Tag Archives: House Armed Services Committee

SCOTUS says POTUS can use defense funds to build The Wall

This judicial ruling might raise a hackle or two among some congressional Republicans. I now will explain.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5 to 4 that it’s all right to spend Defense Department funds to build The Wall along our southern border, giving Donald Trump a victory in his ongoing fight with those who oppose The Wall.

Why the GOP objection? Get a load of this: When he was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Republican Mac Thornberry — my former congressman — criticized openly any effort to redirect appropriated Defense money to build The Wall. Thornberry said wall construction is not part of the military’s mission. He opposed any effort to turn our troops into construction workers.

A lower court had said any such move would violate federal law.

I happen to agree with the lower court.

Congress appropriates Defense Department funds to pay for military missions. Trump has said the immigration “crisis” on our southern border is a national security matter. Thus, he is willing to divert those funds to build The Wall he believes is necessary to curb illegal immigration.

I am wondering how Thornberry, who represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas, is going to respond to the high court’s ruling that pokes the former committee chairman in the eye.

Rep. Thornberry steps up and pushes back

Allow me to offer a word or two of praise to a man who used to represent me in the U.S. Congress.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, has said that Donald Trump is wrong to suggest that military forces can be deployed to build The Wall along our border with Mexico.

That is not a military mission, Thornberry said. It is not in keeping with what we ask our men and women in uniform to do.

Thornberry is the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and now serves as the panel’s ranking member while Democrats control the House.

Wall-building is not a military matter

“It is disappointing that the best interests of the country do not seem to be everyone’s top priority,” Thornberry said. “We should fund the rest of the government and improve border security, leaving the political posturing behind.”

There’s a touch of “both sider-ism” in Thornberry’s statement, but he is nevertheless correct. Trump has shut down part of the government. He is considering whether to declare a national emergency and he might seek to reallocate defense money to build The Wall.

Thornberry is correct to oppose this nutty notion. It well might be illegal, unconstitutional and might even constitute an impeachable offense. It won’t surprise me if Thornberry steers clear of the illegality question, given his partisan loyalty.

Still, his statement today fills me with some optimism that GOP support for the president’s foolish insistence on building The Wall is beginning to crumble.

Still waiting on Thornberry’s take on this hacking matter

I’m thinking that we need to send out an all-points-bulletin for Mac Thornberry, the Republican member of Congress who represents the 13th Congressional District.

All this talk, all this chatter, all this debate over Russian hackers trying to influence the 2016 presidential election is missing a key voice.

That would be Thornberry.

John Boehner was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives when he charged Thornberry with coming up with ways to secure our national computer grid. Thornberry chaired a special House committee to formulate a plan, a strategy, a defense against the kind of thing that appears to have been going on.

At this moment, I don’t know (a) whatever became of that committee’s findings and (b) why no one in the media has called on Thornberry to provide some context, perspective and expertise on what’s going on and how the nation can avoid this kind thing from ever happening again.

I have looked on Thornberry’s website and have found nothing from him about the issue that has consumed the national media.

Intelligence officials met with Donald Trump today to brief the president-elect on intelligence evidence that Russian spooks actually hacked into our cyber grid while trying to help Trump get elected president. Trump continues to downplay the allegation that our electoral process may have been compromised.

Didn’t the House speaker, though, commission our congressman to come up with answers to all this?

I’m all ears while I await what my congressman has to say about this issue.

Thornberry has served in the House since 1995. He’s a go-to guy on national defense issues, given that he chairs the House Armed Services Committee.

On this one, though, the chairman is missing in action.

ISIS or Yemen? U.S. effort is getting stretched

U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry says the United States is stretched too thin in its war against terrorists.

The Clarendon Republican says U.S. efforts have turned away from Yemen while fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

What to do?


If I read my congressman’s thoughts correctly, I believe he’s saying we need to spend more money on defense needs. He’s saying it without really, um, saying it.

This conundrum defines pretty clearly to me why this war on terror may never end. You turn away from enemy and another surfaces in another region of the world — not that we’ve really turned away from any of our enemies. Near as I can tell, our forces still are conducting robust strikes and raids on suspected terror targets.

“We don’t have the (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) ISR that we used to have, so when you got to move it to Iraq and Syria, you leave Yemen less covered than it used to be because you have to make choices, and it increases the danger to the country,” he said.

