Tag Archives: legislative branch

Biden faces steep hill

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden wants to go big.

Republicans in Congress want to go … nowhere.

Who wins this argument? I’ll go with President Joe Biden every time I get the chance.

Biden spoke to the nation Wednesday night in tones that were alternately vociferous and reassuring. He whispered at times and all but shouted at other times during his hour-plus long speech to a joint session of Congress.

In a certain sense he was preaching to the proverbial choir when we tuned in to watch President Biden. I’ll declare flat out that I want him to succeed. I endorse the essence of his policy platform, which is that he wants to bring government back from the shadows and into the lives of those who need help.

I concede that President Biden is proposing an expensive set of plans to restore this nation’s role as the world leader. Biden and Congress already have agreed to spend $1.9 trillion in COVID relief funds to help Americans harmed in some manner by the pandemic. There is more spending on tap.

However, the intent of that spending is to help all Americans. Yet the president continues to run face-first into resistance from Republicans in Congress who keep insisting that the nation cannot afford to do damn near anything. Joe Biden is having none of that. He tells us that doing nothing is “not an option.”

Here, though, might be the greatest dichotomy between what GOP politicians are doing and what the public favors. Public opinion surveys tell us that American citizens — such as yours truly — favor what Biden wants to do. The GOP pols? They are on the wrong side of public opinion and quite probably on the wrong side of history as they continue to dig in against the president’s agenda.

Are those politicians smarter than the rest of us? Do they know something we don’t know or understand? Hell … no! They do not!

They work for us. Not the other way around!

I wish I could report that government works again now that we have a president who understands how to govern. Good government remains a team sport that requires the executive and legislative branches to put the country first.

One of them — the exec branch — has done so. We’re still waiting on legislators to do their job.

Experience matters

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This needs to be repeated — with emphasis.

Joseph R. Biden brings important experience to the presidency that was sorely lacking in the individual he succeeded, Donald J. Trump.

I’ve talked already on this blog about whether President Biden will be able to shepherd an infrastructure bill through Congress. My hunch is that he stands a much greater chance of doing so than Donald Trump ever had. Why? Because Biden is a creature of Congress and Trump is, well, someone with zero government experience.

That kind of thing matters when a president chooses to operate the complicated machinery called the federal government.

Trump trumpeted his business experience as a selling point while winning election in 2016. I’ll set aside that he lied about his success as a business mogul. I believe we have learned that Trump’s business record at best is considered, um, checkered. He spent his entire professional life propping his own image up. Trump never grasped the concept of teamwork, which is an essential element of governing with a co-equal branch of government, the men and women who work on Capitol Hill.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, knows the Senate well. He was a major part of that legislative body for 36 years. He chaired key Senate committees. Biden developed first-name relationships with foreign leaders. He worked well with Republicans. He is fluent in the legislative jargon that senators and House members use among themselves.

This is the kind of experience that should serve President Biden well as he seeks to push an agenda forward. Trump’s experience in business, in show biz, in self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment provided a prescription for failure.

I consider myself a good-government progressive. Therefore, I intend to look carefully over time at how well our government functions with a president who knows which levers to pull and which buttons to push.

How would President Biden govern?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am going to take a tiny leap of faith and presume that Joe Biden will be declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Thus, he will begin the transition into the nation’s highest political office. Let’s ponder the question: How different will President Biden’s  governing style be from the man he succeeds, Donald Trump?

Let me count the ways.

For starters, Joe Biden knows how government works. He served in the U.S. Senate for 36 years before being elected vice president in 2008. That’s 44 years in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Donald Trump had zero public service experience before being elected president … and, boy howdy, that gap in his resume showed itself in graphic fashion.

Biden has many friends on both sides of the great political divide. He calls himself a “proud Democrat,” but over the years he cultivated many personal friendships and professional relationships with Republicans. He knows how legislate. Biden understands that compromise is the art of seeking an outcome that serves the common good.

Joe Biden knows how to talk to the GOP. Trump never developed any friendships with Democrats, let alone with many within the Republican Party. Why is that? He had no political experience. Furthermore, he has few actual friends within the GOP.

It’s instructive to understand that Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have a record of being able to work together. They understand each other.

