Tag Archives: US House

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.

Oh, yeah, there’s also the Clinton matter

I feel the need to launch a bit of a preemptive strike at those who are inclined to take issue with an earlier item I posted on High Plains Blogger.

It wonders whether Donald John Trump should consider resigning the presidency in the wake of resignations of three key members of Congress: Democratic Sen. Al Franken, Democratic Rep. John Conyers and Republican Rep. Trent Franks — all of whom quit over allegations of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

As long as we’re insisting on resignation …

Critics of this blog might be inclined to remind me that President Bill Clinton should have quit, too, when allegations surfaced about women with whom he had sexual relations. One woman accused him of rape; another accused him of sexual harassment; yet another was revealed to have engaged in some dalliance with the president while she was working as a White House intern.

I’ll answer any such response this way: President Clinton went through a serious round of “due process.”

The House of Representatives impeached him for lying to a grand jury about his relationship with the White House intern. Republicans who ran the House at the time were looking for a reason to impeach Clinton; the president gave them one by lying under oath.

Then came the trial in the Senate, presided over by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Senators heard the evidence, heard the rebuttal to the evidence and then acquitted the president on all the charges brought by the House.

Due process, man. That is what transpired in 1998.  We haven’t been through anything of the sort as it regards the current president.

So, please spare me the “Clinton should have quit, too” mantra. He went through hell by being impeached. He paid a price. Whether it was a sufficient price for what he did depends on whether you agree or disagree with the Senate verdict.

I happen to agree with it.

RINOs take over congressional GOP

Republican Party “purists,” whoever they may be, must be furious with what the GOP majority in Congress has done.

Republicans who control both congressional chambers have just rammed through two versions of a tax cut that by many economists’ view is going to explode the federal budget deficit.

Therefore, congressional Republicans — virtually to a person — comprise Republicans In Name Only. They are the dreaded RINOs that purists keep condemning as closet big-spenders masquerading as members of the party of fiscal responsibility.

One Republican — lame-duck U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee — managed to vote “no” on the Senate version of the tax cut. But he was the only one.

Now this monstrosity goes back to the House of Representatives, which will seek to reconcile its differences with the Senate version. Then they get to vote again on it.

After that? It goes to the Oval Office, where the president of the United States will sign it. He’ll boast about the “victory” he won. Donald Trump will take credit for enacting a bill about which he likely doesn’t know a thing.

Do you remember the time when Republicans used to blister Democrats for running up those huge deficits? As recently as the 2016 election, Republicans were pounding freely at Democratic President Barack Obama for overseeing a sharp growth in the national debt. But here’s the deal: Under the Obama presidency, the size of the annual deficit was decreasing almost every year; by the time President Obama left office, the annual budget deficit had been cut by about two-thirds from the amount he inherited when he took office in January 2009.

I guess those days are gone, along with any chance that Republicans and Democrats are going to find common ground on matters that affect all Americans.

As for the country’s budgetary future, it’s now in the hands of RINOs. When are the party purists going to start squawking?

Hello? Is there anyone out there?

They call it ‘tax reform,’ but is it … really?

Here comes the legislative bum’s rush once again.

Just as congressional Republicans sought to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act all by themselves, they’re trying the same thing with what they’re calling “tax reform.”

Except that it doesn’t “reform” anything. It cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans and, according to at least one prominent study, will increase taxes for middle-income Americans.

The House of Representatives zoomed this tax cut through that chamber with a narrow vote. Now it goes to the Senate. And you know what? It’s running into trouble.

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin opposes it because it does too little for small business. GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine opposes it as well because it cuts out the individual mandate required by the ACA. That’s two “no” votes. The tax plan is officially on the bubble.

I believe I’ll now mention what it does to the deficit. It explodes the deficit and for those of us deficit hawks, it piles on more money to the national debt, which Republicans are fond of saying increased during President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.

Senate puts up roadblocks

I keep circling back to this notion that no single party can do anything constructive without the other party. Republicans haven’t yet learned that lesson now that they control the White House in addition to both congressional chambers.

