Tag Archives: Senate

Clumsiness in full view

Winston Churchill’s opinion of democracy is playing out in full view of the world at this moment.

The great British statesman said — and I will paraphrase it broadly — that “democracy is the worst form of government except all others that have been tried”

So we are now watching members of our Congress haggle, quarrel, cajole each other over how to avoid a debt-default crisis while at the same time haggling over how to improve our nation’s infrastructure.

My trick knee is telling me that somehow, some way and in some fashion the Democrats who run Congress are going to find their way out of the thicket. They have a key ally in the White House: President Joseph R. Biden, who spent 36 years as a senator. The president knows how to legislate.

Congressional Republicans, of course, are sitting on the sidelines. They aren’t part of this haggling, which is boiling down to a dispute between Democratic liberals and moderates.

It’s messy. It’s cumbersome. It’s the kind of governance that the 20th century’s greatest statesman — Winston Churchill — said would occur.

Excuse the cliche, but this really is a great country.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s a ‘go’ for impeachment

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The die is cast in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Vice President Mike Pence is not going to push for Donald Trump’s removal via the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment. Trump isn’t likely to resign.

That leaves the House only with the impeachment option. It will follow that course today with one specific aim, it appears to me. It is to prevent Trump from ever seeking public office again … forever.

A House impeachment will land in the Senate likely after Trump leaves office, so removal from the presidency doesn’t appear to be an option. That leaves the House impeachment managers with the task of persuading two-thirds of the Senate to convict Trump of “incitement of insurrection,” which carries a lifetime punishment of keeping him from seeking office.

You know what? I am more than fine with that. Yes, I had argued earlier that the Senate could return immediately and commence an expedited trial.

That won’t happen.

You know the story. Trump incited the rioters to stampede up Capitol Hill, where they stormed into the Capitol Building itself where Congress was performing its constitutional duty to certify President Biden’s victory over Trump on Nov. 3. Trump argues to this moment the election was “stolen.” It wasn’t. Yet he sought to actually prevent Congress from doing what it was obligated to do in ratifying an Electoral College victory for Biden.

He sought to subvert the democratic process. Indeed, many of the rioters were seen with nooses, zip ties, they shouted “Hang Mike Pence!” and shouted out “Where’s Nancy (Pelosi, speaker of the House)?”

Can there be a conviction, given that it would require 17 GOP senators to cross over? Two days ago it looked impossible. Today, not so much. GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is said to be supportive of the impeachment effort, signaling a willingness to convict Trump when the Senate receives the single impeachment article. That suggestion might open the door for other Senate Republicans to join him. I can think of at least three others who are in the “convict Trump” category.

Trump’s days as president are all but over. The rest of the story still needs to play out. I want him banished from seeking federal public office.

It’s not too much to ask our senators to show courage and fealty to something other than to Donald Trump … you know, such as the oath they took to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. 

House members are not listening to each other

Congressional Democrats are yapping about their desire to impeach the current president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Congressional Republicans are yammering about their opposition to their colleagues on the other side of the House floor.

They all are talking past each other. No one is listening to a word those on the other side are saying. Their minds are made up. They are making brief speeches. I suppose they are looking for a moment to shine before Americans who might be watching on TV. I happen to one of them.

I am not being persuaded by congressional Republicans. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are preaching to the proverbial choir.

The exercise we are witnessing on the floor of the House of Representatives is a waste of time. It’s time to vote. Impeach the president and send this matter down the hall to the Senate.

Impeachment journey set to take another historic turn

(Photo by Jeff Malet)

It is becoming distressingly clear to me that the impeachment of Donald Trump is going to produce the Mother of All Partisan Battles on Capitol Hill.

Congressional Democrats have sought to make the case that the president has committed impeachable offenses. I happen to believe the evidence that I have seen — and I’ve seen only the portion of it that has gone public!

I need no more convincing that Trump needs to be impeached, convicted of high crimes and misdemeanors in the Senate and then shown the door out of the Oval Office. Sayonara, Mr. President.

It won’t end that way.

Congressional Republicans have fortified their defense of the president with diversions, accusations and vilification of the accusers’ motives. They have ignored publicly the evidence that shows how the president solicited a foreign government for dirt on a domestic political foe, encouraged that government to interfere in the 2020 election, endangered our national security by buttressing the fortunes of a hostile power and violated the oath he took when he took office.

The Senate won’t budge, either.

Where does this leave us? We are left with the upcoming election, which curiously is where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said initially this battle should conclude. I do not believe the speaker overplayed her hand by launching the impeachment inquiry. Nor do I believe she erred in instructing relevant House committees to draft articles of impeachment.

Believing that the outcome will retain Trump in the White House at least through January 2021, I look forward to watching the trial unfold. I want the Senate trial to commence and conclude in short order. The Senate Democrats who seek to become president need to spend time on the campaign trail and any effort to prolong the trial plays into Trump’s hands.

It won’t end the way I want it to end. However, my own partisan bias persuades me that the 2020 presidential campaign will be just as relevant and spirited as we all knew it would be.

It is also going to be filthy, but millions of us knew that would be the case as well.

