Tag Archives: Senate Democrats

Minds are made up?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s time for me to step out of my advocate shoes and take a brief — and dispassionate — look at what is playing out on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

I am hearing from a lot of my social media friends and acquaintances about how Republican senators have “made up their minds” to acquit Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection.

A cautionary word is in order. So have the Democratic senators … made up their minds.

A big part of me shares the disgust that Republican senators appear to be digging in on their insistence that Trump doesn’t deserve to be convicted of inciting the riot that damn near destroyed our democratic process.

I wish they would keep an open mind and wait until they hear all the evidence before throwing in with the ex-president.

Fairness, though, compels me to play the devil’s advocate. Democrats have done precisely the same thing they accuse their GOP colleagues of doing. They, too, have dug in. Only their instinct is to convict Trump, which is an instinct I happen to share.

Let us note as well that this isn’t a legal trial. It is a political trial. The Senate — aka the jury — isn’t bound by strict rules of law to be “fair and impartial.” They are politicians who are playing to their respective bases of support, be they progressive or conservative.

If only more of them shared my own view of how to decide this trial.

Politics runs head first into justice

I wrote once on this blog about how politics is likely to drive a potential impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Well, the House of Representatives impeached the president on a virtual party-line vote and the Senate is now going to put him on trial.

The outcome will be decided, yep, on party lines.

Which brings up this point: Are senators free to vote their “conscience,” to base their decision solely on the evidence they have before them? Or must they worry what the folks back home think of what they are about to do?

I present to you U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.

Sen. Jones, who is running for re-election next year after narrowly defeating a Republican opponent, is facing the Mother of All Political Quandaries. Does he vote to convict Trump on obstruction of Congress or on abuse of power and face the wrath of Alabama voters, most of whom support the president? Or does he challenge them by declaring that he has voted to convict based on what he has seen and heard?

I believe Jones wants to keep his Senate seat. I also believe he is, as most pundits have posited, the most vulnerable Senate Democrat facing re-election this year. I don’t know much about Jones. I don’t know what makes him tick. I cannot measure his political courage. I don’t know if he’s a “maverick,” a loyal party guy or someone who wants to cover his own backside at any cost.

This is what I mean when I mention how politics runs head first into the quest for justice in matters of impeaching a president. Politics clearly is keeping Republicans from bucking their own partisan interest; it also is keeping most Democrats in line as well.

We have sticky wickets. Then we have matters such as this.

I believe Sen. Jones is going to lose some sleep over this one.

Sen. Cruz: a little self-awareness … please!

Ted Cruz suffers from a serious bipartisan affliction that affects politicians of all stripes.

It’s an acute case of lack of self-awareness. The Texas Republican said that he fears that U.S. Senate Democrats are all in favor of shutting down the federal government over some spending proposals.

Gosh, who knew?

Sen. Cruz said that would be horrible, I tell ya — just horrible! We can’t shut down the government, he said, forgetting — or ignoring — his own role in the previous government shutdown.

You might recall that Cruz sought to filibuster an end to the Affordable Care Act; the filibuster failed but the government had to shut much of its operations down for 16 days thanks in good part to the Cruz Missile’s efforts to repeal the ACA.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “You know, one of the dynamics we’ve got is the Democratic radical left is demanding of Senate Democrats that they oppose everything, that they engage in across-the-board obstruction,” Cruz said Monday. “And so I do have some concern that to appease the radical left, Chuck Schumer and the Democrats may do everything they can to try to provoke a shutdown.”

That’s politics, Sen. Cruz

Young man, you need to look back on your own role as part of the “radical right” of your own party. It was quite all right for Cruz and others within the Republican Party to try to talk the ACA to death and produce a partial government shutdown in the process.

“You know, I very much hope we don’t have a shutdown,” Cruz said. “I will say I’m concerned. I think [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown.”

Excuse the disagreement, Sen. Cruz. No one wants to shut down the federal government.

Not even those dreaded Senate Democrats. Honest.

Principle pushes against politics

I just hate it when principle runs smack head-on into real-time politics.

The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court has created just such a conundrum — at least for me.

The principle involves whether to fill the ninth seat on the nation’s highest court, an argument I made when President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

It wasn’t to be for the Garland and the president; Senate Republicans threw up their roadblock and obstructed the nomination by refusing even to consider it.

They were wrong!

Now a new president has nominated Gorsuch to Scalia’s vacant seat. Senate Democrats are threatening to do all they can to obstruct it, to block Donald Trump’s nominee from taking his seat on the bench.

I’m swallowing real hard as I write this, but it is just as wrong for Democrats to obstruct this nominee as it was for Republicans to obstruct Merrick Garland.