This star-chamber style of legislating — with major bills being discussed in private by members of one party — is harmful to legislative process and to the principle of effective governance.

As GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has implored his colleagues, “Let’s return to ‘regular order.'” That means, among other things, bringing the other party into the discussion.

Impeachment? Not so fast, folks

Social media are chattering and clattering like a newspaper newsroom full of typewriters on deadline. Those of you who are old enough to remember actual typewriters will understand the analogy.

But the social media are abuzz with viral statements, requests and demands that Donald John Trump Sr. gets impeached.

Let’s hold that thought. At least for a while, OK?

The president of the United States is demonstrating plenty of disturbing behavior. He holds those rallies in which he ad-libs his way into nonsensical rants. Then he reads reasonably crafted speeches, looking for all the world as if he’s been asked to eat every bite of the squishy spinach on his plate. The next day he tears into the media, members of Congress and virtually every political foe who’s lined up against him.

Serious-minded folks like former head spook James Clapper say they doubt Trump’s “fitness” for his job. He’s acting like a maniac. Sounding like a blithering, blathering fruitcake.

Does any of this behavior rise to the level of an impeachable offense? No. Not as I understand what’s written into the U.S. Constitution.

Article II, Section 4 spells out the specifics of a presidential impeachment. It calls for such an action in the event of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives must bring formal charges against the president. Then the Senate conducts a trial; to convict a president and toss him out of office requires a two-thirds vote by senators.

Has the 45th president committed any sort of “high crime and misdemeanor”? No. Indeed, there is an open debate on just when we’ll know of any potential charges being brought. Many of us have our opinion on whether there should be charges brought. To date, we have none. We don’t even have any compelling evidence to suggest that there will be charges brought.

What about the president’s behavior? My reading of the Constitution suggests that loopy conduct does not, by itself, constitute an impeachable offense. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Donald Trump’s behavior on speech podiums is weird in the extreme.

I’ve never heard a more inarticulate president than the one we’ve got now. Never have I seen someone trash tradition in the manner that he does. Given an opportunity to heal a nation divided by myriad issues of many stripes, Donald Trump does precisely the opposite. He lashes out. He hurls insults at his foes. He cannot even bring himself to offer a word of good wishes to one of his critics — Sen. John McCain — who is in the midst of a life-and-death struggle against cancer.

Trump disgraces his office almost daily. I’d say he disgraces himself, but he seems to lack the capacity to look inward.

Is any of this impeachable? No.

None of it will stop the social media chatter. I just think it’s important to put some of this hysteria into some perspective.

Meantime, let’s wait for the special counsel looking at “The Russia Thing” to do his job.

Do as Jolly says, not as he does

jolly

David Jolly says he wants members of Congress to stop spending so much time soliciting money from donors.

So, what does the Florida Republican lawmaker do? He attends a fundraiser to, um, raise money for his own campaign for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Marco Rubio.

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/04/david-jolly-fundraiser-60-minutes-222669

I was somewhat enthralled by Rep. Jolly when he appeared this past Sunday on “60 Minutes.” He has authored something called the STOP Act. Its aim is to prohibit incumbent House members from spending so much time “dialing for dollars.” Jolly told CBS News’ Nora O’Donnell that House members spend more time manning the phones making “cold calls” on donors than they spending doing the job to which they’ve been elected.

He talked about things such as, oh, “constituent service.” You know, dealing with constituents’ questions about Social Security payments, veterans benefits … things like that.

I told some family members just yesterday that if Jolly were running for president today I’d consider voting for him over any of the others seeking the nation’s highest job.

According to Politico: “The piece sparked an intra-party feud between Jolly and the National Republican Congressional Committee. The NRCC said Jolly vastly overstated how much time lawmakers spend raising money.”

He’s gotten only a handful of co-sponsors. The act isn’t likely to get much traction in the House, where members say they “hate” having to raise so much money.

Still, I guess they just can’t help themselves.

As for the fundraiser Jolly attended, his flack justified it by saying Jolly didn’t actually telephone anyone to invite them to the event.

There. Do you feel better about it?