Tag Archives: Freedom Caucus

GOP regrets all that power?

A saying comes to mind when I consider the infighting and back-biting within the Texas Republican Party’s political hierarchy.

Be careful what you wish for …

Gromer Jeffers Jr., who covers politics for the Dallas Morning News, refers to the “scrum” that has developed between Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Both legislative chambers are at odds with each other over Gov. Greg Abbott’s No. 1 legislative priority: school vouchers.

Republicans who command a super majority in both chambers cannot bridge the chasm that separates the MAGA/Freedom Caucus crowd from the more “establishment” elements within the GOP.

This thought entered my sometimes thick skull this morning as I read Gromers’ piece in the DMN: Might it be time for Texas Democrats to re-emerge from their decades in the wilderness to become a political force in this state? Ponder this for a moment: It could serve Republicans well to have a strong opposition party with which it could do battle rather than wasting time squabbling among themselves.

Phelan and Patrick’s alliance flew off the rails when the House impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton. The impeachment vote was heavily bipartisan; it was overwhelming. Paxton’s subsequent acquittal in the Senate trial brought out Patrick’s scorn for the decision delivered by the House … and he stated his contempt for the House immediately after Paxton’s acquittal.

Both sides are digging in. House GOP members dislike much of the voucher notion, much to the chagrin of GOP senators. Phelan backs his House colleagues, while Patrick stands with the Senate.

How do Democrats parlay all of this into political advantage that suits them? I suppose they can beat the drum over governmental incompetence, noting that Republicans are so damn entrenched in their dislike for each other that they let key legislation slip away. Then again, a united Republican Party would do Democrats little good … correct?

I am just one Texas resident who has grown tired of the Legislature’s inaction. I favor good government over no government. Republicans who own most of the Legislature’s seats — along with every statewide elected office — have continued to demonstrate big-league incompetence.

Democrats might have a way out of the darkness, but only if they can cobble together an agenda that doesn’t draw heavy fire from the demagogic wing of the Republicans.

GOP gap widens with acquittal

Dan Patrick wasted no time in displaying his partisan stripes after the Texas Senate acquitted Attorney General Ken Paxton of the charges leveled against him by the House of Reps that impeached him.

The lieutenant governor blasted the House for “wasting” taxpayers’ money on an impeachment that didn’t produce a conviction on any of the 16 charges examined by senators.

Fellow Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan fired back, calling Patrick’s remarks unseemly while defending the House for acting on a legitimate complaint brought by the House panel charged with investigating wrongdoing in state government. Phelan said this in a statement:

Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial escalates Republican civil war | The Texas Tribune

OK, I’ll go with Phelan’s view of this intraparty civil war that now appears ready to burst into full-throated venom.

From my seat in North Texas, the House acted within its purview. The Senate acted, too, within its own set of rules. I disagree with the Senate’s findings and its conclusion, which of course shouldn’t surprise anyone.

As for the process being a waste of time and money, it was nothing of the sort. If anything, the Senate well might have been the major wasters by closing its collective mind to what the House investigators determined when they recommended impeachment.

Wishing the best, but concerned …

Oh, how I want to give Keith Self the benefit of the doubt as he settles more firmly into his new public office: as a congressman representing the Third Congressional District of Texas.

Self is my elected representative, which means I have some skin in the game he is playing while seeking to earn his spurs as a junior member of the House of Representatives.

I have heard a good bit already from this former Collin County judge. To be candid, I am a bit alarmed that he’s bitten from the fruit offered by the MAGA-inspired, Freedom Caucus wing of the Republican Party.

He admitted at a meeting I attended the other day he voted for fire-breather Jim Jordan to be House speaker in order to get the eventual Man of the House, Kevin McCarthy, to agree to demands made by the MAGA crowd. McCarthy eventually buckled and the far-right-wingers who opposed McCarthy came around. Self was one of them.