Expecting impeachment to drag this campaign into the ditch

If we try to project how this impeachment saga will play out, we ought to be left with a distressing prognosis.

It is that no matter how it ends, the upcoming 2020 presidential campaign is likely to be dragged into the deepest dietch you can imagine.

Donald Trump at this moment is likely to survive a trial in the U.S. Senate after the House of Representatives impeaches him for various high crimes and misdemeanors.

If you’re a Democratic challenger, you might want to talk about issues of the day. Things that ought to matter to Americans who will be voting for president of the United States. But then you’ll have to deal with Trump’s manic obsession with the impeachment.

He is unable to set impeachment into one cranial compartment while concentrating (more or less) fully on the upcoming issues debate. No way! He is obsessed with impeachment.

When the House impeaches him, my hope is that it is done soon. I also hope the Senate can dispense with the trial soon. I do not want the impeachment and trial to hang over the campaign. Alas, it will hang anyway, given Trump’s inability or unwillingness to put it into perspective in the event he survives the Senate trial.

I can imagine now that he is likely and quite willing to keep mentioning the impeachment as he campaigns for re-election. He will use the impeachment and trial as a sort of shield against legitimate criticism that could come from his political foe.

You know: his refusal to acknowledge climate change as the existential threat it has become; his continuing effort to pi** off our valued allies; Trump’s inability to cut the deficit as he promised he would do; the president’s poor choice of key aides and Cabinet members; the fact that so many top level positions remain vacant or are filled by “acting” Cabinet members or agency heads.

The president will ensure that we do not forget that the House impeached him and that the Senate “acquitted” him, although it might be on a technicality, given the high bar set by the Constitution for removal after a Senate trial.

Yep, the 2020 presidential campaign is heading for the ditch.

What if Senate provides a majority to convict Trump?

Let’s ponder for a moment the raw politics of impeaching the president of the United States.

It appears to be a near certainty that the House of Representatives is going to impeach Donald J. Trump on grounds that he violated his oath of office by seeking foreign government assistance for personal political gain.

I stood with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s initial reluctance to impeach Trump. Then came that phone call with the Ukrainian president that revealed a clear violation of the presidential oath. It has gotten even worse for Trump since then. Pelosi changed her mind, launching an impeachment inquiry.

I now endorse the inquiry. I also believe Trump has committed impeachable offenses.

But what will happen when Trump gets impeached, where Democrats hold a significant majority in the House? It goes to trial in the Senate, where Republicans command a narrow 53-47 majority. The House needs a simple majority to impeach; the Senate needs a two-thirds super majority to convict the president.

Do I believe the Senate will kick the president out of office? No.

However, consider this: Three GOP senators are bowing out after 2020. They won’t seek re-election. They are Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Mike Enzi of Utah and Pat Roberts of Kansas. What happens to these men’s conscience when they are freed from the pressure of seeking re-election in states that voted for Trump in 2016? Is it possible they could decide that Trump has committed an impeachable offense? These men flip and we have a 50-50 split in the Senate. But wait a second!

There are other senators who are expressing grave concern about Trump’s conduct. Enzi’s junior partner in Utah, Mitt Romney, is one. How about Susan Collins of Maine, who has spoken critically of the president from time to time? Might there be one or maybe two GOP senators willing to vote to convict, knowing that their votes won’t result in Trump’s removal?

Yes, there is a chance — although it’s still small, but it could be growing — that a majority of senators vote to convict the president of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but he remains in office by virtue of the high bar the founders set when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

Furthermore, what about the House vote? A significant number of Republican House members have decided to step aside after 2020. They, too, might be motivated to vote their conscience rather than worry about retribution from a president who is known to retaliate against those who cross him.

The number of Republicans set to leave both congressional chambers very well might provide Democrats some measure of cover as they prepare to impeach Donald Trump.

If he is impeached, he will go down in history as an impeached president. If he clears the Senate trial, there might be a qualifier if more senators vote to convict him than acquit him. And how in the world is Donald Trump going to spin such an event?

Hey, strange things can — and do — happen atop Capitol Hill.

This impeachment thing appears to be growing more tentacles

As I seek to follow the ongoing impeachment crisis threatening the presidency of Donald Trump, I am getting a sense that the story is getting bigger than many Americans would prefer.

Just three weeks ago we learned about a phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodormyr Zellenskiy in which he sought a favor from Ukraine in exchange for releasing money to help Ukrainians fight Russian aggressors.

The phone call prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to launch an impeachment inquiry. The thought as I understood at the time was that the House would move rapidly toward an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving. It would be a narrowly focused matter: whether the president violated his oath by seeking foreign government help in his re-election and seeking foreign help in digging up dirt on Joe Biden, a potential foe in the 2020 presidential election.

Now it seems as if this story is getting many more tentacles.

Trump appeared to suggest that the vice president, Mike Pence, had conversations with Ukrainians as well; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at first denied knowledge of the Trump-Zellenskiy phone conversation, then acknowledged he was “on the call”; questions have now arisen about Turkey and whether the president’s decision to abandon our allies in Kurdistan in the fight against ISIS is somehow related to a Trump Towers deal in Istanbul.

My head is spinning, man.

