Tag Archives: Armed Services Committee

Balance of power shifting in Texas delegation

Here’s a thought or two to consider, according to the Texas Tribune.

Texans who have occupied a lot of chairmanships in the U.S. House of Representatives might be set to bail on the House in the wake of the newfound status as the minority party in the lower congressional chamber.

Buried in the Tribune story analyzing that development is a mention of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, who might “make the upcoming term his last.”

That’s according to “many Republican operatives” on Capitol Hill, reports the Tribune.

Read the story here

Thornberry won’t be able to serve as “ranking minority member” of Armed Services; GOP rules mandate that he is term-limited out of that rank. So he’ll become just one of the gang of GOP members serving on the panel.

I have a special “bond” of sorts with Thornberry. He took office in the House in early January 1995, in the same week I reported for duty as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I covered his congressional career regularly until I left the paper in August 2012. He and I developed a good professional relationship.

I rarely agree with his voting record while representing the sprawling 13th Congressional District, although my position at the newspaper required me to write editorials supporting him, given the paper’s longstanding conservative editorial policy.

And, to be fair, Thornberry has been pilloried unfairly over his more than two decades in office because of the term limits issue. He was elected in 1994 as part of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” team of GOP insurgents. The CWA called for term limits for members of Congress. Thornberry never pledged to limit his own service to three consecutive terms, but he did vote to approve it when the House considered it.

He took office in 1995. It’s now 2018. Twenty-three years after becoming a freshman member of the House, Mac Thornberry is about to become a former chairman of a key congressional committee. The Republican majority is set to become the GOP minority. That, according to the Texas Tribune, might be enough to send Thornberry packing and returning to the Texas Panhandle in 2021.

Yep, elections do have consequences. We’re about to see one of those consequences occur on the new day that is about to dawn over Capitol Hill.

Dear Mac: Step up on gun violence

Congressman Mac Thornberry:

I’m not one to write “open letters” to public officials, but I’m making an exception with this note. A lot of your supporters read this blog regularly and my sincere hope is that one or more of them will forward it to you.

Congressman, I want to join millions of other Americans who are calling for some action from you and your congressional colleagues on this sickening, maddening and tragic issue of gun violence.

I won’t belabor what you already know about the latest spasm of violence that erupted on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Fla.

But you’re a big hitter in the U.S. House of Representatives these days. You no longer are a back-bencher. Your high profile as chairman of the Armed Services Committee gives you a louder voice than some chump who’s been in Congress for far less time than you.

Hey, we go back a ways together … you and I. I started my job at the Amarillo Globe-News the same week you took office after your stunning election in 1994. I’ve supported you while working for the Globe-News. I also have opposed you on occasion.

I am acutely aware of the constituency you represent. You are elected to one of the nation’s most reliably Republican congressional districts, even though it’s been redrawn considerably since you took office. Your constituents by and large are big Second Amendment proponents. They don’t much like any idea that monkeys around with the gun amendment.

Surely, though, you must understand that slaughtering school children and their educators is not normal. This is not how a civilized society should behave. Civilized societies should tolerate this carnage. Not for an instant! But, for God’s sake, we do!

Tougher background checks? Yes. End of those “bump stocks” that turn semi-automatic rifles into fully auto killing machines? By all means. How about a ban on assault rifles? Yes, I know many of your constituents are hunters, but who needs an assault rifle to shoot deer, turkeys or feral hogs in the Texas Panhandle?

Just for the record, though, I oppose arming teachers. My thought is this: More guns do not create a safer environment.

Given that you are now a member of the congressional leadership team, I want you to speak out clearly about what you think should be done to prevent recurrences of these tragedy.

I am tired of the canard that “no legislation would prevent” a madman from shooting someone. I will not tolerate a lame notion that there is nothing to be done that doesn’t tear the guts out of the Second Amendment. You can find a solution and you must communicate your ideas to those you represent in the halls of power.

Silence won’t do it for me, congressman. It shouldn’t do it for your other constituents, either.

Seize the moment, Rep. Thornberry.

How does ‘Speaker Thornberry’ sound?


Mac Thornberry’s name popped into my noggin today around noon when I heard that Kevin McCarthy had dropped out of the race to become the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Then I got onto other matters.

Now it turns out that at least one blogger, writing for a major American newspaper, thinks Thornberry would be a good fit as the Man of the House.

