Tag Archives: Congress

Debt deal is no ‘victory’ for anyone

President Obama has called the debt deal brokered by the U.S. Senate that reopens the federal government and saves the nation from defaulting on its debts as some kind of victory.

It isn’t.


It delays the next fight, which is going to occur early in 2014 when the federal government will come up against the next debt ceiling deadline and when the government runs out of money to keep many “non-essential” agencies running.

Sens. Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid struck a deal early Wednesday. The Senate approved it; then the House of Representatives followed suit.

The whole scene produced a disgraceful display of brinkmanship, showmanship, posturing, demagoguery and cheap politicization. In my view, the bad guys continue to be the tea party wing of the House Republican caucus, which fought almost to the very end to defund the Affordable Care Act and pursued that tactic as a method of getting their way.

What now? Well, members of Congress are supposed to begin meeting to hammer out a “permanent” budget solution. Good luck with that. Count me as one American who has no faith — zero, none — that Congress will negotiate any kind of long-term agreement that will prevent this kind of nonsense from recurring in the near future.

Bring Senate debt plan to vote, Mr. Speaker

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has been hiding something called the Hastert Rule, named after former Speaker Dennis Hastert, one of Boehner’s predecessors.

The Hastert Rule means that nothing goes to a vote if it doesn’t first have the support of most members of the party that runs the House of Representatives.

The time is at hand for Boehner to throw the Hastert Rule in the trash bin. The U.S. Senate very well could present the House with a plan to extend the nation’s debt ceiling and reopen the part of the government that’s been shut down for two weeks.

Both of these things likely would be short-term repairs. They would, however, stave off the first default on our obligations in American history. If that occurs at midnight, world financial markets could collapse, the U.S. credit rating would plummet and a new recession could occur, causing significant pain and misery for millions of Americans.

Boehner has been shackled to the will of about 30 or so members of his Republican caucus who want to attach certain conditions on the debt ceiling increase and reopening the government. It’s time he showed some guts.

It’s a fairly open secret that most members of the entire House want this debacle to end. The speaker, I hasten to add, is the man in charge of the entire legislative chamber. His “constituents,” such as they are, do not comprise merely the Republican majority. Depending on who’s doing the counting, Democrats are virtually united in their support of Senate efforts to end this madness. Add their numbers to the substantial number of Republicans who also want it to end, and I’m pretty sure you come up with far more than 218 House members, which is the minimum number of votes needed to approve a deal.

So, what’s it going to be, Mr. Speaker? Are you going to allow this catastrophe to occur or are you going to exercise the enormous power you have by virtue of your high office to get something done?

FNGs making their mark on D.C.

The new breed of congressmen and women who have taken over the Republican caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives intended to change Washington for the better.

Their obstructionism has done the reverse. It has created a poisonous atmosphere in the nation’s capital.

I want to introduce a time-honored term to describe these folks, comprising mostly the tea party wing of their party.

Let’s call them FNGs.

Vietnam War veterans known the term well. It was used — often disparagingly — to describe the “new guys” who cycled “in-country.” They would walk off their plane wearing dark green jungle fatigues and shiny new boots. You could spot an FNG a mile away. The “NG” stands for “new guy.” The “F”? Well, it stands for arguably the most functionally descriptive term in the English language. I’ll leave it at that.

The FNGs who now populate a segment of the GOP have accomplished one important goal of their overall mission. They have made their mark. They’ve changed the debate in Washington. They have made their presence felt, just as they promised they would when they campaigned for their congressional offices in 2010 and 2012.

Perhaps the most well-known FNG has been Texas’s own Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican pistol who blabbed for 21 hours in a faux filibuster to protest the Affordable Care Act and who has scolded his colleagues publicly for failing to demonstrate the proper commitment to bringing change. He’s been scolded in return by his party elders, such as Sen. John McCain, for impugning the character of current and former senators — such as Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The FNGs now have taken us to the brink of default on our national fiscal obligations. It would be the first time in history that the nation has failed to pay its bills. The gray eminences of both parties know what’s at stake. The FNGs don’t have a clue. They’re about to find out if they stand in the way of a compromise reportedly being hammered out by two senior senators — Democrat Harry Reid and Republican Mitch McConnell.

Here’s some good news. They won’t be FNGs forever. It’ll take some time for them to get some seasoning. They’ll have to learn how to compromise and understand that other public officials represent constituencies with different points of view. Not everyone shares the FNGs’ world view.

I just hope they don’t contribute to the destruction of our government before they wise up.

Will House of Reps take Senate deal?

