Tag Archives: US Senate

Pompeo to become diplomat with thin backing

Mike Pompeo is likely to be confirmed as the nation’s next secretary of state, but he’ll take strange route on his way to leading the nation’s diplomatic corps.

Pompeo is the CIA director whom Donald Trump selected to succeed Rex Tillerson at the State Department. He has run into trouble on his way to confirmation: Pompeo won’t have the blessing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which conducted confirmation hearings on Pompeo’s nomination.

A Republican committee member, Rand Paul of Kentucky, is going to vote against Pompeo’s nomination. That will result more than likely in a vote of no confidence from the panel.

That won’t derail his confirmation. The full Senate will get to vote on it, but Pompeo will gain the support of Senate Democrats who might be in trouble in states that Trump carried in the 2016 presidential election. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe  Manchin of West Virginia come to mind; let’s toss in Bill Nelson of Florida while we’re at it. They’re all running for re-election, which seems to give Pompeo a leg up in this strange journey toward confirmation.

Actually, I hope Pompeo does get confirmed. The State Department needs a steady hand and I think Pompeo can provide it … if only the president will allow him to lead the agency.

Tillerson had to fight the occasional battle against being undercut by the president. Tillerson would make a pronouncement and then Trump would countermand him. I don’t want that to happen with the new secretary of state, who’s got a big job awaiting him immediately — which happens to be the preparation for the planned summit between Donald Trump and North Korean despot Kim Jong Un.

What’s more, as head of the CIA, Pompeo has joined other U.S. intelligence officials in confirming the obvious: that the Russians meddled in our 2016 election.

This man needs to be our secretary of state.

Whether to protect Mueller … or not

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wields plenty of political clout, but he cannot dictate to all key Senate committee chairs how to run their affairs.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is one who is bristling at McConnell’s reluctance to allow consideration of a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.

I’m with Chairman Grassley on this one.

McConnell said he sees “no indication” that Donald Trump is going to fire Mueller, appointed by the Justice Department to lead a probe into alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russians who meddled in our 2016 election.

No indication? How does he know what the president will do? Trump’s own staff doesn’t know what he thinks from one hour to the next, let alone from day to day, or week to week.

Grassley, meanwhile, wants his committee to vote on a bill to protect Mueller from any whims that might cross the president’s mind to fire him. According to The Hill:

“That’s not necessary. There’s no indication that Mueller’s going to be fired. I don’t think the president’s going to do that, and just as a practical matter even if we passed it, why would he sign it,” McConnell told Fox News. 

When Fox News’s Neil Cavuto noted that some Republicans “fear” that Trump will ax Mueller, the GOP leader fired back: “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor, that’s my responsibility as the majority leader, and we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate.”

Grassley responded: “Obviously the views of the majority leader are important to consider, but they do not govern what happens here in the Judiciary Committee. … If consideration on the floor was a standard for approving a bill, we wouldn’t be moving any bills out of this committee.”

Mueller is doing the people’s work in seeking to learn the truth behind whatever, if any, relationship the president had with Russian government oligarchs or others who wanted to interfere in our electoral process.

There can be little doubt about the explosion that would occur if Trump were to do something so foolish as firing Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who selected the special counsel.

So, perhaps Trump ought to consider a bill protecting Mueller a bit of a gift. Thus, he might want to tell the Senate majority leader to let this bill reach the floor and allow senators to approve it.

If there’s nothing to the allegation of collusion — as Trump keeps telling us — let Mueller make that determination all by himself without concern that the president will fire him.

That’s a bipartisan vote, right?

Hey, who said bipartisanship is dead on Capitol Hill?

The U.S. Senate recently voted unanimously to allow babies on to the floor of the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” The vote came in response to a request from Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who just gave birth to her infant daughter.

Duckworth is on maternity leave but she wanted to cast a vote on the nomination of Jim Bridenstine as the next NASA director.

I’m glad the Senate allowed Sen. Duckworth to bring her baby with her to work. The infant “slept through the while thing,” said Duckworth.

But … here’s a possible kicker. Is this a “slippery slope” matter? I don’t know what the maximum age limit is for children coming to the Senate floor. Is there such a limit?

Perhaps they limit this “take your kid to work” matter to infants. Toddlers? Pre-schoolers?

Whatever. I remain hopeful that we might see continuing Senate collegiality on more serious matters.

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.

O’Rourke winning money battle against Cruz

Beto O’Rourke appears to be winning one aspect of the upcoming electoral fight against an incumbent U.S. senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.

It’s the fight for campaign cash.

Will it translate to victory in the bigger, more important battle — the one for actual votes this fall? Well, that remains to be seen.

The Texas Tribune reports that Cruz, the Republican incumbent, is going to declare that he has raised less than half of what O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, has raised in the first quarter of 2018.

I won’t spend a lot of time analyzing the battle for cash. Here, though, is a thought that came to me from a retired journalist friend of ours who offered this tidbit during our recent visit to the Golden Triangle.

O’Rourke’s goal has to be to cut his expected losses in rural Texas while maintaining his expected hefty margins in urban Texas.