Finally, Joe Biden is likely to retain his footing while he governs. He has been through emotional hell over many decades. His first wife and baby daughter died in a motor vehicle accident in late 1972. His son, Beau, died of cancer just a few years ago. Joe Biden has relied on his faith to see him through. He understands emotional pain and feels the suffering that inflict others.

Donald Trump is not wired in any fashion to understand the suffering that befall other human beings.

President Biden, from all I can discern, is going to restore so much of the nuance of good government that Donald Trump sought to toss aside. Therefore, that political payoff makes all this vote counting worth the wait.

Trump remains ignorant of the U.S. Constitution

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is a first-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives, who happens to serve on the House Judiciary Committee.

She is a Democrat from Florida who is likely to vote “yes” on articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump. She is a native of Ecuador.

The congresswoman offered an obvious observation today, which is that “I don’t think the president has ever read the Constitution.”

Gee, do ya think?

I happen to virtually certain he’s never looked at it. If he has, then he looked past Article II, the segment dealing with executive authority, or the power of the presidency. He infamously referenced Article II not that long ago when he declared that it enables the president to do whatever he wants.

No. It does not! Not even close. Indeed, Article II spells out the limits of executive authority. Indeed, Article I — which deals with the legislative branch of government — implies heavily that the executive branch’s powers are kept on a tight leash.

Rep. Mucarsel-Powell’s instincts are correct. Trump took office without dedicating a single moment of his entire pre-political life to public service. He didn’t understand government when he ran for the presidency and doesn’t understand it now that he is president.

Donald Trump sounds and acts like someone who fancies himself as The Boss. He isn’t. You’re the boss. As am I … the boss. We call the shots. Not him.

Had he ever thought for a moment about the U.S. Constitution, the document he took an oath to “defend and protect,” he might understand the limitations it places on the presidency.

I do not believe he has done that. I also believe his ignorance of the Constitution is precisely the reason the House of Representatives is going to impeach him.

Trump to Sen. Graham: ‘I am the boss’

It took me a moment or two to digest the quote I read about what Donald Trump reportedly said to Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican U.S. senator who transformed himself from a severe Trump critic to one of the president’s most ardent sycophants.

Graham is angry over the president’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and his abandoning of our Kurdish allies who have fought with us in the war against the Islamic State.

The Associated Press said that Trump told Graham, “I am the boss.”

The boss? Of what? Of whom?

Trump is the “boss” of the executive branch of the federal government. He has no authority over the legislative branch, of which Graham is one of 535 House and Senate members. The Constitution grants Congress “co-equal” power with the executive branch.

Graham, despite his disappointing fealty to Trump, does recognize that South Carolina’s voters sent him to the Senate to do their bidding and to stand up for himself when the need arises. He doesn’t work for Trump. He doesn’t have to do a single thing the president might demand of him.

As an MSNBC blogger, Steve Benen, reported: “With all due respect for the president, I think I’m elected to have a say about our national security,” Graham said. “I will not be quiet. I will do everything I can to help the president get to a good spot, but if we do not leave some residual forces behind to partner with the Kurds, ISIS will come back, it will put our nation at risk, we will have been seen as dishonorable in the eyes of all future allies.”

So, there you have it. Sen. Graham is beginning to show a bit of the spine he exhibited while campaigning against Donald Trump for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. I hope it continues to stiffen … although I am inclined to doubt that it will.

Mr. Sam knew his place

BONHAM, Texas — The plaque pictured here offers an important civics lesson. It tells of the late Sam Rayburn’s role as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and also as a rank-and-file member of the legislative branch of the federal government.

The great Mr. Sam said he didn’t work “under” eight presidents, but that he worked “with” them. Listen up! Pay attention!

Too many presidents over many decades have fancied themselves as bigger than their office, occupying an office bigger and more powerful and meaningful than the other two co-equal branches of government.

Yes, Donald Trump, I refer to you as well.

Rayburn served in the House with eight presidents, the first of whom was Woodrow Wilson; the last of them was John F. Kennedy. Rayburn died in November 1961.

He was the Man of the House, even when he wasn’t pounding the gavel as its speaker.

