Tag Archives: debt ceiling

Let’s banish partisan stereotypes

There’s a common stereotype kicked around about Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans are hard-hearted; Democrats are squishy do-gooders.

I want to take on the GOP stereotype briefly here by calling attention to something U.S. Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas said about four of his Republican colleagues who voted recently against a package that include $15 billion in aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey.

You’ve heard of Harvey, yes? It blew in twice over the Texas coast, ravaging communities from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle. Four of McCaul’s GOP colleagues voted “no” on the aid package because it sought to raise the debt limit ceiling.

One of the four happens to be my congressman, Mac Thornberry of Clarendon.

Oh, Mac. I mean, really?

Here’s what McCaul said, according to Texas Monthly: “I don’t want to judge them,” McCaul said Monday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “I judge myself and my conscience, and when I have people dying and hurting in my home state, it was my duty and my moral obligation to help them, and I felt that that vote was a vote of conscience to help people in my state and also now in Florida. I think that’s what Americans do, and I think it’s unconscionable to vote against something like that.” 

Actually, he did “judge them.” But that’s all right with me. Judge away, Rep. McCaul.

More from Texas Monthly: “I think having to raise the debt ceiling was the issue, and the fact is that Mick Mulvaney is the director of [the Office of Management and Budget], and he was a Freedom Caucus guy when he served with us, and he told us point blank that you could not appropriate disaster relief if you didn’t raise the debt ceiling, so we were stuck with that choice,” McCaul said. “What do you with that choice? Just stand on principle and vote ‘no’? And I question that principle. Or do you vote to help people back in your home state who are hurting really badly?”

Well said, Rep. McCaul.

So, let’s end the stereotyping.

Texans play politics with hurricane relief

Congress managed to cobble together a bipartisan spending relief package that is going to send $15 billion to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.

It wasn’t unanimous, though. Indeed, of the 80 House members who voted against the package, four of them reside — get ready for this one — in Texas! Four members of Congress who live in the very state that suffered the grievous wind and flood damage voted “no” on the package.

Most disappointing of all for yours truly is that one of them is GOP Rep. Mac Thornberry of Clarendon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Thornberry’s no vote was because the Harvey relief was tied to increasing the debt ceiling — which the House and Senate had to do to avoid the government defaulting on its debt. Thornberry also said the bill would harm the U.S. military by freezing some funds. I mean, it’s not as if there are now plans to decommission aircraft carriers, or ground strategic bombers, or take weapons out of the hands of our fighting men and women.

Of course, as the Texas Tribune reported, none of the Texas House GOP members represent districts in the direct path of Harvey’s onslaught, which I suppose gives them some political cover for the votes they cast.

I used to believe that major disaster relief was a given in Congress. A region of the country gets clobbered, smashed, devastated by Mother Nature and the rest of the country rallied to its side. Americans stepped up to render assistance. That included members of the House and Senate.

No more. Now they attach qualifiers. They equivocate. They seek ways to offset the cost.

As the Tribune reported: “I am not against voting for relief programs to help hurricane victims, but I am against raising the public debt ceiling without a plan to reduce deficits in the short term, and eliminate them in the long term,” (Rep. Joe) Barton said in a statement. “The money we vote to spend today will have to be paid back by our children and grandchildren.”

Thornberry, chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, cited an aversion to short-term funding measures that he said harmed the military.

Barton, with that statement, managed to parse his opposition to some weird level that no one who is trying to rebuild his or her life is going to understand, let alone support.

Nice.

So many ‘un’s to characterize this president

Donald J. Trump is a man characterized by many descriptions using the prefix “un.”

He’s unpredictable, unconventional, unpresidential, unaware, uncontrollable, unbridled, unhinged (at times). There’s probably a lot more that I can’t think of at the moment. But you get the idea.

It remains to be seen just how this fellow is going to govern.

The president recently stuck a shiv in the back of his “fellow Republican” colleagues in Congress by agreeing to a deal offered by the dreaded Democratic opposition. It came from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“Nancy and Chuck,” as Trump referred to them.

They tossed out a 90-day extension to keep the government running. It included some money for Hurricane Harvey relief. Trump took the deal and then plunged the Republican majority in both congressional chambers into near panic.

The extension and the debt ceiling increase now becomes an issue leading into the 2018 mid-term election, which is something the GOP did not want to occur.

Is this the art of the deal?

This isn’t how you cut the “best deal possible,” as Trump kept telling the nation while he campaigned for the presidency. But it’s the deal he struck. Jaws dropped all over Washington, D.C. Some chatter has wondered whether Trump is adopting former President Clinton’s strategy of “triangulation,” that positioned the president between diehards within both parties.

I don’t believe Trump knows enough about politics to employ such a brainy strategy. After all, both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — two savvy Republicans — say the president is “new” to this political game.

Let’s add unseasoned to the list of descriptions, shall we?

It looks for all the world as though we’re headed into a brave new world blunderbuss politics as executed by the man who sits in the Oval Office.

What do we make of this strange new alliance?

Donald J. Trump might have validated what some of us think about him: The president is a Republican In Name Only.