The Cruz Missile has already put the warning out to his GOP faithful that the “far left” is energized against him — and against Donald Trump, whom the far left hates with a passion, according to Cruz.

Our friend, who’s watched a lot of election cycles in Texas over the span of many decades, believes that O’Rourke — a congressman from El Paso — needs to continue plowing the rural field in the hunt for votes. That seems to explain why O’Rourke has spent so much time in places such as Pampa, Canyon, Amarillo and throughout the reliably Republican Texas Panhandle.

In a certain fashion, if that is the strategy that O’Rourke is employing in Texas, it seems to mirror the national Democratic strategy that enabled Barack Obama to win two presidential elections and for Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote by 3 million ballots while losing the Electoral College to Trump. If you look at the county-by-county breakdown nationally, you see that Republican presidential candidates in 2008, 2012 and 2016 all won vast expanses of rural America; Democrats, though, harvested tremendous numbers of votes in urban America.

One can boil that down to a Texas strategy, too, I reckon, given this state’s huge urban centers in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Thus, it becomes imperative for O’Rourke to somehow cut deeply enough into the losses he can expect in the Piney Woods, the Rolling Plains, the High Plains and the Permian Basin to give him some breathing space as he shores up the support he can expect in Big City Texas.

I do hope the young man spends his campaign cash wisely.

Cruz vs. O’Rourke: a fight to watch

I’ll lay this out there right away: You know where I stand regarding U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whom I have dubbed “The Cruz Missile.”

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll just say this: I do not support him. There. That’s out of the way.

I’m going to watch his fight for re-election with intense interest. He has a Democratic challenger who hails from way out yonder, El Paso. Beto O’Rourke is a member of the U.S. House. He wants a promotion to the other end of the U.S. Capitol Building.

I am not going to predict how this year’s election will turn out. I’m not smart enough to make such a prediction. Yes, I consider The Cruz Missile to be the favorite. Texas is seriously Republican. Our voters are more conservative than liberal. Cruz is banking on the voters’ party loyalty.

But wait! O’Rourke is raising lots of money. He has raked in more campaign cash than Cruz. It’s coming from somewhere. He is tapping the state’s pockets of progressive voters.

Political observers do suggest that O’Rourke needs to build his brand. He needs to establish a political identity. Many of us know how to ID Cruz. I consider Cruz to be a front-running media hog. He loves the spotlight. He’s good at basking in it. He ran for president in 2016 after serving just partly into his first term as a senator; that’s not a strike by itself against him, as Barack Obama did the same thing in 2008.

If there is a “blue wave” set to sweep across the land in the 2018 midterms, I suspect that the Cruz-O’Rourke contest will determine just how angry voters are at the manner in which Republicans have governed the nation. We’ll know whether that wave is for real or whether it’s a mirage created by wishful thinkers.

My heart hopes that Cruz gets the boot. My head prevents me from suggesting it will happen.

It will be among the critical U.S. Senate races to watch.

Birtherism making an unwelcome return? No-o-o-o!

I wanted to hurl — well, almost — when I heard this little item out of Arizona.

Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff who lost a re-election bid, is now running for the Republican Party nomination for U.S. senator from Arizona. What does this clown say over the weekend?

He said if he’s elected to the Senate he’s going to renew the lie that former President Barack Obama was not qualified to serve — because he was born in Africa and not in Hawaii.

He said this about Barack Obama’s birth certificate: “No doubt about it, we have the evidence, I’m not going to go into all the details, yeah, it’s a phony document,” Arpaio told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “Cuomo Primetime.”

Can you believe this? Neither can I!

Let’s remember that Arpaio, one of the more notorious lawmen in recent U.S. history, was convicted of defying a federal court order banning him from profiling Hispanics in an attempt to round up illegal immigrants.

So, what does Donald John Trump do? He pardons Arpaio, freeing him to run for the Senate in the race to succeed Jeff Flake, the Republican who is retiring at the end of the year.

Sigh …

The task now falls on Arizona Republicans to spare their state the prospect of having to listen to this clown beyond the primary election. Arpaio is one of several GOP candidates running in this race.

Why does this matter to a blogger way over here in Texas, a good distance from Arizona? Because if Arizona Republicans lose their minds and nominate this individual, he then becomes a serious contender for an office that writes federal laws that affect all Americans. That means me. And you. I cannot speak for others, but in no way in hell do I want this guy anywhere near the U.S. Senate.

It boggles my mind that he would consider resurrecting one of the most despicable lies ever told about a U.S. president.

Welcome to center stage, Mike Pompeo

Can there be a more complicated set of circumstances awaiting the next secretary of state?

Donald Trump tweets the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He tweets it, I’m tellin’ ya. Tillerson said he doesn’t know why he was canned. The president then said he’s going to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the next top diplomat.

Oh … and this is occurring while the United States is beginning to prepare for a potentially historic summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Tillerson today thanks everyone under the sun for the opportunity to serve as secretary of state. Well, almost everyone. He doesn’t thank Trump. Um, I’m betting Trump and Tillerson aren’t going to talk much to each other going forward.

Pffeww!!

I’m worn out — and I’m out here in the Flyover Country peanut gallery.