He wants the House to inquire into whether to impeach President Biden. It made me go: What? Why? For what reason? He also is concerned that McCarthy might pull impeachment inquiry off the table, which is a non-starter in the Book According to Self. As we learned during Donald Trump’s twin impeachments, those who favor an inquiry generally want to take the next step. So … I’ll put Rep. Self in the category of congressmen and women who want to impeach the president.

To what end? For what good cause? It’s a mystery to me.

I was one of those North Texans who was quite sure that former Rep. Van Taylor of Allen would be re-elected in 2022. Silly me. I didn’t expect Taylor — a Republican — to end his campaign after revealing he had engaged in an affair with a woman once married to an officer of the Islamic State.

Self and Taylor were set to face each other in a GOP runoff. Taylor’s withdrawal handed the nomination to Self, who then defeated his Democratic opponent.

One thing that seems apparent to me is that Self will not follow the path forged by Taylor, who prided himself in working with Democrats, seeking consensus on ideas he hoped would lead to legislation.

But … it’s still early in Keith Self’s new career. Maybe he can find some bipartisan “religion” that can please skeptics such as me.

Come clean, Mr. Speaker

The White House has made a perfectly reasonable, rational and realistic demand of U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Come clean, Mr. Speaker, on the deals you struck with House conservatives to persuade them to vote you into the speaker’s office.

That’s what the White House — and many of us out here — want to know. What did McCarthy give away to the Freedom Caucus, the MAGA cabal?

They had formed a clique of “Never Kevin” House members. Then they became supporters, hugging his neck after he won the speakership after 15 votes among House members. How did they transform from Never Kevin voters to supporters?

The Hill reports: Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates warned that the extent of the deals between McCarthy and the roughly 20 Republicans who initially opposed his bid for Speaker are not fully known, but that they could wreak havoc on the economy and key government programs.

Yeah, no kiddin’.

White House calls on McCarthy to publicize details of deals with conservatives | The Hill

So, come clean, Mr. Speaker. What precisely did you give away to obtain that gavel? Hmm? C’mon! Tell us!


Rep. Slaton makes early impact

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Oh, brother.

I commented earlier on this blog about my respect for Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican whom Texas Monthly has identified as one of seven legislators to watch during the current Texas Legislature.

Well, TM also has ID’d a bold, brash and bodacious freshman lawmaker, a young man I know only casually, but who is — shall we say — also worth watching for an entirely different set of reasons.

State Rep. Bryan Slaton is another Republican. He hails from Royse City, just a bit east-southeast of where I now live. TM calls him The Fearless Freshman. Why? He is unafraid to make a name for himself for reasons that run quite counter to my own political world view.

Slaton got elected this past year, defeating longtime fellow conservative state Rep. Dan Flynn. I was aghast that he would run “to the right” of Flynn, but he did.

What does the young man do when he arrives in Austin for the start of the Legislature? He pitches a bill that would criminalize the act of a woman obtaining an abortion; she would, in Flynn’s eyes, be guilty of “murder” and would be subject to the state’s death penalty if she is tried and convicted of murder.

Texas Monthly wrote this about Slaton: A principled hard-right conservative and Gen Xer, Slaton is stepping into the void left by former representative Jonathan Stickland, a Bedford Republican who made his reputation as a troublemaker and thorn in the side of his party’s establishment. Slaton says he is focused on advancing social-conservative priorities, including eliminating abortion (by passing a law declaring the Roe v. Wade unconstitutional) and protecting historical monuments (by requiring a two-thirds vote to remove one of, say, a Confederate general, from a state university). 

Seven Texas Lawmakers to Watch – Texas Monthly

He also seems to believe that Texas can secede — again! — from the United States of America. Hasn’t anyone told him (a) that secession is illegal and (b) that the first time Texas did it in 1861, it didn’t work out well for Texas — or for the rest of the Confederate States of America?

My only visit with Slaton was over the phone. We had a cordial conversation. I was working on a story I wrote for KETR-FM, the public radio station affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. I hope to be able to talk to him in the future as needs arise.