I came back to the Rayburn Library and Museum today to show my visiting brother-in-law — who is quite a student of history — this place my wife (his sister) and I visited for the first time just a few weeks ago.

I didn’t see the plaque on our first visit. I feel compelled to offer these few words as a tribute to the understanding that Speaker Rayburn had about Congress and its role as a partner in the making of laws that govern all Americans. He was a student of government and knew he was duty bound to work within the system, reaching across the partisan divide, to find common ground in search of the common good.

There is a huge lesson that needs to be learned in the present day. Donald Trump, then the Republican nominee for president, declared in the summer of 2016 that “I, alone” can repair the things that he said were ailing the country. Uh, Mr. President, good government is most definitely a team sport, requiring all branches of government — even the judiciary — to play a role in the crafting and interpretation of law.

Sam Rayburn knew what has been lost on occasion in the present day. Legislators dig in against the president, who digs in against the men and women who serve in Congress. Nothing gets done. They all seek to declare political victory, when in reality they all fail.

Given that we have only one president at a time, the onus for failure — at least in my mind — falls on the doofus in the White House at the moment.

I cannot stop thinking at this moment how the great Sam Rayburn would react to the bullying and showboating he would witness from down the street at the White House.

My guess? He wouldn’t stand for it.

Let the power struggle commence … and play out

A power struggle between the legislative and the executive branches of the federal government is now in full swing.

I am going to side — no surprise here — with the legislative branch in its fight with the other guys.

Attorney General William Barr — quite likely with the full blessing of the president of the United States — has decided to be a no-show at today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing. The committee, controlled by Democrats, wants to know more about Barr’s receipt of the report filed in March by special counsel Robert Mueller III on the matter involving “collusion” and “obstruction of justice” with regard to the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russians.

Barr has the answers. He is not giving the House committee any of them.

The struggle involves whether the House controls the parameters of these hearings or whether the White House gets to choose which rules it will follow and which of them it will ignore.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says the House is in charge. He says the White House cannot dictate how Congress does its job. He points out correctly that Article I of the U.S. Constitution lays out Congress’s exclusive power and declares that the legislative and executive branches are “co-equal,” meaning that neither branch is more powerful than the other.

Barr stayed away because he didn’t want to be quizzed by committee lawyers. Cry me a river, Mr. Attorney General.

The way I see it, that’s just too damn bad.

The House gets to call the shots here. Not the AG. Not the POTUS.

Barr’s appearance Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary panel raised many questions that House members want to flesh out, as if they didn’t have a full plate of questions already. One of those questions might be why Barr didn’t read the supporting evidence that Mueller provided in his full report before issuing his four-page summary of its findings.

We won’t hear from the AG, at least not yet. Nadler says he is considering whether to file a contempt of Congress citation against the attorney general.

He is allowed to do that, too. The Constitution gives the chairman that power.

The struggle is on.

SCOTUS chief to POTUS: No such thing as partisan judges

Listen up, Mr. President. Sit up straight and pay attention. The chief justice of the United States of America is speaking words of wisdom.

Chief Justice John Roberts has informed you, Donald Trump, that the country doesn’t have “Obama judges, or Bush judges or Clinton judges.” The federal judiciary, he reminded all of us in a statement issued today, is an independent branch of the government. The men and women who adjudicate cases must be free of partisan consideration, such as the individual who nominated them to whatever bench where they sit.

It’s a rare event to have the chief justice admonish a politician, Mr. President. Congratulations, you’ve stirred the pot!

The chief is admonishing you for those intemperate remarks you keep making about judges. You had the gall to refer to a U.S.-born federal jurist as a “Mexican” only because he is of Mexican heritage; the judge was ruling against your anti-immigration efforts. You referred to another judge based in Hawaii as a “so-called judge” because he knocked down your Muslim travel ban. Another judge who ruled against your recent asylum ban became an “Obama judge.”

Thus, the chief justice got riled enough to speak out against your careless references to the men and women who sit on our federal bench.

Perhaps he’s ticked that you criticized him directly for his vote in 2012 to preserve the Affordable Care Act. That makes it even worse, Mr. President.