The principle of presidential prerogative stands firm in my view.

So does the need for the Supreme Court to be whole. It needs nine seats occupied to avoid tie votes that in effect send important cases back to lower-court rulings.

At one level, I sympathize with Democrats’ rage at the way their GOP “friends” played raw politics with Garland’s nomination. The GOP leadership took a huge gamble on the hope that a Republican would be elected president. The odds of that gamble paying off seemed to lengthen considerably when Donald Trump won the GOP presidential nomination this past summer.

Trump fooled a lot of us by defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn to nominate people to become justices on the highest court in America.

By all accounts, Gorsuch is qualified. He’s not my ideal justice candidate. To be candid, given Trump’s seeming lack of ideological conviction, I’m not at all certain he even fits whatever core values inform the president’s thinking.

The fundamental point, though, is whether it is right for Democrats to threaten to keep the seat vacant for another year — or perhaps for the entire length of time a Republican president is recommending potential justices.

It is not right!

Judge Gorsuch deserves a Senate committee hearing and a full vote in the Senate — just as Judge Garland did.

Principle ought to matter more than politics — even when one’s political sensibilities are being trampled.

Where is LBJ when you need him?

Barack H. Obama needs to channel Lyndon B. Johnson.

In a big way.

President Obama’s negotiating team — led by Secretary of State John Kerry — has just brokered a deal that cuts off Iran’s path to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

But not only are congressional Republicans opposed to the deal — which is no surprise in the least — but congressional Democrats appear to be skeptical of the deal.


How does LBJ play into this? I’m trying to imagine congressional Democrats bucking ol’ Lyndon, who was legendary in his ability to cajole his former congressional colleagues into seeing things his way.

Vote with me, or else I’m going to make your life holy hell, he would tell friend and foe alike. There was not disputing LBJ’s sincerity. When he said he’d make congressmen and women’s lives uncomfortable, he meant it.

Former Amarillo College President Paul Matney, who is no slouch as a political observer, once told me he thought Obama’s greatest weakness as president was his lack of congressional relationships. He served only three years in the Senate before being elected president in 2008 and hadn’t built a large cache of friends on Capitol Hill upon whom he could depend when the going gets tough.

It’s going to get quite tough in the weeks ahead as the president seeks to sell the details of his Iran nuclear deal to members of both parties.

Imagine Democrats telling Lyndon Johnson that they’re skeptical of a deal negotiated by a presidential team of the same party.

As for President Obama’s efforts to sell this deal — which I believe has the potential for bringing a more comprehensive peace to the Middle East — well, good luck, Mr. President.

Schumer headed for minority leader role

Harry Reid apparently has anointed Chuck Schumer as his successor as the leader of U.S. Senate Democrats.

Oh, that’s just great!

Reid, D-Nev., announced he won’t seek re-election next year. Schumer, D-N.Y., mounted a quick campaign to succeed Reid. It worked.


It’s not that Schumer is going to be bad for Senate Democrats, or even bad for the country. It’s just that Schumer some years ago inherited a dubious distinction from another senator who decided to retire. The distinction is being identified as part of the “most dangerous place in the world.”

It used to be said of Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, that the “most dangerous place in the world is between Gramm and a television camera.” Gramm left the Senate and handed that unofficial title over to Schumer.

Harry Reid has been called a lot of things; some of them are kind, others are not, depending on who’s saying them. “Camera friendly” isn’t really one of them. He speaks quietly and isn’t known to be a media hog. One cannot say that about Schumer, who’s as garrulous as they come.

Once he becomes leader of the Senate Democrats in 2017 — either as minority leader or majority leader, depending on whether Democrats retake control of the Senate in 2016 — he’s going to be everywhere. Probably at once.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough said on “Meet the Press” this morning that that he believes Schumer will be a far greater constructive force as Democratic leader than Reid. Scarborough is more of an expert on these matters than a lot of folks. I hope he’s right.

However, we’d better get ready to see a lot of Democratic leader Schumer on our TV screens in the years ahead.


GOP dreams come true: Reid to retire

Republicans across the land are awakening this morning to what they are certain is good news: Harry Reid, the man they love to loathe, is retiring from the U.S. Senate at the end of 2016.

Me? I’m not one of the GOP faithful, but I am more or less glad the Senate minority leader is calling it a career.


It’s not because of anything he’s done that’s offended me. It’s that the man is 75 years of age; he’s been in Washington a very long time; he’s enjoyed countless political victories and suffered countless defeats … and he’s recovering from a brutal eye and facial injury he suffered in a fall from exercise equipment.

Reid has gotten stale. It’s likely time for some new representation in his home state of Nevada and I venture to guess that Democrats as well as Republicans are of like minds in calling for that need.