I’m shaking my noggin in disbelief at what happened in the White House today.

The president said in a room with congressional leaders of both parties. There was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan; also there was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

What does Trump do? In the presence of his fellow Republicans, McConnell and Ryan? He sides with Schumer and Pelosi, two of those dreaded Democrats in accepting a plan to fund the government for three months and providing immediate federal relief for Hurricane Harvey victims along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast.

McConnell and Ryan were furious; Schumer and Pelosi were gleeful.

What does this mean for Trump’s ability to govern? Beats me, man.

Read the story from The Hill here.

I am a bit baffled, though, on why Trump accepted the Democrats’ shorter-term debt limit while Republicans had pitched a longer-term deal.

My own Democratic-leaning preference tells me the president is open to negotiate with the “other side,” which many hard-core GOP leaders have been unable or unwilling to do. That’s not a bad thing, in my humble view.

I’m left to wonder whether Donald Trump has just inflicted a potentially mortal wound in his already-tenuous relationship with leaders of his own party. I also wonder if he is able to mend the wound in time for the 2018 mid-term election.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has become big-time pals with “Nancy and Chuck.”

Trump engages in another game of chicken

The president of the United States seems to have an addiction to the game of chicken.

He keeps throwing down challenges to those in the legislative branch of government to do his bidding … or else!

The latest or else is a big one.

Donald Trump wants Congress to provide money to build a wall along our southern border, or else he’s going to force a shutdown of the federal government. That’s right, the president of the United States is holding the entire federal government hostage to a political promise he made to voters en route to his being elected to the nation’s highest office.

This is a grotesque form of political extortion.

For starters, the president doesn’t possess unilateral authority to shut down the government. Congress plays a huge role here by appropriating money for public projects. If Congress chooses to increase the debt ceiling, for example, without setting aside wall construction money, the president can veto it — but then he risks being overridden by Congress.

The way I see it, members of Congress — particularly the Republican leaders who run the place — don’t like being dictated to by the president. They understand that Trump does not, which is that they share in the responsibility of governing the United States of America. They know what Trump doesn’t know, or refuses to know, or simply is too damn ignorant to figure it out.

I’ve long opposed construction of a “big, beautiful wall” along our border. It won’t prevent illegal immigration; there are myriad eminent domain issues to resolve; a wall won’t prevent illegal immigrants from tunneling beneath it.

And I need to point out, too, that a key part of Trump’s campaign promise to build the wall contained this provision: Mexico is going to pay for it! Mexican government officials say categorically, in plain English and Spanish, that they will not pay a nickel for the wall.

Now the president is going to foist the cost of this monstrosity on U.S. taxpayers, the very people he said he wouldn’t have to bear this burden? And if the wall isn’t included in congressional action, that he’s going to shut down the government and, thus, deny citizens access to services they might need?

I’m not issuing a medical diagnosis here … but the president is a loon.

Speaker’s parting gift to country? A budget deal

boehner

John Boehner is about to leave the House of Representatives’ speakership, but he also is set to leave the country with  thoughtful parting gift.

A two-year budget deal he and the White House hammered out.

What does this mean? It means that President Obama won’t have any more threats of government shutdowns during the remainder of his time in office. It also means — with Congress set to approve the deal — that Boehner is sticking it in the eye of the TEA Party cadre of legislators who have bedeviled him and the White House.

Deal averts crisis

Perhaps the best part of the deal is that is recognizes the need for the United States to honor its debt obligations by increasing the debt ceiling. This is sure to anger the TEA Party folks, who keep insisting on fighting with others in Congress — including the so-called “establishment Republicans” — over whether to honor our obligations or default on them.

Boehner has made no secret of his disdain for this tactic. The pressure from the far right of his party, though, got to him. He packed it in.

The presumed next House speaker, Paul Ryan, is on board with the deal.

Well, I and millions of other Americans will accept the speaker’s parting gift gladly.

 

Ted Cruz works for me, too

“I don’t work for the Party bosses in Washington, I work for 26 million Texans.” – Cruz

The above quote was tweeted this morning by the Heritage Foundation, perhaps the nation’s pre-eminent conservative think tank.

The “Cruz” at the end of the tweet is none other than U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who spoke to Heritage today. I caught a little bit of his remarks in which he criticized President Obama for saying at the State of the Union that if Congress doesn’t act on some legislation, “I will.” Cruz noted that Democrats stood and cheered the president. Cruz compared the moment to something out of Alice in Wonderland.

OK, back to the tweet.

He works for Texans, not party bosses. I admire that statement. He does work for us. A majority of Texans who voted in November 2012 elected Cruz to the Senate seat held formerly by another Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison who, I feel compelled to add, served in a manner that bore no resemblance to the way Cruz has served his bosses back home. Hutchison managed to work quite well with Democrats. As a Republican moderate, Hutchison didn’t feel the need to appeal to the base of her party. She knew that legislating requires compromise.