Does all of this come together quickly? Can there be an impeachment vote by Thanksgiving? Can the Senate commence a trial and make a decision by, say, spring 2020? Is all of this getting so muddy that we won’t have a resolution until after the 2020 presidential election?

As if it needed to get more complicated. The juxtaposition of a re-election fight and an impeachment muddies matters beyond anything the nation has experienced. President Clinton was a lame-duck second-term president when the House impeached him in 1998; President Nixon was in the same boat when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment in 1974. Neither man faced re-election.

This whole scenario is vastly different. Moreover, it keeps growing in its complexity as more Cabinet officials get sucked into the debate over what they knew and when they knew it.

I need something to settle my nerves.

I also want this saga to end — either through impeachment and Senate conviction, or at the ballot box — with Donald Trump vacating the Oval Office for a final time.

Memo to AOC: You’re playing with fire

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is beginning to get on my nerves. As in really getting on my nerves.

The rookie New York City congresswoman is seeking to disrupt the political power structure within the Democratic Party by challenging one of her fellow Democrats, who also happens to one of the more skilled politicians ever to lead the U.S. House of Representatives.

AOC needs to mind her manners. I don’t mean to suggest that she sits silently on the back bench of the House. I do mean to suggest that Ocasio-Cortez is getting far more attention than she deserves this early in her congressional career.

Pelosi vs. AOC heats up

The freshman lawmaker is re-igniting her feud with Pelosi by hitting back at the speaker, who criticized Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left pols in the House for their outspokenness. She said all they have is “social media” and added that there’s no outright support among the rank and file to back them up.

AOC, of course, said she does have “public sentiment” on her side, which is to demand immediate impeachment of Donald Trump. Pelosi is digging in against that idea, saying it is too early and that she wants significant Republican buy-in were she to initiate impeachment proceedings against the GOP president.

I tend to side with Pelosi, although the evidence does seem to be mounting that the president has committed impeachable offenses. Pelosi, the shrewd pol that she is, understands that to impeach the president in the House cannot guarantee removal from office, given the Republicans’ control of the Senate, which must put the president on trial. Moreover, the bar for conviction is much higher than it is for impeachment; the Senate needs 67 votes to convict, while the House only needs a simple majority to impeach.

Pelosi is the veteran here. She is the politician with lots of wisdom and knowledge of how the system works. She also is every bit as ideologically progressive as AOC and her other congressional newbie allies.

The only difference is that Speaker Pelosi knows better than to rush headlong into a confrontation that she well could lose.

Sen. McConnell: partisan hack supreme

There could be little, if any doubt, about Mitch McConnell’s partisan credentials.

The U.S. Senate majority leader, though, has just removed any possible benefit of the doubt. The man plays pure, raw, partisan politics better (or worse) than anyone else in Washington, D.C.

Consider his answer to this question recently: If a seat on the Supreme Court came open in 2020, the final full year of Donald Trump’s term as president, would he seek to confirm the nominee?

McConnell’s answer: “Oh, I’d fill it.”

Just four years ago, he had the chance to “fill” a seat on the high court upon the sudden and unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia. His response in 2016, the final full year of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, was markedly different from what he said to the crowd in Paducah, Ky.

McConnell said immediately upon Scalia’s death that Obama would not fill the vacancy. McConnell would block any attempt for a Democratic president to replace a conservative justice appointed by a Republican president; in this case, it was President Reagan who nominated Scalia.

Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the SCOTUS. The Senate didn’t give him a hearing. Key Republican senators never even met the fellow. His nomination withered and died. We elected a new president in November 2016 — and it happened to be Donald Trump!

Oh, but now we have a GOP president in office. If a vacancy were to develop on the court, McConnell — also a Republican — would move to fill the vacancy.

Just think that this partisan hack has the gall, the stones, the chutzpah to suggest Democrats are “playing politics.”

This guy, McConnell, plays the political game with the best of ’em.

Sen. McConnell’s thinly disguised contempt for fairness — to my way of thinking — is what gives politics and politicians a bad name.

Veto likely will hold up, but then what?

Donald Trump’s first veto of his presidency is likely to withstand congressional efforts to overturn it.

It’s good to ask, though: What happens next?

The president vetoed House and Senate bills that sought to toss aside his national emergency declaration that he sought to build The Wall along our southern border. Congress based its action on a couple of key issues: there is no national emergency, the president’s action sets the stage for future presidents to do the same thing and it usurps congressional authority to appropriate money for specific projects.

Trump wants to divert funds allocated for various programs to build The Wall.

Twelve Senate Republicans voted with Democrats to wipe out the declaration. Democrats control the House, so that vote was a done deal from the get-go. Neither vote was veto-proof, however.

Trump is messing with fire with this veto. Sure, the Constitution grants him the authority to do what he did. However, it’s not yet clear whether his action will withstand a legal challenge if it comes from congressional Democrats.

Never mind that Attorney General William Barr said when Trump signed the veto document that he was within his right legally; we all expected the AG to stand with the president.

The animosity between the legislative and executive branches of government is as vivid as ever. Trump’s veto is likely to stand. However, the fight over The Wall is far from over.