Tod Robberson’s blog for the Dallas Morning News seeks to make the case that Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican who’s represented the 13th Congressional District since 1995, might be the man to (a) heal the fractious House GOP caucus and (b) work with President Obama on some of the key issues that need to be resolved.

I happen to like Thornberry on a personal level. We’ve always had a good professional relationship as well. He and I have something in common: We assumed our new Texas Panhandle duties on the same week; I came to work at the Amarillo Globe-News in January 1995 just as Thornberry was taking his oath of office in Washington.

That’s about all we have in common — except that we belong to the same Presbyterian church congregation in Amarillo. But, hey, I thought I’d mention it.

I don’t really buy into the notion that Thornberry even wants to be speaker. He’s never struck me as a media frontrunner, which is what the speaker must be if he or she is to be an effective congressional leader.

Thornberry had long aspired to chair the House Armed Services Committee, which would take yank him off the back bench and into the limelight. He became chairman this year when Buck McKeon retired from the House.

Prior to becoming chairman of the committee, though, Thornberry was one of those lawmakers few folks outside of his West and North Texas district ever saw.

My strong sense is that Thornberry — who is a strong conservative and loyal Republican — simply isn’t wired for the harsh, bright lights that shine on the individual who is third in line to become president of the United States.

However, in this wild and crazy political time in Washington, anything can happen.


Techno-terrorists elevate threat to U.S., world

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issues a stern warning.

International terrorists have become cyber-savvy and are posing a uniquely new threat to the world.

Are we on guard against these guys? And what in the world do we do to stop them?


“We’re very definitely in a new environment, because of ISIL’s (IS’s) effective use of social media, the Internet, which has the ability to reach into the homeland and possibly inspire others,” Johnson said in a TV interview this morning.

The Islamic State reportedly is recruiting heavily through the Internet. It’s also posing serious threats to cyber infrastructure.

It’s no longer just madmen with bombs strapped their chests who pose threats to human life. This global war has turned into a battle of wits.

This new threat brings to mind something that congressional leaders sought to bring to national attention. I keep waiting to hear from the Texas Panhandle’s congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry, on how we’re defending ourselves against cyber warriors.

House Speaker John Boehner tasked Thornberry some years ago to lead a congressional committee that would devise strategies to fight Internet hackers and other enemies who would seek to do serious damage to our cyber infrastructure.

When these discussions bring the news to the front pages and gobble up air times on our news networks, I always seem to miss hearing from Rep. Thornberry, who I understand to be an expert on these issues.

I trust he’s working behind the scenes. He’s also become chairman of the House Armed Services panel, which is a huge responsibility all by itself.

Still, our Homeland Security secretary no doubt can use all the help he can muster in protecting “the homeland” against cyber attacks.

Let’s hope this fight transcends the political differences that seem to divide the White House and Capitol Hill … even when it involves national security.


Hagel was 'up to the job'

Chuck Hagel’s departure today as secretary of defense has the look of a forced resignation.

It now appears, at least to me, that Hagel was the one who forced the issue. That’s too bad. The Pentagon and the Obama administration have lost a good man who knows and understands the needs of the men and women who do all the heavy lifting … in the field.


President Obama talked today about how then-Sen. Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, took the young Sen. Obama under his wing and showed him the ropes in a body prone to cliques. He heaped praise on the defense boss and wished him well, which is what one would expect.

Now comes word that Hagel tried to crack the president’s tight inner circle, but couldn’t get in. He had difficulty making his defense policy opinions heard by the commander in chief and those who form that tight-knit circle around him.

If Sen. Hagel was such a trusted ally to the man who would be president, how is it that he was left on the outside looking in when key policy decisions and critical shifts in defense policy were occurring?

Sen. John McCain, one of Hagel’s best friends in the Senate, is set to lead the Senate Armed Services Committee next January. He will chair the panel that will decide whether to confirm the next defense boss. I hope McCain can set aside his personal animus toward Obama — who beat him in the 2008 presidential election — and conduct a thorough but fair hearing of the next nominee.

One of the questions that needs answering, though, is whether the new person will have the access to the commander in chief he or she will need to operate at maximum efficiency. The nominee won’t know that with certainty. The president will and he should make that clear when he announces his next defense secretary nominee.