Tag Archives: speaker of the House

Democrats suffer a gigantic electoral shock

Something happened to U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley’s inexorable march to the chair occupied by the speaker of the House of Representatives.

He got beat! In a Democratic Party primary no less!

His conqueror is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, a first-time political candidate, a self-proclaimed “Democratic socialist,” a community activist who worked the neighborhoods of Queens and The Bronx in New York City.

Crowley had poured lots of money into this race. He outspent Ocasio-Cortez by about 18 to 1. All that money went for naught, given that Ocasio-Cortez beat Crowley by double digits Tuesday night.

One problem emerged with Crowley’s re-election effort, just as it did in 2014 when Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his Virginia GOP primary contest. It turns out Crowley was more interested in his own political ambition than in the problems facing the constituents who sent him to Congress in the late 1990s. He wanted to push Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi aside; he kept yapping about the need for “new leadership” among the House Democratic caucus.

His hope has been that Democrats could retake the House this year and he — not Pelosi — would be chosen as the next speaker of the House.

Did he care about the home folks? They spoke Tuesday night and delivered their verdict that, nope, he didn’t give a damn about them.

Is there a lesson here. Yep.

Somewhere, the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill is laughing out loud. It was O’Neill who coined the well-worn phrase: “All politics is local.”

‘Haven’t paid … close attention’? Really, Mr. Speaker?

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan needs to be called out for telling a lie. So, I think I’ll do that.

He said this today in response to a question about whether he had faith in Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt:

“Frankly I haven’t paid that close attention to it … I don’t know enough about what Pruitt has or has not done to give you a good comment.”

Really and truly, Mr. Speaker? He is saying that all this tumult over EPA Administrator Pruitt’s mounting ethical troubles have gone unnoticed by the nation’s third-in-line for the presidency. He hasn’t paid “close attention to it,” he said.

Good grief, Mr. Speaker. Do you expect anyone to believe this?

I am quite certain he knows quite enough to make a comment on Pruitt’s troubles. He just doesn’t want to say anything about it.

Let me refresh his memory: Pruitt secured a dirt-cheap rental agreement for himself and his wife from a lobbyist who represents a company that is subject to EPA rules and regulations; Pruitt has been spending extravagantly for such things as a “secure telephone booth” in his office; his travel tabs have been exorbitant as well.

These are ethical matters that keep on piling up.

It’s been in all the papers. Cable news networks have been reporting on these matters.

The speaker of the House hasn’t heard enough about it to make a comment, to answer a reporter’s simple and direct question?

I don’t believe the speaker is telling the truth.

House chaplain to stay on the job … good deal!

Politicians can and do have second thoughts, yes?

Consider what happened with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to ask for the resignation of House chaplain the Rev. Patrick Conroy.

He pulled it back. Father Conroy will stay on the job, offering prayers for legislators as they grapple with the issues of the day.

Ryan had incurred considerable national anger when he asked Conroy — a fellow Catholic, as is Ryan — to resign. Ryan hasn’t yet explained his reason for seeking the chaplain’s resignation. Reports have swirled that Father Conroy had offered a prayer that some had taken as criticism of the Republican caucus’s passage of a tax-cut bill that Donald Trump signed into law.

Ryan asked Father Conroy to submit a letter asking the speaker to rescind his request to resign. Conroy did and Ryan accepted it.

As The Hill reported: “I have accepted Father Conroy’s letter and decided that he will remain in his position as Chaplain of the House,” Ryan said. “My original decision was made in what I believed to be the best interest of this institution. To be clear, that decision was based on my duty to ensure that the House has the kind of pastoral services that it deserves.

 “It is my job as speaker to do what is best for this body,” Ryan added, “and I know that this body is not well served by a protracted fight over such an important post.”

The speaker is correct that the House need not be battered by a “protracted fight” over the chaplain.

Except that Ryan started the fight by issuing the resignation request in the first place.

I am one American who is demanding an explanation from Ryan why he picked the fight with the priest. Please tell us, Mr. Speaker, that your initial request had nothing to do with partisan politics.

A ‘wave is coming’

Terry Sullivan, a Republican political strategist who ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign had this to say about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to retire from Congress:

“It’s just another illustration of the harbinger of things to come. There’s no Republican who’s optimistic about the November elections. It’s the 300th example that there is a wave coming.”

