Tag Archives: US Senate

SCOTUS to get kicked around?

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Mitch McConnell has demonstrated a clear ability — and a tendency — to play hardball politics whenever the need arises in his own pointed head.

Think about how the Senate Republican leader can manipulate things in the event the GOP takes control of the U.S. Senate after the 2022 midterm election.

Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer might retire from the court. Say, he does so at the end of the current term, which arrives in late June or early July 2022. President Biden has to select a nominee immediately after such a retirement occurs. McConnell well might decide to throw up roadblocks anticipating a GOP takeover of the Senate in November 2022.

What might occur, then, if the GOP wins a Senate majority, seats a new Senate in January 2023 and Biden’s SCOTUS nominee still hasn’t had a hearing, let alone a vote? I’ll tell you what’ll happen. The GOP-led Senate could scuttle a Biden choice and then McConnell could decide to replay the tactic he used in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly. President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the court, but McConnell torpedoed the nomination, refusing to grant Garland a hearing. Why? Because we had an election months away and McConnell said the next president deserved the right to select someone. The next president happened to be Donald J. Trump and, well, you know the rest of it.

This all seems to give a Breyer decision on whether he stays on the court a good bit more of a time urgency. I don’t expect Justice Breyer to act on the wishes of others around him. He is entitled to walk away on his own terms and on his own schedule.

The nation’s highest court, though, does not need or deserve to be kicked around like the political football some in the Senate have made it out to be.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Mend, don’t end, filibuster

As a general rule I am inclined to oppose ridding the U.S. Senate of the filibuster, which gives senators in the minority a way to block legislation they oppose.

However, I am strongly in favor of amending the Senate rule. Instead of allowing a single senator to “filibuster” a bill simply by signing on to a measure to block it, the Senate needs to require senators to stand on the floor and talk the bill to death.

Make ’em hold the floor for as long as they can while they blab and blather on and on. That’s the way filibusters used to occur. Senators would yap and yammer for hours on end, collapsing at times, while they sought to talk legislation into oblivion.

Democrats want to rid the Senate of the filibuster. Republicans are standing firm in their support of the legislative rule. What might happen, though, after the 2022 election if Republicans get control of the Senate, pushing Democrats into the minority?

I can see a scenario where Republicans would want to deny Democrats a tool to block legislation, while Democrats would perform a one-80 and seek to keep the rule intact.

It’s not written into the U.S. Constitution. The filibuster is a Senate rule. It has been abused by senators who “filibuster” legislation without ever having to talk it to death. Make them use the rule the way it was intended.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

POTUS dons legislator’s hat

This thought occurs to me, so I’ll share it briefly.

President Biden is trying to negotiated a legislative deal with moderate and progressive congressional Democrats. Then the following dawned on me.

Biden spent 36 years in the U.S. Senate. He then spent eight years as vice president. That’s 44 years negotiating experience with lawmakers.

The way I figure it, President Biden is the most experienced legislator in the meetings he is having with congressional Democrats. He knows how to cajole, coddle and convince legislators to do what’s right.

If only he could work his legislative skill on congressional Republicans who — sad to say — just won’t wheel and deal with a master of wheeling and dealing.

This is the value of having a POTUS who knows how government works. Let’s see if it pays off.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Biden: born for this job?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As I watch President Biden perform certain ceremonial functions — or even simply walk to and from the Oval Office or climb the steps leading onto Air Force One — I am struck by a recurring thought.

It is that this man has wanted the job he now holds for practically as long as he has been a national public figure. That goes back a good while.

He burst on the national scene as a freshman U.S. senator from Delaware. He won election in 1972; Biden was just 29 years of age when they declared him the winner, but would turn 30 (the minimum legal age to serve as a senator) between Election Day and his swearing in.

It is a fairly open secret that he lusted for higher office from almost the very beginning. Biden had to endure intense personal tragedy before taking office in 1973. His wife and infant daughter died in a car crash; his sons, Beau and Hunter, were gravely injured. They would recover.