Politico describes Reid style this way: “As leader, Reid developed a no-nonsense, hard-ball style that came to define his stewardship. He muscled through Senate passage of the Affordable Care Act on Christmas Eve in 2009 on a straight party-line vote, when his party controlled 60 seats, enough to overcome a GOP filibuster. In 2013, Reid took the unprecedented step of invoking the so-called ‘nuclear option,’ a move that gutted filibuster rules for presidential nominations that critics said altered the deliberative nature of the body.”

I’m as certain as I am about anything that it doesn’t matter who the Senate Democrats choose as their next leader. He or she will develop sufficient enmity among Republicans to ensure that the upper legislative chamber will continue its level of dysfunction.

Harry Reid will become yesterday’s news in due course.


How about confirming new AG … now?

The delay over a confirmation vote on the new U.S. attorney general is beginning to confound me.

Loretta Lynch is an eminently qualified U.S. attorney from New York. She was nominated by President Obama to succeed Eric Holder at the Justice Department. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 12-8 to recommend her confirmation, with three Republicans joining all nine Democrats on the panel to approve her confirmation.


But the full Senate has yet to schedule a confirmation vote.

All 45 Senate Democrats signed a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking him to schedule a vote so that Lynch presumably can get started on her new job.

The confounding part is the consequence of the delay.

Eric Holder remains on the job. It’s not that I think he’s done a poor job as attorney general. Senate Republicans cannot stand the guy. He’s angered them time and again over policy disagreements. The GOP caucus doesn’t want him on the job any longer.

So, why not schedule a vote for Lynch — who still enjoys some Republican support — so she can replace the despised Eric Holder?

Is it because getting Holder out of office robs Republicans of a target at whom they can take potshots?

Hey, I’m just askin’.

Schedule a Senate vote, Mr. Majority Leader.


Listen to Texas lawmakers on DHS funding

Dear Members of Congress:

Your Texas colleagues are speaking wisdom that you need to hear.

Do not play politics with funding the Department of Homeland Security. Doing so, according to Rep. Michael McCaul, puts the nation at a serious national security risk.

Do you understand that? Do you understand what it means to use DHS funding as a political football?


Let’s all understand something. Some of you are angry with President Obama’s decision to grant temporary amnesty for several million illegal immigrants. Others of you support the president’s decision.

Those of you who oppose Obama’s executive action, however, are signaling a serious breach in our national security network if you cut money out of DHS just because you’re mad at the president.

McCaul, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee in the House, said it well: “The terrorists are watching and the drug cartels are watching, and anytime we play politics with funding a national security agency, it’s a dangerous game to play,” McCaul told the Texas Tribune. “It’s a sign of weakness in our government.”

I get that McCaul, a Republican, is fingering Senate Democrats for this standoff. Both sides are to blame here.

Republicans have added amendments to the DHS funding bill that takes aim at Obama’s executive order. Democrats oppose it and the Senate has held up the funding because of that opposition.

So, who’s playing politics with our national security? I’m casting a plague on both political parties.

A lot of border-state lawmakers are concerned enough to send up warning signals.

Congress must not defund a national security agency because of petulance over a presidential order.

Don’t endanger the nation by cutting off money for the agency whose mission is to protect “the homeland.”


Former candidate might hold Senate key

If the Democrats hold the U.S. Senate — and that remains a huge if — they likely may owe their rescue to a Democrat who wasn’t even on the ballot.

No, I’m not talking about President Barack Obama.

The rescuer might be a fellow named Chad Taylor, a former Democratic candidate for the Senate from, of all places, Kansas.


Yes, that Kansas, one of the most deeply red states — behind Texas and Utah, perhaps — in the country.

Taylor dropped out of the Senate race against incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts. He left the campaign to a third candidate named Greg Orman, who’s running as an independent but who appears ready to caucus with Senate Democrats if he’s elected.

Orman is holding a double-digit lead over Roberts at the moment and with less than a month to go before Election Day, it’s beginning to look rather grim for the veteran Republican lawmaker.

The RealClearPolitics.com average of polls shows Republicans with a potential seven-pickup in the Senate; they need six to win control of the place. So, Orman’s possible victory isn’t the only race that could keep the Senate in Democratic hands.

Iowa needs to stay Democratic. North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagen is holding a slim lead over her challenger. And former President Clinton has returned to his home state of Arkansas to campaign on behalf of his pal Mark Pryor, who’s trying to keep the seat in Democratic control.

If it boils down, though, to a single race — the one Kansas — Democrats might have to send former candidate Chad Taylor the biggest bouquet of flowers they can find to say “thanks” for bowing out.