Yep, Cruz works for all Texans, not just those who voted for him. I was part of the minority of voters who in November 2012 cast a ballot for Democrat Paul Sadler. That doesn’t mean I disavow Cruz’s election. I honor it. However, I expect my elected representatives in Congress to honor my wishes too.

I support the Affordable Care Act. I do not want Congress to threaten to throw this nation into default by reneging on our debt obligations. I support the president’s response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. I believe the president has been measured, nuanced and careful in conducting foreign policy. I favor comprehensive immigration reform. I believe long-term unemployed Americans deserve some help from the government as they look for jobs.

There’s more, but you get the idea. I take positions opposite of where Cruz stands. I am not alone, either.

He works for millions of Texans who oppose his world view. Those of us on the other side of the fence deserve to have our voices heard by our congressional delegation. That includes Sen. Cruz.

I understand the concept of majority rule. That doesn’t mean, though, that the minority is shut out completely. Sen. Cruz acts very much as though he’s listening only to those who agree with him.

He works for 26 millions Texans, not just some of us.

Sen. McConnell casts correct vote on debt ceiling

Mitch McConnell isn’t one of my favorite U.S. senators.

However, the Kentucky Republican cast a vote that might get him in trouble with an even more annoying bunch of politicians … the folks who comprise the tea party wing of the GOP.

You go, Sen. McConnell.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/02/mitch-mcconnell-debt-ceiling-103564.html?hp=l1

McConnell voted to approve an increase in the national debt ceiling, enabling the government to borrow more money to pay its bills. To do otherwise, said the Senate minority leader, would be to bring on catastrophe.

He voted to “protect” the country, he said.

That won’t go down well with tea party activists back home in Kentucky, where he’s facing a GOP primary challenge and a possibly stern challenge from the Democrats this fall — if he survives the primary battle.

McConnell was forced to cast the vote after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, forced his hand in a procedural motion on the Senate floor. McConnell had hoped to approve the debt ceiling increase without having to have his name displayed so prominently. Cruz would have none of it.

I’m betting now that McConnell and the Cruz Missile aren’t exactly the best of friends.

McConnell leaned toward his good-government instincts in voting to approve the debt limit without attaching any spending-reduction strings.

“We were confronted with a clean debt ceiling in the Senate or default. I believe I have to act in the best interests of the country, and every time we’ve been confronted with a potential crisis, the guy you’re looking at is the one who stepped up to solve the problem,” McConnell told reporters.

The alternative, defaulting on our obligations, was a non-starter.

McConnell deserves thanks, not condemnation.

Bully for Boehner on debt ceiling vote

Hell hasn’t exactly frozen over — even with the cold spell that’s chilled so much of the country.

But the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is talking sense now about how to proceed with a vote on whether to increase the nation’s borrowing limit.

John Boehner, R-Ohio, plans to bring a “clean” bill to the floor of the House without strings attached to increase the nation’s debt limit.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/us/politics/boehner-to-bring-debt-ceiling-to-vote-without-policy-attachments.html?hp&_r=0

Earlier plans had called for a vote but only if it was linked to reductions in military pensions, which House Republicans want reversed. The plan has now given way to a clean vote, which Boehner acknowledges will make some GOP members unhappy.

The debt ceiling needs to be increased so the government can pay its bills. There need not be threats of default or stalemates or gridlock or continuing quarrels over something that Republicans and Democrats historically have agreed needed to be done.

Boehner sought concessions from congressional Democrats and the White House. “As I said before, this is a lost opportunity. We could have sat down and worked together in a bipartisan manner to find cuts and reforms that are greater than increasing the debt limit,” Boehner told The New York Times. “I am disappointed, to say the least.”

Congress and the White House can move forward on the other issues separately from the debt ceiling.

Meanwhile, if both congressional chambers approve increasing the borrowing limits without another donnybrook, the nation will have saved itself from another potential crisis.

How can that be a bad thing?

Jobs numbers ‘bad’? Not really

I was preparing myself this morning for a terrible jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor.

It didn’t arrive. What we got instead was a tally of 148,000 jobs created in September, with unemployment falling to 7.2 percent, the lowest it’s been since November 2008.

http://money.cnn.com/2013/10/22/news/economy/september-jobs-report/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

Are those figures great? No. Are they dismal? No.

I don’t quite know how to describe them. The political hounds on either side will spin it in their direction. Democrats will say the fight over whether to shut down the government hampered hiring. Republicans will say the shutdown didn’t have that much of an effect. Democrats will say 148,000 jobs added means more Americans are working than the previous month. Republicans will say the economy is still too sluggish to be described as being in “recovery” mode.

Hanging over all this is that 16-day shutdown, which delayed the release of the government figures. Maybe we need to wait for the October jobs report to determine what impact the shutdown had, if any.

I’m getting the sense that the mood in Washington is casting a pall over everything these days. Americans are angry at Congress and the White House. Although polling — the scientific kind, not those instant media polls that tell us nothing — tells us Republicans are taking the major body blows as a result of the shutdown and the debt ceiling “crisis.”

That’s the bad news. You want worse news?

The 2014 midterm elections are just around the corner. Get ready for even more politicization.