Biden would remarry five years later.

He ran for president in 1988. Then he tasted humiliation when he got caught plagiarizing the remarks of a British politician, using the British pol’s life story as his own. Sen. Biden bowed out. He would run again for POTUS in 2008, but then quit after being steamrolled by the eventual Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama — who then selected him to run with him as vice president. They won. They served two successful terms.

Now it’s the Joe Biden Show in the White House.

I just am filled with the strong sense that President Biden has been in a sort of training for half a century to do the job he is now doing.

My critique? He’s quite good at acting like a president. He sounds like a president. He behaves like a president.

After enduring the clumsiness, the chaos, the confusion and the cockamamie pronouncements of the president’s immediate predecessor, all this “normal” stuff seems quite, well … refreshing.

Juneteenth receives deserved honor

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas has celebrated this glorious day for decades.

Now it’s time for the rest of the nation to join us.

Juneteenth will become the nation’s latest national holiday once President Biden puts his name on the legislation that sailed through the Senate unanimously and through the House in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion.

It becomes the first national holiday since Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was declared such in 1983.

I am delighted as a Texas resident to see this state take a front-and-center place in this discussion. June 19, 1865 was the day that African-Americans were informed in Galveston that they were, indeed, free from enslavement; the announcement came two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. News didn’t travel nearly as fast as it should have in those days … you know?

Cornyn calls GOP lawmaker’s position against Juneteenth ‘kooky’ (msn.com)

And so, with the exception of 14 GOP knuckleheads in the House, virtually the entire legislative branch of government is on board in that rare bipartisan event.

This day deserves the honor it is about to receive, as do the descendants of those who were declared finally free of humanity’s greatest sin.

Green New Deal is back!

 

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Just in time, a newer version of legislation that got stalled a couple of years ago in the U.S. Senate, has returned to the center stage of environmental policy discussion.

The Green New Deal — the bogeyman of the Republican Party — has been reintroduced by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; indeed, AOC herself has become a favorite target of GOP critics.

Why is this so timely? Because we have Earth Day coming up Thursday. It’s the one day of the year — as if we should dedicate just a single day — we call attention to the fragility of the only planet we can inhabit.

I’ll save a discussion on the nuts and bolts of the Green New Deal for another day. I do want to make a point about the importance of what the GND intends to accomplish. It seeks to preserve our environment, to retain Earth as a place where human beings can inhabit.

President Biden has made climate change one of the linchpins of his tenure in office. He appointed former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of State John Kerry as a special international envoy on climate change. The president signed an executive order upon taking office to return the United States to the Paris Climate Accord, from which Donald Trump had walked away when he took office.

Climate change presents an existential threat to our national security. Never mind the spring chill that has swept across the nation in recent days. The evidence continues to show that Earth’s median temperatures continue to increase year over year. Ice caps are melting. Sea levels are rising. Third World nations continue to fell millions of acres of forest each year. The industrialized nations of the world continue to pour millions of tons of carbon-related pollutants into the air.

We must find some answers to these crises. Many of us say it when Earth Day rolls around every year: We only have one planet … and we have to protect it.

Is the Green New Deal too much? Too little? I don’t know. However, I believe we must not continue to do what we have been doing. We are contributing to the destruction of our Good Earth.

Filibuster? Yes, but make ’em talk!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Senate Democrats and progressives around the country want to eliminate the filibuster from Senate procedure.

They contend it is being abused by the Republican minority in the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” I am not going to join that chorus. I don’t have a particular problem with the filibuster, other than the way it is implemented now.

Senators can declare a filibuster is in effect when they object to legislation. Then they go about their business as if nothing is happening.

If they’re going to filibuster, they should be forced to stand on the Senate floor and talk their lungs out in an effort to kill legislation. Make ’em blab about this and/or that, which is what the filibuster was designed initially to require.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said recently he would talk until he “fell over.” I might pay real American money to see that happen.