Is this the Gospel According to Sullivan? Is he all-knowing, all-feeling, all-understanding? Does he know something the rest of us cannot know or can possibly know?

I have no clue.

However, I am beginning to rethink my view of Ryan’s stated reason for leaving the speakership. He said he wants to spend more time with his wife and young children.

Ho … hum.

It is sounding more like a standard dodge than anything that’s actually real.

Ryan became speaker reluctantly after John Boehner quit the House. He said he didn’t want the job and the headaches that came with it. Then he slid into his post as Man of the House. I considered him initially to be somewhat of a grownup.

And then Donald Trump got elected president of the United States. That’s when it all fell apart. Ryan sought to be a good soldier. He considered himself to be loyal to the party. The problem appeared to expand and explode as Trump began to assert himself while trying to learn a thing or two about the process of governing.

It has been a cluster-fudge since the beginning of Trump’s time as president, putting the man who stands third in line to the presidency in the line of fire.

I cannot pretend to know what is in Speaker Ryan’s head and heart. It just strikes me today, just a bit after Ryan’s startling retirement announcement, that he really didn’t want to become speaker.

It now becomes apparent that despite his stated desire to be more of a family man that he just might realize that the speaker’s job didn’t pay him enough to deal daily with the chaos that emanates from the White House.

Yep, Sen. Rubio’s strategist just might be on to something about a “wave coming.”

Speaker Ryan gives it up

I had a glimmer of hope that Paul Ryan could retain some semblance of sanity in the U.S. House of Representatives when he became speaker of the people’s House.

Damn, anyway! It wasn’t meant to be.

I never envisioned that Donald J. Trump would be elected president of the United States in 2016. Nor did I envision that Trump would reshape the Republican Party into an unrecognizable political unit.

So, what does the speaker of the House do? He announced today he won’t seek re-election in his Wisconsin U.S. House district. He’ll walk away from public life at the end of the year to “spend more time” with his family.

I don’t know what is in Ryan’s head and heart. I guess we should accept his public statements about seeking more face time with his children and his wife.

However, there well might be a political element to Ryan’s decision to call it a career.

Trump has managed to mangle the GOP. He has “governed” — and I use that term with great caution — with a recipe that resembles something my grandmothers used to follow. They never measured anything; they just tossed ingredients into a mixing bowl and somehow what came out tasted good!

I always considered Ryan to be a product of a more deliberate governing process. He is a product of Washington, D.C. He ran for vice president in 2012 to help bring some D.C. wisdom to the GOP ticket led by a former governor, Mitt Romney.

He’s going to leave it to the next speaker — whoever the heck that turns out to be. I guess the task will fall on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — but that presumes that Republicans will retain control of the House after this year’s midterm election.

That prospect is quite suddenly looking a good bit less likely. I suppose, then, that Ryan just couldn’t stand the notion of toiling in a legislative body led by someone such as Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

So, do you suppose that Donald Trump had anything to do with Ryan’s decision to walk away? I believe that’s looking more and more like the case, no matter the outcome of the midterm election.

‘Rumor’ might shake it all up in D.C.

I always steered far away from reporting on “rumors” when I worked for a living as a print journalist.

The worst kind of rumors came from people with no direct knowledge of the tidbit they were passing on.

Still, this item is worth a brief note here. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, a Nevada Republican, told a Nevada news station that House Speaker Paul Ryan is considering resigning his House seat and that the next speaker will be Rep. Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican lawmaker who was seriously wounded in a shooting involving GOP congressmen who were practicing for a charity baseball game.

Ryan’s office denies the speaker will quit. Which is what you expect them to say.

The Hill reported: Amodei, who is not a close ally of Ryan’s, emphasized that he was just repeating a rumor. But the on-the-record comments from a Republican lawmaker — and the suggestion that Ryan could resign before the midterms — made waves on Monday, briefly crashing the Nevada Newsmakers website.

Ryan might be looking ahead to those midterm elections across the country and the possibility that Democrats could reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives; that, of course, would hand the speakership over to a Democratic House member.

Might it be that Ryan wants out before the so-called “blue tide” washes him out of office?

Hey, it’s only a rumor. Then again …

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.

Health care overhaul? Kaput! Tax reform? That’s next!

Let’s see if we can figure this one out together.

Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans botched a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a law that took about a year of tough negotiation and dickering to enact in the first place.