Here’s my gazillion-dollar question: Suppose Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell strike a deal that the entire Senate can endorse to reopen the federal government and extend the nation’s debt ceiling a few months, will the House of Representatives follow suit, or will the tea party — aka wacko — wing of the party sink it?

The Senate has taken the lead on negotiating a deal to end this madness — at least for now. The House leadership tried and failed to reach an agreement with the White House.

House Speaker John Boehner is being held captive by the insurgents within his own Republican Party. He cannot control about 30 of them, the so-called tea party wing. They’ve been able to stall just about everything in the House.

If the Senate approves a deal and sends it to the House, will the House then dig in its heels simply because it can, and then risk the economic futures of millions of Americans — a majority of whom blame Congress for this mess in the first place?

The House comprises 435 members, most of whom are Republicans. Of those Republicans, most of them comprise the so-called “establishment wing” of the party. The tea party cabal consists of a small minority. However, they’re calling the cadence in the people’s chamber.

It’s past time for the speaker to exert the authority he has to get a deal done. Now. Before it’s too late.

Why are we dickering and bickering over debt ceiling?

I’m still scratching my head.

President Obama makes sense when he says that the White House and Congress shouldn’t be negotiating over whether to increase the nation’s debt limit.

Still, here we are. Three days until our borrowing limit hits its maximum. We’re on the verge of defaulting on our national debt obligations. The implications of defaulting for the first time in our nation’s history are cataclysmic, if you believe the hundreds of non-partisan economists around the world.


Do those cranky members of Congress fail to grasp how angry they’re going to make millions of Americans — including yours truly — if they allow our retirement accounts to get flushed down the toilet?

Do they not read the papers — and other “mainstream media” outlets, for that matter — that tell them their standing among the public is at an all-time low? An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll puts Congress’s standing at 5 percent.

Ladies and gentlemen of Congress, listen up: You work for us. We are your bosses. We can fire you whenever the opportunity presents itself. That opportunity is coming up in about, oh, a year from now when we the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate is up for election.

Why, indeed, are you negotiating over this matter?

Bring ‘CR’ to a vote … and reopen government if it passes

President Obama laid it out there for all to see and hear.

If the speaker of the House of Representatives is right, that a continuing resolution to fund the government lacks the votes in the House, then put the issue to a vote to decide this matter. Period.

Speaker John Boehner keeps insisting the continuing resolution doesn’t have enough support to pass. With that, we’re supposed to take his word for it. Never mind that some independent analysts have suggested at least 22 Republican House members would vote “yes” on a CR, putting the issue over the top assuming all Democratic lawmakers would vote for it.

The president held a news conference today and spelled out as plainly as possible: Put the issue to a vote and let’s find out who’s right.

It cannot be that hard for the speaker to bring the matter up for a vote of the full House. He is the speaker, the Man of the House, the guy with the gavel. Do it, Mr. Speaker.

Then he and the rest of his gang can get back to an even more serious matter: raising the debt ceiling to enable the U.S. government to keep paying its bills.

Obama used some strong language today in excoriating what he called a “radical” bunch of GOP lawmakers. He accused them of extorting the government to get their way.

We’ll raise the debt ceiling, but only if we get everything we want. That’s how Obama framed their argument. Is that wrong? Isn’t that what they’re demanding? Has he misrepresented their argument? I think not on all counts.

If they don’t get what they want, the nation defaults on its obligations, it refuses to spend money already appropriated by Congress, its credit rating gets downgraded — again — and the markets are going to react very badly, taking a lot of retirement account balances into the crapper.

First things first. Vote on the continuing resolution to determine who’s got the votes. If it passes — which I’m betting it would — the government can get back to functioning fully.

Debt ceiling battle getting serious

The Affordable Care Act takes effect soon, which won’t end the fight to end it.

Before we get back to that old fight, another old battle — a much more critical one — is being waged in Washington, D.C. It’s about the debt ceiling. Failure to increase it by Oct. 17 could send the nation into default on its obligations. Does anyone really and truly understand the cataclysm that will occur if we fail to pay our bills?

Congress has the authority to increase the amount of money the federal government can borrow to, um, pay its bills and meet its financial obligations. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives, though, is attaching a laundry list of demands on any bill to increase the debt ceiling. The list includes items that have nothing to do with the debt ceiling. They include approval of the Keystone pipeline project and federal tort reform.

President Obama says he won’t negotiate over the “full faith and credit of the United States of America.” He contends — correctly in my view — that the GOP-led House is “blackmailing” the president over the nation’s financial obligations.