However, I must be candid. If he flies off the rails and starts yapping about secession, or protecting monuments honoring Confederate traitors or sentencing women in trouble to the death chamber, well … it could get ugly. In a big hurry.

Cruz needs to ‘show up’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Ted Cruz is continuing to take heat over his ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-considered family vacation to Cancun, Mexico.

The Texas Republican U.S. senator deserves every single bit of it.

The latest broadside comes from state Rep. Jeff Leach, a fellow Republican from Plano, a former member of the conservative Freedom Caucus. Leach says Cruz erred badly by jetting off with his family to the resort in Mexico while the state he represents is suffering from the ravages of the monstrous winter storm.

Freedom Caucus loses a member . . . more to follow? | High Plains Blogger

Leach said, “It’s important for us to show up, to be present, such a big part of leadership is to be present, and as state representative for over 200,000 people here just north of Dallas, I’m here, I’m present, I’m on the ground, I’m available. I work for the people, not the other way around. They’re the boss, not the other way around. It’s important for us as policymakers to show up for work and do our jobs.”

Texas Republican Slams Ted Cruz’s Cancun Trip, as Second GOP Lawmaker Under Fire for Fleeing State (msn.com)

This is the kind of criticism that Cruz can expect perhaps until hell freezes over. Cruz has shown a propensity for popping off about other elected officials’ misbehavior, all of which seems to heighten the hypocrisy quotient for what he did.

Cruz’s abrasive, aggressive and rampant ambition hasn’t exactly endeared him to many of his Senate colleagues. I am finding it hard to find anyone standing up for him, although there well might be someone out there who can excuse his dereliction of duty.

I am going to side with state Rep. Leach. I mean a big part of being a good leader is just showing up.

Friendships honored along with a political icon

They buried a political icon today. I hope they did not bury the spirit of bipartisan friendships that this iconic figure embodied.

Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democratic member of Congress, died the other day of myriad medical complications. He served as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and became a leader in the debate over whether to impeach Donald J. Trump.

Cummings was a champion in the first degree. He fought for civil rights and also fought for civil political discourse.

As I listened to the tributes that poured in from across the political spectrum, I was struck by how much attention was paid to the honors paid by Republicans who served with Chairman Cummings. Given the nastiness that has poisoned the atmosphere in Washington over the course of time, it is instructive that so many Republicans would hail their personal affection and professional respect for this fierce Democratic politician.

One of them is Mark Meadows, a North Carolina GOP leader in the U.S. House Freedom Caucus. He is a fierce conservative. Yet he and Cummings were proud of their friendship. Meadows spoke of his love for his colleague while Cummings was lying in state on Capitol Hill — the first African-American politician to be accorded that honor. Former U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina wrote a moving op-ed for the Washington Post that spoke of the Republican’s affection and respect for Cummings.

Indeed, the ranks of strange political bedfellows is long. Former U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a conservative Utah Republican, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a liberal Massachusetts Democrat, were famous for their friendship. Yes, there are many such relationships. Yet they flourish outside of the public eye.

When a politician of Cummings’ stature passes from the scene, it enables the nation to witness how these supposedly unlikely friendships have flourished even in the climate that can destroy them.

Elijah Cummings’ death saddens me. I am heartened, though, to see these exhibitions of love and respect that are coming from those with whom this good man had many fierce political battles.

It gives me a glimmer of hope that collegiality and political comity isn’t dead.

Oregon GOP returns to work, but one lawmaker faces complaint

The current Republican TEA Party/Freedom Caucus lunacy has taken a weird turn in Oregon.

Oregon’s Republican state senators ran into the tall grass, preventing the Senate from voting on a climate change bill that the state’s Republicans opposed. State Senate rules required at least 20 members to conduct business; the GOP holds 12 of 30 seats, leaving the Senate with just 18 lawmakers.