Trump and his pals in Congress tried to do it in the span of 17 days. They failed to muster enough support from, oh, just about any faction within the GOP. TEA Party, Freedom Caucus, party moderates all hated the American Health Care Act, which the Republican congressional leadership pulled out of its backside in the dead of night.

ACA repeal and replace? Gone. Finished. As House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “(The Affordable Care Act) is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.”

What, then, do Trump and the Trumpkins — the gang that cannot legislate its way out of a wet paper bag — want to do now?

Tax reform. Tax reform!

ACA repeal and replacement was complicated enough. Indeed, the president admitted he didn’t realize it could be so complicated. No kidding, Mr. President.

I’ve got your “complicated” right here, though. If you’re going to take on the big stuff, you’ve decided to go after the biggest of them all: reforming the federal tax code.

Presidents of both parties have been saying for decades that the tax system is too complicated, too cumbersome, too this and too that. What have any of them accomplished? Damn little!

The tax system is a monstrous entity that requires careful study, analysis, expertise and patience to repair. Does anyone really think that the president of the United States — based on what we’ve just witnessed — is capable of learning the nuts and bolts of tax policy? Does he really and truly even give a crap about it?

And what about the speaker of the House, who presides over the congressional chamber where all tax policy must originate. How well do you think Paul Ryan did in engineering the House’s role in the cluster fudge that resulted in the ACA replacement meltdown late this past week?

Good luck, gentlemen. You will need all of it you can find if you have any chance of succeeding in this monumental effort.

Clinton need not be shut out of classified access


Let’s settle down just a bit, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The Wisconsin Republican said Wednesday that Hillary Rodham Clinton should be denied access to “classified material” after she becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee for president of the United States.

Why? Because of her handling of the e-mails while she was secretary of state and because, according to the speaker, it “looks like” the FBI gave her preferential treatment in its yearlong investigation into her use of a personal e-mail server while she led the State Department.

It’s been customary for decades to allow presidential and vice-presidential nominees access to national security briefings while they campaign for the White House. Ryan got it when he ran for VP four years ago along with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

I thought the best response to this statement of outrage from Ryan came from famed defense lawyer and constitutional law professor Alan Dershowitz. He said on CNN Wednesday that — in light of FBI Director James Comey’s stern tongue-lashing in announcing he would recommend no criminal charges be brought against Clinton — that the former secretary of state would be careful in the extreme in reviewing this classified material.


Ryan, of course, won’t be called off. Quite naturally — and expectedly — he’s angry that the FBI and the Justice Department have decided that Clinton didn’t commit any crimes. He’s going to proceed with a Republican investigation into the FBI probe to determine whether Comey and his staff of career prosecutors did their job fairly, without bias and without outside influence.

It’s quite obvious to me that Ryan’s mind is made up, that the FBI was in the tank for the Democratic presidential candidate. This GOP investigation won’t answer any questions.

For her part, Clinton needs to face the partisan outrage head-on. I hope she does so. Will she be able to quell the partisan anger? No.

In the meantime, Clinton she should be able — as a candidate for president — to receive the national security briefings that has gone to previous nominees.

How does Hastert earn this kind of ‘support’?


Something must have gotten past me.

A judge received more than 60 letters of support for a former U.S. speaker of the House of Representatives just before sentencing him to 15 months in federal prison.

It’s not the banking fraud that has everyone’s attention. It’s the reason for the charges to which former Speaker Dennis Hastert has pleaded guilty.


The letters reportedly were written mostly before the allegations of sexual abuse had been made public. They spoke to Hastert’s supposedly stellar character and devotion to his family.


But what about the charges that he hid hush money he was paying to boys he purportedly abused sexually while he was a high school wrestling coach?

The terms of Hastert’s guilty plea apparently limits his sentence to no longer than six months in jail.

Speaker Hastert allegedly led a hideous double life. He was a respected coach and equipment manager at the Yorkville, Ill., high school. Meanwhile, he allegedly lured at least four boys into compromising situations while traveling with them.

It’s almost too disgusting to ponder that a man who once was second in line to the presidency of the United States likely had did terrible things to young boys at an earlier time in his life.

I get that Hastert is in failing health. I feel terrible about the toll this case has taken on his family. However, the responsibility for that toll falls squarely on the former speaker.

Did he deserve any sympathy from the judge?

Maybe just a little.


The judge, though, didn’t see it that way when he sent a “serial child molester” to the slammer.