Freedom Caucus co-founder, Jordan, from joining the speaker fray in the fight to become the person who is second in line to presidential succession.

But … this is a richly ironic candidacy. It has nothing to do with Jordan’s legislative record. It has everything to do with, um, sex!

Jordan has been accused by several former Ohio State University wrestlers of looking the other way while these athletes were being sexually abused by a team doctor. Jordan denies the accusations categorically. Still, they are mounting up, much like the women who accused a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice of abusing them when they were much younger.

The irony? It goes like this: A former U.S. House speaker, Dennis Hastert, pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to the abuse of young boys he coached many years ago in an Illinois high school. Hastert wasn’t charged specifically with sexual abuse, as the statute of limitations had expired. He did admit to doing so, however, during his sentencing.

I just find it strange, weird and oh, so ironic that Jordan would seek the same office once held by someone who also got himself into deep doo-doo over a sexual abuse matter.

You also can bet the farm that Democrats are going to use Rep. Jordan’s own set of (alleged) troubles against him as they seek to re-capture control of the House of Representatives in this fall’s midterm election.

So … what about cyber security?

Those nagging, knotty questions about cyber security keep recurring.

Robert Mueller’s legal team has indicted 12 Russian goons for conspiring to meddle in our 2016 election. Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman, likely ordered it. Our intelligence brass has concurred, as has the intelligence arms of our major allies.

Donald Trump hasn’t yet acknowledged the existential threat to our electoral system. What’s more, the Russians likely are seeking to screw up our 2018 midterm elections, too.

Back to a question I have posed before: Where is our cyber security reform?

About a decade ago, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner, gave my former congressman, Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, the task of developing a way to protect our nation’s cyber network.

Thornberry’s all-GOP task force issued a detailed report. Then they were done. They all went back to doing whatever it is they do.

As the nation wrings its hands over cyber security and wonders how it is going to protect its secrets from foreign foes — such as Russia — I haven’t heard a sound from Rep. Thornberry!

Speaker Boehner spoke quite highly of Thornberry’s skill in leading this reform effort, if my memory serves me. Yes, Thornberry is a smart fellow.

But what in the world are we doing to deter the kind of manipulation and possibly decisive meddling that occurred in 2016? Have there been improvements to our cyber network to prevent future interference?

The fellow who used to represent me in the U.S. House of Representatives presumably led the effort to make us safer against such meddling. Didn’t he?

Gowdy grows a spine, finally!

Man, I certainly wish many politicians could show the spine they need before they announce their intention to retire from public life.

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy has just joined the growing list of pols who’ve found some much-needed courage — as lame ducks!

Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday” that there is no reason for Donald Trump to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who selected Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election.

According to Politico: The president’s ire over the investigation into possible Trump campaign ties with Russia, which Rosenstein stepped in to oversee after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself last year, has grown considerably over the past week after Rosenstein authorized the raid in New York on longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

Gowdy is not alone among Republican lawmakers cautioning the president to avoid doing something profoundly stupid and foolish. Firing Rosenstein or Mueller — or both — would create a political earthquake that actually might register something on the Richter Scale … if you get my drift.

As Politico reports further: Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, noted that the decision to conduct the raid had to be made at the “highest level” of the Justice Department and that a “neutral, detached” federal judge “who has nothing to do with politics” had to sign off on the warrant, which was, in part, made on a referral by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Republican U.S. Sens. Flake Flake and Bob Corker are retiring at the end of the year. So is GOP U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. Flake and Corker already have joined the list of Trump critics who keep reminding the president — and the rest of us — of the need to show restraint, decorum and judgment.

Speaker Ryan hasn’t yet weighed in and I’m unsure he will.

Gowdy, though, is exhibiting some of the “growth” that occurs when politicians liberate themselves from the pressure of holding onto public office.

By all means, it’s the ‘Trump Shutdown’

A headline on Politico.com sought to say how media outlets are “struggling” to assign blame for the current shutdown of the federal government.

Are you kidding me? I know who’s to blame. Someone just needed to ask me.

It’s Donald John “Deal Maker in Chief” Trump Sr.! He’s the man. He’s the one. He’s the guy who’s got to shoulder the blame.

How do I know that? Because the president of the United States laid the previous shutdown, which occurred in 2013, at the feet of Barack H. Obama, his presidential predecessor.

He said the president has to lead. He’s the one elected by the entire country. The president has to step up, take charge, bring members of Congress to the White House, clunk their heads together and tell ’em shape up, settle their differences and get the government running again.

Trump said all that. He was right.

But now that Trump is the man in charge, he has retreated into the background. Trump is pointing fingers at Democrats. He says they are to blame solely for the shutdown.

Give me a break!

A president is supposed to lead. We elect presidents to run the government. They stand head and shoulders above the 100 senators and 435 House members. When the government shudders and then closes its doors, we turn to the president to show us the way back to normal government functionality.

Donald Trump hasn’t yet shown up to lead the government out of its darkness.

Who’s to blame? It’s the guy who called it in 2013.

This is Trump’s Shutdown. Pure and simple.

If only he’d kept his trap shut when he was a mere commercial real estate mogul and reality TV host …

Mitch is striking ‘bipartisan’ tone for new year

Can it be true? Is the Senate majority leader finding some form of “religion” on how to govern?

Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is talking about a more “bipartisan” approach to legislating in the coming year. Well now. Imagine that.

The New York Times is reporting that McConnell is going to shy away from highly partisan measures and concentrate more on issues that have broader bipartisan support. He’s going to look for more Democratic support to go along with the Republican majority that controls the flow of legislation in the U.S. Senate.

Dodd-Frank, which governs the financial industry, has bipartisan support for overhauling the law enacted in the wake of the 2008 banking crisis. McConnell said he virtually certain to push that overhaul forward.

Mitch is going bipartisan

As Politico reports, McConnell and other Republicans failed in their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this year. “I wish them well,” he said of efforts to continue to repeal the ACA and replace it with … something!

As an American who favors a bipartisan approach to legislating in Congress, I welcome the majority leader’s stated intention to seek another way to govern.

Now … if only Sen. McConnell can persuade the guy in the Oval Office that cooperation works far more effectively than confrontation.

Here’s why Senate votes are so important

A lot of Americans are awaiting the results of a statewide election that has nothing to do with their own state.

Alabama voters have cast their ballots. Democrat Doug Jones or Republican Roy Moore will become that state’s next U.S. senator.

Why is that important to, say, Texans, or those who live in California, Wisconsin, Delaware or the Dakotas?

Two reasons.

One is that the Senate right now comprises 52 Republicans and 46 Democrats (with two independents who caucus with the Democrats). That means the balance of power is tenuous, indeed.

If Jones wins, the narrow margin is made even more narrow, which is why Donald Trump has campaigned (sort of) for Moore.

The second reason speaks to why all Senate — and House — elections are important for the entire country. These individuals make laws that affect all Americans. With the Senate balance hanging so tenuously, that makes this particular contest so noteworthy — even without the sexual allegations that have swirled around Roy Moore.

This federal system of government of ours puts a lot of power in the 100 men and women of the Senate and the 435 individuals who comprise the House of Representatives. A single senator can block a presidential nomination. House members initiate all tax legislation.

House members can impeach the president; the Senate then can conduct a trial.

These elections in every state and congressional district have a direct impact on Americans who live far beyond that state or congressional district’s borders.

You know how I want this Alabama election to turn out.

This one matters, it seems, more than many other states’ elections.

Then again, they’re all important.