The filibuster is aimed to protect the interests of the political minority. At the moment, the GOP is the minority party. One day they might regain control of the Senate, although I don’t particularly want that to happen. What happens then, if the Senate kills the filibuster now, disallowing future political minorities from exercising the long-standing Senate rule?

The filibuster wasn’t written into the Constitution; it was enacted under Senate rule-making authority. Getting rid of it only solves the issue of the moment. The balance of power has this way of swinging back and forth.

If we keep the filibuster, by all means then make senators stand in the well and bluster and bloviate until they do fall over.

Why does he anger me?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What in the world is it about Ted Cruz that makes my blood boil?

It cannot possibly be just that he is a conservative Republican. Or that he has this annoying  way of pretending to speak for millions of Texas residents he represents in the U.S. Senate. Or that he landed in the U.S. Senate and began pi**ing off his colleagues, even his fellow Republicans.

I cannot quite dial it in.

It might go back to when he first ran for the Senate in 2012. His GOP opponent that year was Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who was favored heavily to win the party nomination and then get elected to the Senate. He didn’t. He lost the primary to Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general. I actually like Dewhurst; I enjoyed my relationship with him while I worked as editorial page editor of the Globe-News in Amarillo. Dewhurst was the hardest-working politician in Austin. He was so detail oriented that if you asked him for the time, he might be inclined to tell you how to build a watch … you know?

Losing to Cruz, though, only magnified the emptiness of the state GOP, although I’ll acknowledge that Dewhurst proved to be a lousy campaigner.

Cruz then landed in the Senate and began pi**ing off his GOP colleagues, such as the late John McCain, who scolded Cruz for challenging the patriotism of Vietnam War vets John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, two of McCain’s friends and fellow Vietnam vets.

His Senate career has been a series of showmanship tactics. His ambition is so bodacious that he just doesn’t wear it well.

Now he is putting holds on nominations put forth by President Biden. He has pulled them, allowing the nominees to go forward toward confirmation.

Ted Cruz releases holds on Biden nominees as administration looks to get tough on Russia pipeline – POLITICO

I’ll admit to not knowing Cruz. I have never met the man. I might think differently of him were I to shake his hand and engage in some chatter, but I haven’t. Therefore, I am left to hold these views of him.

I’ll just continue to loathe his presence in the media and when he screams “Freedom!” at conservative political rallies. I won’t apologize for those feelings.

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.

Cruz still pi**ing me off

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Ted Cruz might one day run out of ways to make me angry.

I don’t know when that will happen with the junior U.S. senator from Texas. For all I know, his reservoir of contemptible behavior is bottomless. The good news for me is that he likely will keep this blog loaded for bear. The bad news is that he might wear me out.

Almost from the day he took office, Cruz has become a major league a**hole. He defeated defeated then-Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the 2012 Republican primary and then cruised to an easy general election victory that year.

It took him no time to begin prancing and preening on the Senate floor, setting up a run for the presidency in 2016. His bald and blind ambition managed to anger his fellow Republican colleagues, not to mention the Democrats who serve with him.

The late Sen. John McCain once scolded Cruz for questioning the integrity of two senators, both of whom were — like McCain — Vietnam War veterans; Cruz, of course, never has worn this country’s uniform. But there he was, wondering whether John Kerry and Chuck Hagel were sufficiently loyal to this country.

Cruz puts on shameful sideshow | High Plains Blogger

The nadir of Cruz’s behavior, though, has to be the manner in which he questioned the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, alleging vote fraud that doesn’t exist. Donald Trump then incited the rioters who stormed Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 and still questioned whether the election was fair and legal.

The man just sickens me. I get sicker every time I see his face and hear his voice. Given his penchant for bloviating in front of TV cameras, I need to steel myself for years of nausea.