Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts tagged as “congress”

Silence is unacceptable

richardson

From the outset, Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin was a recipe for disaster. Now Trump has made the situation much worse by refusing to reveal what was discussed at that meeting. In the meantime, the Russian media is having a field day spilling selected beans – information regarding Syria and arms control for instance.

Recently, the Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that Trump and Putin had entered into “important verbal agreements.” No one this side of the pond knows what these alleged agreements entail. Even the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, has admitted he hasn’t a clue what Antonov is talking about.

The president does not have a blank check to do as he pleases in the realm of foreign affairs. Our founders very purposefully divided responsibility for foreign relations between the executive and legislative branches. They had ousted one king and were not about to live under the rule of another.

Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates congressional powers including regulating commerce with foreign nations, declaring war, raising and supporting armies, providing and maintaining a navy, and making rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. Congress also has the authority to lay and collect taxes. Article 2 grants the president command of the military. The president also is empowered to make treaties and appoint diplomats, but only with the approval of the Senate.

Thus, the congressional role in shaping and implementing our nation’s foreign policy is substantive and substantial. The president has no right to usurp it. Our allies shouldn’t be forced to guess at what Trump might have agreed to at the summit. Neither should Congress. Neither should the American people.

This charade has to stop. In an utter abnegation of responsibility, Congressional Republicans shut down Democratic efforts to subpoena the American translator, the only other American in the Trump-Putin meeting. Their cowardice and submission to Trump is exceeded only by Trump’s cowardice and submission to Putin.

There is a widespread and growing belief that our president got played in Helsinki. In response, Republicans have ducked for cover and run. Among those are the members of Idaho’s congressional delegation. After the president's shameful capitulation to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Republican senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch issued woefully anemic statements. Each merely acknowledged that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and observed that Russia is no friend of the United States.

There was no condemnation of the president’s fawning over Putin, not a peep of outrage over his defense of the Russian attack on our country, or even a passing nod to their oaths to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. Republican strategist Rick Wilson calls this kind of pathetic response on the part of GOP office holders, the "furrowed brow and deep concern act." And it is totally inadequate to the moment.

For some time, many have wondered what Putin is holding over the president to make him behave in such a subservient and unprincipled manner, seemingly selling out his country to curry favor with the Russian dictator.

Now that same concern should also apply to members of the Republican majority in Congress. In the utter absence of bipartisan action, it falls to congressional Democrats to use every tool in their toolbox to demand transparency and accountability from this president. Their minority status makes the task daunting. But they must force the issue. Faithfulness to the Constitution requires nothing less.
 

First take/Boehner

In writing about House Speaker John Boehner's announced resignation, the Washington Post noted that he has been "faced with a constant conservative rebellion" - true (allowing for whether "conservative" is the right descriptor), and it has been true most of the time he has had the job. Boehner's fellow Republicans have been far more headachy for him than the House Democrats. The Democrats have been opposition but operate by normal rules Boehner would have been accustomed to. The Republican insurgents - a better descriptor, since "conservative" really doesn't work here - have thrown out the rule book, and many are content to be simply destructive, not least of the country itself. Too many of those insurgents and (especially) the insurgent forces back home constitute a mindless whirlwind - and if that sounds like simply a partisan blast, consider the analysis of what impact Boehner's resignation may have on the prospective government shutdown. You might on the surface imagine that it would make a shutdown more likely, since one of the main opponents to that will be going away. Not so: The resignation is figured to reduce chances of a shutdown, because a new fight for the speakership will be coming, and that battle may be enough to draw the attention of the insurgents, diminishing interest in a shutdown. This is government by follow-the-bright-shiny-object. It is a madness. - rs

First take

Could the Pope actually have a major effect on the presidential - and maybe congressional - races in 2016? Well, some effect at least. Pope Francis' tour in the United States has been scheduled, and so has a September 24 address to a joint session of Congress. It will be the first time a pope has ever done that, and it will come at a time when the vice president, two-thirds of the Supreme Court and the House speaker, among many others, are Catholic. it also comes at a time when the current Pope has been delivering messages of particular import to American politics. - rs

Baird out; competition in the 3rd?

3rd district
Baird

Brian Baird

To this point, just one Northwest U.S. House district has had the look of being seriously competitive next year - the Idaho 1st. Add one more as of today: The Washington 3rd.

That is because Democrat Brian Baird, who has held the seat for six terms, says he won't run again. Baird has developed into an entrenched officeholder, even when he seriously ticked off his base over Iraq and was threatened with a strong primary contest (which didn't really materialize). He has held more than 300 town hall meetings and has worked the district hard. He probably could have won re-election easily. But, with him out, you can't say the same about Democratic chances for holding it.