I got that part, Mr. Chairman. So what happens if and when we concentrate on Yemen — a known terrorist breeding ground — and the Islamic State takes further advantage as we look the other way in fighting this on-going anti-terror war?

Do you get where Thornberry is talking about spending more money on defense matters to wage a multi-front war on international terror?

I doubt we can afford it.

According to The Hill: “The administration has implemented a ‘light footprint’ counterterrorism approach in Yemen that relies heavily on drones for surveillance of terrorist threats and for striking targets in the country.”

Here is where the drones can do the same kind of work as manned aircraft. Turn them loose on those suspected targets and deliver enough firepower to send those we don’t kill scurrying for cover.

Therein, though, lies the difficulty in continuing to wage this global anti-terror war. It’s a war like we’ve never fought. President Bush all but declared war on the terrorists after 9/11. It was the right call for the time. President Obama has continued to pursue that war at virtually the same pace as his immediate predecessor.

There are those, though, who insist the Pentagon is being whittled down to dangerous levels. I don’t buy it. We’re still spending hundreds of billions of dollars on new weapons and we’re deploying them throughout these terror hot spots.

I will argue that we still have plenty of assets to deploy against these forces of evil. We just need to fine-tune how we deploy them — and have them deliver maximum punishment.

Democrats tilting toward form of term limits

My views on mandated term limits for members of Congress are firmly established.

I don’t like the idea. Heck, I am wavering on whether term limits for presidents is such a great idea.

But the House of Representatives Democratic caucus is leaning more and more toward an idea that Republicans have adopted, which is term limits for committee chairs and ranking members.

I am warming up to that idea.


A growing number of House Democrats believe their Republican friends have outflanked them on the notion of injecting new leadership into the congressional ranks.

It’s critical to point out that Republicans run the House with a strong majority that was made even stronger after the 2014 midterm elections. The Democratic reform would involve the placement of top-ranking Democrats on these panels.

Politico reports: “Former Caucus Chairman John Larson, who was term-limited from that slot in 2013, agreed. He praised House Republicans’ six-year limit for people to serve atop committees, although Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has allowed some exceptions.

“’A number of people would say Republicans have struck a better formula for advancement,’ the Connecticut Democrat said. “And I don’t think it’s a bad thing for leadership at all. I mean, it’s verboten to say it, but it’s true and I think even our current leaders would recognize it, all of whom I support.’”

Each party makes its own rules that govern how they do business internally. Republicans have for several years instituted this term-limit rule for its own leadership. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, would in theory surrender his chairmanship after three more terms in the House, unless the speaker grants an exemption.

It’s a way to freshen each committee’s agenda, its leadership style and its focus — while preserving voters’ intentions back home of continuing to be represented by individuals they have re-elected to Congress.

Despite my dislike for term limits, these internal changes make sense to me.

Go for it, House Democrats.

Thornberry to head armed forces panel

It’s official: Mac Thornberry is going to become the next chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee.

They’re cheering at three key locations in Thornberry’s sprawling 13th Congressional District in Texas: at the Bell/Textron and the Pantex operations in Amarillo and at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls.

Thornberry’s constituency includes those enormously important operations.

Here’s the question: Is the veteran Texas Panhandle congressman going to protect these operations from possible budget cuts at the expense of other equally important defense-related projects?

I pose the question because for the two decades Thornberry has served in Congress, he’s been ensconced comfortably and quietly on the back bench. He hasn’t made much noise about the work he does on behalf of those projects. He does so quietly and with little fanfare.

Now, though, he assumes a high-profile role as chairman of one the House’s most visible committees. He’s become the go-to guy on armed services issues. The pressure is going to be on the congressman to deliver the goods back home while listening with a fair and impartial ear to the needs of his colleagues’ districts elsewhere. There might even be colleagues on his committee who’ll be sure to push hard for spending in their districts. With limited money — relatively speaking — to go around, the House panel is going to have to husband its resources carefully.

How is Chairman Thornberry going to respond to those pressures with the eyes of the nation fixed on how he conducts himself and how he runs this congressional committee?

Good luck, Mr. Chairman.


Waiting to hear from chairman-to-be Thornberry

Lame-duck House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., has weighed in on President Obama’s strategy to destroy the Islamic State.

He says the president needs to rethink the bombing strategy and possibly bring in ground troops to fight ISIL terrorists face to face.