You, Mr. President, keep demonstrating an absolute and unwavering ignorance of the roles that the co-equal branches of government play. You don’t understand the limits of your own executive power, or the limitations placed on the legislative and judicial branches of government. Your habitual loud mouth and careless rhetoric underscore your own ignorance of the governmental framework you took an oath to “preserve, protect and defend.”

I am glad to know that Chief Justice Roberts has called you out, although his language — quite understandably — was measured and scholarly.

I know you won’t learn from this. I just had to weigh in anyway.

Mr. President, you simply scare the spit out of me.

Trump still doesn’t get his ownership of issues

This comes as no new great news flash. I’ve known it all along. So have you.

Donald Trump today demonstrated with absolute clarity that he doesn’t understand a fundamental tenet of governing. It is that effective governance at the highest levels is a team sport.

The president signed that $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. While announcing his signature this morning, Trump laid some heavy lumber on Congress, namely congressional Democrats. He blamed them for wanting to gut our military; he blamed them for opposing reforms on illegal immigration.

He blamed Congress for sending him a huge bill that “nobody has read,” yet he signed it anyway. Trump said he’d “never sign” another bill like this ever again.

What one never hears from this guy is that he is a player, too, in government’s fits and starts, its occasional paralysis. He does not fathom how effective government is supposed to work. It is designed to bring the executive branch and the legislative into the same room, to reach common ground, to compromise where possible.

Does this individual get it? No. He doesn’t. Trump continues to lay blame at everyone else’s feet. He continues to assert that the other guys are at fault. The other guys, in this case, are lawmakers of the other party.

The president’s business background did not prepare him for the delicate nature of legislating and negotiating with legislators. He’s always been the Big Man in Charge. It’s always been his game to win.

I keep circling back to this fundamental shortcoming in Donald Trump’s shocking ascent to the presidency: His entire professional career was centered solely, exclusively on self-enrichment, on self-aggrandizement and self-promotion.

Every time he opens his trap, every time he tweets out pronouncements and proclamations, we are “treated” to evidence of his utter lack of knowledge and understanding of how government works.

The president needs to take ownership of the failures that come along, just as he is all too willing to take ownership of the successes.

Once again, this morning, Donald Trump showed that he doesn’t understand — nor is he likely to ever understand — the immense complexities of his high office.

Cruz turns insult into a compliment


Didn’t you just know that Ted Cruz was going to turn the former speaker of the House’s comments about him into a compliment?

Sure you did.

The junior U.S. senator from Texas is “Lucifer in the flesh,” according to former Speaker John Boehner, who also called Cruz the “most miserable son of a b****” he’s ever worked with.


Cruz’s reaction. It just proves he’s a real “outsider.”

The Republican presidential candidate is proud of running as an outsider, even though he’s worked on the inside for all of three-plus years. He was elected to the Senate in 2012 in his first race for elective office ever.

He has taken pride in his ability to get under people’s skin. He’s called the Senate majority leader a liar; he’s questioned the commitment to the military of genuine war heroes; he sought to shut down the government in a failed attempt to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

What a guy.

Boehner quit the House because he had grown fed up with legislators like Cruz.

Hey, it’s a badge of honor, according to the Cruz Missile.

Let’s try to set this into some perspective.

The federal government is a complicated piece of machinery. It requires knowledge, skill, nuance, diplomacy, tact and, oh yes, the ability to compromise on occasion.

Cruz keeps harping along the GOP primary campaign trail that he isn’t going to compromise on anything. He sounds for all the world like one of those lawmakers who sees the folks on the other side of the aisle as enemies, not just adversaries.

Sure, the other side has its share of haters. Florida U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat, comes to mind immediately. He’s got about as much actual experience in the federal government as Cruz, but he manages to shoot off his mouth whenever the cameras are rolling.

He’s the clown who said he’d file suit against Cruz to challenge whether the Canadian-born senator is constitutionally qualified to run for president.

Memo to Grayson: He’s qualified.

Back to Cruz.

He’s a self-proclaimed hotshot with little legislative accomplishment to show for all his fiery rhetoric.

He can proclaim his outsider street cred all he wants. However, if he intends to work with the very people he condemns — namely his colleagues in the legislative branch of government — then he’s got to build some relationships that so far simply do not exist.