Not that they can't; but that it's by no means a given, a win that should be taken for granted. Baird's own wins have masked the reality of the 3rd, which is that it is as it has been, a competitive area. Baird's last four wins have been landslides, over 60%, but he won the seat in 1998 with 55%, and narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Linda Smith in a close race the election before. Smith held the seat two terms, and before that Democrat Jolene Unsoeld held it for three.

There are solidly Democratic bases here, in central Vancouver, in Olympia and in the old union areas along the Pacific coast. But the Vancouver suburbs, which hold a lot of the population, are mixed or lean Republican, and many of the rural districts are very Republican. Cowlitz County in the middle of the district leans Democratic slightly but can go either way. The region's state legislative delegation is a real mix, from fairly liberal members to some quite conservative.

There's a real conservative streak in many of the nominally Democratic areas. For example, all of the counties in the 3rd except for Thurston County (that would be Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Skamania, Wahkiakum and Pacific) voted in favor of Initiative 1033, the Tim Eyman tax/budget measure on the ballot last month, while it got only 42% of the vote statewide. And that same group of counties, six of the 3rd's seven, voted to reject Referendum 71 - taking the conservative side on the "everything but marriage" domestic partnership measure, while it passed the state with 53.2%. Yes, a Republican could win here.

Expect some candidates in both parties to materialize soon. With the better mousetrap, either party could take this district.

This seat ought to jump toward the top on the priority list for both parties.

Wyden, Specter and health

Some of the news reports out yesterday about the switch of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter from the Republican to the Democratic caucus mentioned his quick hallway meetup, apparently immediately before the formal announcement, with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who greeted him with a big smile and words of welcome.

That came to mind when, today, this passage from a Heritage Foundation (the conservative group) blog post came across:

This is important on policy grounds for a few reasons. One issue that will be dramatically affected is Health Care. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told CQ: “I think his decision is transformative. . . . This makes a very significant difference in the health care reform discussion.”

Wyden is correct. It will change the debate dramatically, because Senator Specter was one of the chief opponents of so called Hillary-Care during the Clinton Administration and now will be on the other side of the aisle for the debate on comprehensive health care reform. Democrats will have a 60 vote majority and will not have to negotiate with the minority party when crafting a package of health care reforms.

Cooperative hardball politics

capitol

All those who think Idaho Democratic Representative Walt Minnick is a dead man walking for the election in 2010, and all those who think the (Republican) rest of the Idaho congressional delegation is SOL what with the decisive Democratic takeover of Congress, listen up.

You need to pay attention to a string of three recent press releases. They carry a weight of meaning.

Here's the lead paragraph from one, dated January 6, from the of office of Republican Representative (2nd district) Mike Simpson, with co-contact information from Minnick's office: "Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick today introduced the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA). The bill settles ongoing disputes over how to manage public land in Central Idaho by creating wilderness, releasing wilderness study areas, allowing for federal land transfers and providing for economic relief to residents in Custer and Blaine counties."

The Republican and Democratic representatives jointly introducing a wilderness bill (which Simpson had been pushing, over the opposition of Minnick's Republican predecessor, for some years). Hmm.

Here's another one, also jointly released from the offices on Wednesday: "Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson and Walt Minnick today voted to pass a measure that will ease financial burdens on thousands of Idaho families. The State Children Health Insurance program was reauthorized today by the U.S. House of Representatives. Children from hardworking, low- to middle-income Idaho families who do not qualify for Medicare would have access to health care under the S-CHIP bill."

Working together on a health/welfare issue. Hmm.

Now the third, out today, from the office of new Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, countering a lawsuit by environmental groups against a roadless area plan Risch worked on as governor. The third paragraph says this: "'Over the last several years, Idaho has been at the forefront of the collaborative, local-focused approach to management of public lands. The west needs more of that, and fewer lawsuits,' Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick said. 'Senator Risch’s carefully crafted roadless plan is yet another fine example of what can be done when leaders bring people to the table in an effort to find common ground, and I hope today’s news does not hamper future collaboration between sportsmen, business, leaders such as Governor Otter, Senator Risch, the rest of our delegation, and the many other people who care about Idaho’s public lands.'”

Here we have Minnick appearing favorably in a Risch press release, and Minnick offering some support for Risch on an environmental issue.

Hey, wait a minute: Where's all the partisan bashing? Didn't these guys go to D.C.? Don't they know how this stuff works?

Actually, they seem to have figured out, quickly, some significant things. (more…)