Tag Archives: House Republicans

Note to Dems: Don't boycott Bibi's speech

The upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress is taking an interesting — and unfortunate — turn.

Some leading Democratic lawmakers say they’re going to stay away from the March 3 speech. They won’t hear what Bibi has to say to them, including whether to impose stricter sanctions on Iran while the U.S. is leading a negotiating effort to end Iran’s nuclear program.

Vice President Biden won’t attend; his office said the VP will be traveling abroad when Netanyahu speaks to the joint session. I can’t help but wonder: Did the vice president schedule the overseas trip before or after Netanyahu’s speech was scheduled?

Don’t go there, Democrats.


Yes, Netanyahu is wrong to have accepted the invitation from Republican House Speaker John Boehner — who also was wrong to invite him without advising the White House. What’s more, Netanyahu is wrong to pressure Congress to act over the objections of the White House, which believes increasing sanctions now would undermine its efforts to disarm the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But is staying away from the speech the right approach to protesting? I’m inclined to think Democrats ought to hear — in person — what the prime minister has to say. They don’t have to stand and cheer when he delivers an applause line; Republicans undoubtedly will do enough cheering to fill the House chamber.

Come on, Netanyahu is the head of government of a leading U.S. ally, after all, and he deserves an audience — even if the invitation he accepted was not in keeping with American diplomatic and political tradition.


Yes, Mme. Leader, it was a 'wave'

Nancy Pelosi needs a reality check.

The House of Representatives Democratic leader says the Republican sweep in the midterm election didn’t constitute a “wave.” She said voters weren’t endorsing GOP policies and its agenda.

“There was no wave of approval for the Republicans. I wish them congratulations, they won the election, but there was no wave of approval for anybody. There was an ebbing, an ebb tide, for us,” she said.


As much as I hate to disagree with the minority leader, she’s wrong, mistaken, misguided, or just plain ignorant. OK, I doubt the “ignorant” part.

What happened Nov. 4 was a wave.

The GOP needed to flip six seats to gain control of the Senate; it got eight and is poised to win a ninth seat if the Louisiana runoff in December ends up in Republicans’ favor. Republicans also won 12 additional House seats, cementing their control of the lower chamber. The GOP also gained governorships across the nation.

That’s a wave, Mme. Leader.

All is not lost for Democrats. They have a decent chance in 2016 of getting the Senate back — but only if a couple of things happen.

First, the turnout has to improve dramatically from the dismal midterm turnout, which figured to work in Republicans’ favor. We’ll be electing a new president in two years and the turnout for these elections always dwarfs the previous election. That means more of the Democratic base — namely minorities and lower-income Americans — will be motivated to vote.

What’s more, a large number of Republican Senate seats will be on the line, giving Democrats a legitimate chance of picking off a few incumbents, or capturing seats that Republican incumbents will surrender through retirement.

Second, the Republican majority in both congressional chambers stands a fair chance of bungling this opportunity to actually govern. If they shut down the government later this month, or if they actually launch impeachment proceedings against the president over his use of executive authority, well, the blowback could be fearsome.

However, that does not diminish the importance of what happened just a few days ago.

Democrats got swept out of power in a political wave.


Issa misuses immense power

My reading of the controversy over U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa’s recent behavior at a key House committee meeting is fairly straightforward.

The chairman misbehaved … badly.

He needs to be called down for his treatment of a senior member of his committee. What’s more, he needs to be called down for the interminable hearings he keeps conducting on matters that do not rise to the level of importance he’s attaching to them.

I refer to the IRS and Benghazi controversies.

This week he shut down the microphone of Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland as Cummings was trying to speak publicly about the IRS matter involving the tax agency’s vetting of conservative political action groups’ tax-exempt status. Democrats call it a witch hunt; Republicans say the IRS might have acted on orders from the White House. Except that independent analyses have determined the White House wasn’t involved.

Issa chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It doesn’t control much tax money. It isn’t by definition a “sexy” committee. Its role is to probe government functions and to ensure that government agencies are working efficiently.

This particular committee once operated under the name of Government Operations Committee, which was chaired for many years by my former congressman, the late Jack Brooks, a tough-as-nails Beaumont Democrat. Brooks was as partisan and mean as anyone I’ve ever known, but he didn’t send his committee on witch hunts looking scandals involving Republicans where none existed.

By my reckoning, Issa is misusing the immense power of his committee. He keeps calling IRS officials before his panel to ask them questions they’ve already answered, or have fallen back on their Fifth Amendment protections against possible self-incrimination. He’s spending a ton of public money on these investigations, about $14 million to date.

He’s also got his sights set on the Benghazi matter, the firefight that in September 2011 resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Issa alleges that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton covered up what she knew and when she knew it. Government probes have determined there was fault in the way the State Department handled the crisis, but there is no evidence of a deliberate cover-up. Issa persists nonetheless.

The matter with Rep. Cummings is just one more example of the manner in which Issa is abusing the power of the gavel. He did apologize — more or less — to Cummings for cutting off his mic. Then he went on TV to portray Cummings’s outburst as a staged event.