Pompeo also happens to one of those intelligence experts who believes the Russians meddled in our 2016 presidential election. He has said so on the record. He joins a distinguished list of officials: the director of national intelligence, the head of the National Security Agency, the president’s national security adviser (who well could be the next one out the door). They’ve all said the same thing: The Russians did it and they all contradict the idiocy spouted by the president, that if Vladimir Putin says he didn’t do it, then that’s good enough.

I sincerely hope someone on on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must vote to confirm Pompeo, asks him directly — once more — whether he still believes the Russians meddled in our election.

And with equal sincerity, I hope the Senate wastes little time in getting Pompeo confirmed. He’s got a full plate waiting for him when he takes over.

I mean — crap! — he’s got to prepare the president for this summit with Kim Jong Un. I’ll also have to hope Donald Trump will listen to what the new guy has to say.

Biden in ’20? Yes, but … why ?

Joseph R. Biden’s possible presidential candidacy in 2020 fills me with equal parts hope and dread.

Actually, the dread part might be a bit greater than the hope.

The former vice president reportedly is thinking hard about running for president in 2020. I presume he wants to challenge Donald John Trump Sr., who’s already formed a re-election campaign committee and has been speaking at political rallies almost from the first day of his presidency.

Biden is being coy, naturally. He says he is concentrating first in this year’s mid-term election that he hopes will elect more Democrats to public office.

Let me stipulate two points about hope and dread.

The Hope: I have admired Biden for decades, dating back to the horrific personal tragedy he endured in 1972 when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate. His wife and daughter died in a car accident shortly after the election that year and Biden wrestled with whether he wanted to become a senator.

His friends counseled him to serve. He took their advice and served in the Senate from 1973 until he was tapped by fellow Sen. Barack Obama to run with him on the 2008 Democratic ticket; Obama and Biden won that contest and Biden became a valuable member of the Obama administration.

Biden’s Senate career hit its share of bumps along the way. He was prone to talking too much. He got ensnared in a copycat scandal in which he lifted remarks from a British politician and used them as his own in telling his life story; that embarrassment cost him dearly and he had to pull out of his first run for president in 1987.

Then there was the time during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Biden had five minutes to ask a question, but he spent damn near all of it on a soliloquy about why he opposed Alito. Sheesh!

But the ex-VP is a patriot who loves this country and has given much in service to it. He might want one more tour of public service duty.

The Dread: As much as I admire Biden, I still believe Democrats need to reach out to the back bench to find a nominee to challenge Trump. I believe 2020 will provide an opportunity to find someone who is on no one’s political radar at the moment.

Barack Obama came out of nowhere in 2008. So did Jimmy Carter in 1976. I’m not saying Democrats should nominate another Obama or Carter, but rather they should find someone who is as unknown as they both were to the American public.

There’s also the issue of age. Vice President Biden would be the oldest man ever elected president were he to win in 2020. He’s already on record saying he would serve a single term before bowing out — which would make him a lame-duck the minute he took his hand off the Bible at his swearing in.

I am reminded of something a late Clackamas County (Ore.) sheriff once told me after he took office when his predecessor resigned. Bill Brooks announced immediately he would run for election. “If I don’t run I become a lame duck,” Brooks said. “Lame ducks get bulldozed and I don’t bulldoze worth a s**t.”

A 78-year-old President Biden would get bulldozed, too.

Would I still support a Biden candidacy over Donald Trump?

Duh! What in the world do you think?

More money: Does it equal more votes?

Beto O’Rourke is raising more campaign money than Ted Cruz.

Yes, that is correct, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate is outraising the Republican incumbent … in heavily Republican Texas!

I know what many Texans are thinking about now: This means Beto is going to win the election this fall; Cruz is toast; he’s a goner; he’s done.

Not so fast, dear reader.

I’ll stipulate that I am no fan of The Cruz Missile. He has p***** me off plenty during his six years in the United States Senate. Cruz is the latest version of former Sen. Phil Gramm, of whom it used to be said that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Gramm and a TV camera.” Replace “Gramm” with “Cruz” and you get the same punchline.

As the Tribune has reported: Over the first 45 days of 2018, O’Rourke raised $2.3 million — almost three times more than Cruz’s $800,000. 

Hurray for O’Rourke, right?

The Tribune also notes: While this is a sign of momentum for O’Rourke, it’s worth considering that this race, in a state as big and expensive as Texas, could cost into the tens of millions. Moreover, Cruz is likely to have a deep well of super PAC money to help him in the fall, while O’Rourke early on in his campaign pledged to not accept corporate political action committee money.

Hey, I want O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, to win this fall as much the next guy.

It’s good to remember that Texas Republicans are a dedicated bunch. They go to the mat for their candidates no matter what.

It is true that O’Rourke has spent a lot of time at town halls, talking to folks at plant gates, grange halls, saddle and tack shops, shopping malls — you name it — he still is campaigning in a state that hasn’t elected any Democrat to statewide office for two decades. He also has familiarized himself with the expansive landscape of the Texas Panhandle, which is Ground Zero of the Texas Republican political movement.

Now that I think about it, this might be the year for that lengthy streak to come to an end.

Maybe. Perhaps.