That’s fine, Chairman McKeon.

However, he’s leaving office in January. The new Armed Services Committee chairman is going to be Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, Texas. He’s my congressman. He represents the sprawling 13th Congressional District, which includes the Texas Panhandle.


What does the chairman-in-waiting think ought to happen?

Thornberry’s been fairly quiet while the Middle East has been erupting in flames. As head of one-half of Congress’s key committee on military matters — the other half does business in the Senate — he’s going to be a critical player in this on-going discussion.

Thus, Rep.Thornberry is likely to be stepping outside of his comfort zone, as I have come to understand it. He’s going to be asked regularly to appear on those Sunday news talk shows. He’ll be grilled intently by journalists who’ll want to know where he stands on this critical question of the U.S. response to the ISIL threat.

Until now, Thornberry has been content to serve as a back-bench member of the House. He doesn’t act particularly starved for attention by the news networks, although he does acquit himself well on those occasions he has appeared. (I recall one interview he had on MSNBC with Chris Matthews. I reminded Thornberry that I once met Matthews “before he was ‘Chris Matthews.'”)

I appreciate where Chairman McKeon is coming from on this issue of ISIL and our response to it. Sadly, he’s rapidly become “old news.” I’m waiting for the new guy — Mac Thornberry — to step up.

Thornberry preps for center stage

In what might be the least surprising critique of President Obama’s decision to accelerate the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry has begun taking the first baby steps from the back bench to the center stage of American foreign policy debate.

Thornberry, the 13th Congressional District representative since 1995, said the president’s decision is too much too quickly. Imagine my surprise: a Republican congressional committee chairman in waiting second-guessing the Democratic commander in chief.


Thornberry made his remarks to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank full of Obama critics. He was preaching the choir, of course, which is what Democratic and Republican politicians always do. They look for friendly audiences where their applause lines will get the loudest response.

I am left to wonder whether Thornberry — the likely next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — thinks it’s always prudent to deploy American forces into every battlefield that erupts. Barack Obama reiterated this week that the U.S. military remains the strongest in world history, but that it need not be deployed as the “hammer” to pound down every crisis “nail.”

As the president said today in his commencement speech to West Point cadets, the United States stands ready to use force only when it is in our national interest. Of course, that won’t satisfy the armchair hawks on Capitol Hill who cannot quite grasp the idea that sometimes diplomacy and seeking to build international coalitions is more suitable than charging in all alone.

The Iraq War? Remember how we were told we’d be greeted as “liberators” when we plowed across the border in March 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein? It didn’t quite work out that way.

Well, Thornberry likely will cruise to re-election this November against a token Democratic foe. He’s been in the Capitol Hill background for his entire congressional career. When Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., retires at the end of the year, he’ll likely hand the gavel over to Thornberry, the panel’s vice chairman.

I’m hoping for a bit more bipartisanship from the new chairman. We’ll likely not get it.

Still, I’ll await with interest Chairman Thornberry’s entrance onto center stage.

Would chairmanship compromise Thornberry?

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry is in line to become chairman of one of the House of Representatives’s most powerful committees.

There’s a possible conundrum in the works, maybe, potentially … whatever.

Thornberry is vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee. The chairman, Buck McKeon, R-Calif., is planning on retiring and he wants Thornberry, R-Clarendon, to take over the chairmanship. It means a good bit of influence is coming to the Panhandle. A committee chairman can steer legislation favorable to his or her district, yes?

Thornberry’s 13th Congressional District is home to, oh, the Bell aircraft assembly plant in Amarillo, the one that puts together those V-22 Osprey tiltrotor airplanes. It also services and refurbishes helicopters for the Marine Corps, the Air Force and the Army. Bell’s operation means a great deal to the region.

Would a new chairman work extra hard to protect those interests? Or … would he hold to the principle of staying away from what’s been called “pork-barrel politics,” which has been a hallmark of Thornberry’s congressional career.

He’s served in Congress since 1995. He is running for yet another term and faces two GOP primary challengers this March and a Democratic challenger this fall.

I’m guessing the incumbent is going to use — in some vague or perhaps overt way — the possibility of a House Armed Services Committee chairmanship as a selling point.

It would be good for the district. Does doing what’s good for the district mean more money coming this way? Is that pork-barrel politics?