The bill couldn’t get a vote.

The renegade GOPers came back to work, but the Senate had to scuttle the bill because it still lacked the number of senators needed to do business.

Here is where it gets weird. One of the runaway Republicans, Sen. Brian Boquist, had threatened to shoot an Oregon state trooper who had been dispatched by Gov. Kate Brown to find the renegades. Fortunately, Boquist never took a shot.

However, a Democratic senator has filed a complaint over Boquist’s threat. As The Hill reported: “State Sen. Floyd Prozanski, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Conduct, told Oregon Public Broadcasting … that he had filed a formal complaint against Boquist, adding that a hearing would held early next month.”

This is not how you govern any of our 50 states. To be fair, Oregon Republicans aren’t the first legislators to pull off such a stunt. Texas Democrats, nicknamed the “Killer Bees,” did something similar in the early 1990s in defiance of then-Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby. I don’t recall, though, any of the Killer Bees threatening to shoot a Department of Public Safety trooper.

Good governance requires sanity. It’s missing in action way up yonder on one side of the aisle in the state of my birth.


Trump turns ‘fealty’ into a litmus test for GOP candidates

So … just how weird has the political climate gotten in the Age of Donald John Trump?

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, the lone Republican (so far) to call for the president’s impeachment, has just quit the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. It’s not that Amash doesn’t fit the conservative mold for the Freedom Caucus. It’s because he doesn’t bow at the sound of Donald Trump’s name.

As Politico reports: Amash “faces a far more uncertain political future in the age of Trump, in which fealty to the president has often become a litmus test for the GOP.”

But here’s what I don’t quite grasp. Trump isn’t a true-blue Republican. His trade tariffs send “establishment Republicans” into orbit. The president has developed a classic “protectionist” trade policy that used to be popular among pro-union political progressives. Trump has slathered this policy under a coating of “putting America first,” which played well on the 2016 campaign trail. He was able to sucker enough voters to get him elected.

Trump has gone soft on Russia, the traditional adversary of U.S. geopolitical interests and the bogeyman among Republicans.

Donald Trump upset the political equation in a major way three years ago just by winning the presidency. Now he has captured the GOP and turned it into something few of us recognize.

Justin Amash once was thought to be a traditional libertarian conservative. He’s now an outlier among the GOP. Why? Because he cannot stand by idly while the president obstructs justice.

Go figure.

Will the ex-Marine be cowed by Congress? Hah!

Now comes the D.C. chatter about congressional Republicans wanting to take a bite out of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Mueller has finished his investigation into whether the Donald Trump presidential campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system. He and his legal team wrote a 448-page report; he turned it in to Department of Justice; Mueller remained silent until this week.

Then he spoke for nine minutes and said he had quit the DOJ, is returning to private life and said that his staff could not exonerate Donald Trump of allegations that he has obstructed justice.

Now we hear that GOP members of relevant congressional committees want to subject Mueller to harsh questions.

Let me think about this. I believe the ex-special counsel has declared that Trump has committed a crime by obstructing justice. He said he couldn’t indict the president because DOJ policy prohibits a sitting president from being charged with a crime.

Oh, but now some members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus — such as Reps. Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows and Devin Nunes — want to eviscerate the former FBI director. They want to question his motives. They want to cast aspersions on his credibility, integrity, perhaps even his love of country.

Hmm. Well, I am one American who believes in Robert Mueller. I honor his decades of public service — starting with his enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps and his combat service in the Vietnam War.

I also am quite certain that this combat veteran is not going to be cowed or intimidated by some grandstanding politicians who intend to make names for themselves.

Those who know Robert Mueller have signed off on his impeccable integrity and his commitment to conducting a meticulous investigation. He has served the nation well.

I heard his nine-minute soliloquy this week. I understand what he said. He has said in terms that ring with crystal clarity that had he and his team been able to clear Donald Trump of obstruction of justice that they would have done so.

Congress, it’s now up to you.