Democrats sought a resolution to punish Issa. The GOP-controlled House, to no one’s surprise, shot it down.

There’s good news, though, in all of this. Issa’s term as chairman of this panel expires at the end of the year. I’m hoping he won’t do any more damage to the cause of “government reform” before he hands the gavel over to someone else.

‘Monkey court’ label heats up hearing

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., has just made a name for himself by attaching an unflattering name to a congressional hearing in which he was a participant.

He called a committee meeting a “monkey court” while chastising his Republican colleagues critical of the Affordable Care Act.


He didn’t need to use that kind of language to describe what’s supposed to be a serious hearing on a very serious matter, which is the implementation of the ACA that is meant to provide millions of Americans with health insurance they can afford.

I fear it’s just the beginning of what figures to be a highly contentious time leading up to — and perhaps beyond — the 2014 midterm elections.

Pallone believes his Republican colleagues are trying to “scare” Americans into opting out of trying to log into the troubled healthcare.gov website because their intent is to destroy the ACA. I’m not going to ascribe motives to politicians I don’t know. However, there does seem to a pattern developing, with Republicans not wanting to give the ACA any grace period before jumping down the throats of those who support it.

I happen to agree with critics who want someone to be held accountable for the hideous rollout snafus that have developed with healthcare.gov. That someone well might have to be Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, on whose watch this mess developed.

Let us not take that huge leap just yet. As Van Jones noted on a recent CNN Crossfire segment, Medicare had its serious problems when it became law in 1965. Congress and the White House tinkered with it for years before working out the bugs.

Is anyone now willing to get rid of Medicare? Hardly.

The Affordable Care Act needs some time. So, let’s dispense with the monkey courts.

House speaker is held hostage

I can’t believe what I’m about to say … but I’m actually beginning to feel a little sorry for U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

He’s being held hostage by a cabal of his Republican caucus, the tea party wing of his party. He seems powerless to do anything about it.

At issue is this partial government shutdown. House of Representatives Republicans — or shall I say a minority of their members — dislike the Affordable Care Act so much they want to attach defunding mechanisms to any spending bills, which is a non-negotiable item to House and Senate Democrats, not to mention the Big Democrat in the White House, the president of the United States.

The tea party wing has Boehner scared. He doesn’t want to rile them. He doesn’t want to lose his speakership over this issue. So he’s being forced to go along with what they want.

Boehner is the Man of the House, if you will. He is one of 233 Republicans who comprise a majority of the 435 members who serve there. Each of them represents roughly 700,000 Americans, given that the Constitution requires each member’s district to be apportioned equally.

So, a country of some 310 million or so citizens is being “governed,” more or less, by a group of lawmakers whose combined constituency accounts for about 21 million Americans. Let’s see, that amounts to a good bit less than 10 percent of the country, correct?

Let’s play this out a little further. Republicans control one legislative chamber. Democrats control the other one. The White House is being occupied by a Democrat, who appoints a staff and a Cabinet of like-minded individuals, which the Constitution allows him to do. The third branch of government, the judiciary, is ostensibly non-political, although partisans on both sides accuse the court system of comprising “judicial activists,” meaning they’re actually politicians in judges’ clothing.

President Obama tried the other day to make this point as the Affordable Care Act took effect. He said essentially that a “minority of a minority” is calling the shots.

If the House speaker could have his way, he’d bring this whole matter to a vote of the entire House — and the government shutdown could come to a halt. The park system and other “non-essential” offices could reopen, veterans could get their disability checks on time, Americans could get their passports. The government would become fully functional, serving the people whose money pays for it.

John Boehner can’t have his way. He’s being held captive by members of his own congressional caucus who — if you’ll pardon my borrowing this phrase from another tea party sweetheart, Sarah “Barracuda” Palin — have “gone rogue.”

This is no way to govern.

GOP future growth requires immigration reform

I disagree more with Sen. John McCain than I agree with him.

But he’s right to declare that the Republican Party is doomed if the House of Representatives kills immigration reform.


McCain, R-Ariz., represents a border state and has a keen knowledge of the need to reform our immigration system. He voted to approve the Senate bill that passed 68-32 in a rare show of bipartisanship earlier this year. It’s gone to the House of Reps, where Speaker John Boehner has said it will need a majority of Republican House members to support it before it even goes to a vote of the full chamber.

Frankly, I don’t really give a damn about the Republican Party’s future as it relates to immigration reform. I do care that we fix the system that has put 11 million or so U.S. residents in hiding. The Senate bill would give those folks a “path to citizenship”; it also strengthens border security by completing construction of a hundreds-mile-long fence and hiring of many more border patrol agents.

It contains elements that conservatives and liberals both like.

Whether it helps the Republicans’ future is of little interest to me. The GOP has taken it on the chin from Latino voters who keep voting Democratic because, frankly, Republican lawmakers keep saying strange things — such as calling for the deportation of those 11 million residents who are here illegally.

Never mind all of those who have made positive contributions to our society, or those whose children have become de facto Americans by virtue of growing up in the only country they’ve ever known as “home.”

Republicans need to listen to McCain. This GOP elder statesman knows a good bit about the compelling need to reform the immigration system.