President Reagan went through this as well. He scolded Republicans who ran the Senate for threatening the nation’s economic well-being by blocking efforts to increase the debt ceiling. GOP Senate leaders relented and listened to the Gipper.

This time around, House GOP leaders are telling a Democratic president to stick it in his ear.

I am not going to accept the notion that Reagan’s approving the debt ceiling 18 times during his presidency was more acceptable then because the national debt was so much smaller than it is today. The consequences of failing to act are just as grave now as they were during President Reagan’s tenure.

The major difference between then and now — as I see it — is that one major party has been hijacked by individuals who see themselves as institutional reformers. I see them as attempting to destroy the very government they took an oath to serve.

Tea party support hits the skids

This is a most interesting report: The Gallup Poll organization says 22 percent of Americans support the tea party movement, which I’ve taken to calling the “insane wing” of the Republican Party.

The Gallup survey gives the tea party its near-lowest rating since the movement hit its peak around the time of the 2010 mid-term elections.


It begs the question: Why are tea party darlings in the U.S. Senate, such as Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, getting so much air time and print space? I think it’s because they’ve been yapping the loudest and have discovered some secret formula for getting their faces on national television.

Gallup isn’t exactly a lefty-leaning polling group. The Gallup group actually tends to lean to the right, but its findings often are cited as being authoritative.

Cruz is the latest tea party golden boy to hog the spotlight, blabbering on for 21-plus hours in an attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act in the Senate. He ended up voting with the rest of them to keep funding the ACA, which seems to suggest that his Senate floor gabfest was all for show.

I’m suspecting that showboating is beginning to wear thin among Americans who want their federal government to actually do something on their behalf.

That, of course, is anathema to the tea party wing of the Republican Party.

Cruz loves sound of his own voice

I applauded Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., some months back for actually filibustering the nomination of CIA Director John Brennan, not because I approved of his reasons, but because he actually took to the U.S. Senate floor and talked until he ran out of verbal gas.

Now another tea party golden boy, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is blabbering his brains out as I post this blog item. I have to hand it to Ted the Tattler: He, too, is yapping about this and that in an effort to derail the Affordable Care Act. Again, I disapprove of his reasons, but I have to hand it to the guy for actually filibustering.


The filibuster has become a misused instrument. Senators can “filibuster” something simply by lodging an objection. They object to a bill and then go about their business. Paul and Cruz have restored some form of “integrity” to the process.

Here, though, is where I get rankled at Ted Cruz. The new guy loves the sound of his own voice. Of that I am utterly convinced. I truly wonder whether he is motivated by something other than listening to himself talk in front of a national audience.

Do you remember when he denigrated the character of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel? He questioned whether Hagel, a Vietnam War combat veteran, had become an agent of foreign governments hostile to the United States? Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Cruz down on the spot and said he never should question the character of someone such as Hagel, with whom McCain served in the Senate. McCain’s admonition went in one of Cruz’s ears and out the other. Cruz hasn’t shut his mouth … yet.

I’ve already wondered out loud why some members of Congress get so much air time on TV. Cruz, so new to the national spotlight, is basking in that limelight a little too comfortably to suit me. I’m wondering now if someone in the Senate is going to challenge this guy’s blustering and loudmouthed actions publicly.

He’s been in national office all of nine months and I’m sick of the sound of his voice already.

Then again, maybe that’s just me.

Cruz heads for trouble within GOP?

Ted Cruz might turn into my favorite U.S. senator, not because I agree with him on policy — because I disagree with virtually every policy statement that comes out of his mouth — but because he’s providing such tremendous back-story theater on Capitol Hill.


As the link here notes, Cruz did not endorse Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who’s facing a tea party challenger in next year’s GOP primary. Cruz himself is a tea party darling.

I’m wondering: What if McConnell wins re-election next year in Kentucky and returns to run the Republican caucus in 2015? What’s he got up his sleeve for Cruz, the guy who so far has shunned him and talked out loud about how the establishment Republicans might need to get their clocks cleaned by the insurgent wing of the party.

I see some back-bench committee assignments awaiting the junior senator from Texas. But not to fear for Ted Cruz. He’ll find a way to have his voice heard above the din. He’s gotten pretty good at it so far in his brief time in the Senate.

He did manage to knock Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst off in the Texas GOP primary last spring before plowing over Democrat Paul Sadler in the general election. He sees his monstrous primary upset as his mandate to act unruly in the clubby Senate environment.

The link attached here also notes that Sen. John Cornyn of Texas faces re-election next year and there are rumblings he, too, might face a tea party challenge from within the Republican Party.

I’ll be waiting to see whether Cruz endorses his pal Cornyn.