Tag Archives: Congress

Congress: When Success Is Still Failure


The movement to reform the U.S. Congress is like a G-rated flick that would make Walt Disney yawn. There’s no sex, no violence, no scandal, no crime, comparatively little political intrigue, and no big-time stars, just a lot of risqué talk about filibustering the motion to proceed.

It is doubtful the subject will come up in campaigns, either, beyond the patronizing and often hypocritical blather about running against Washington.

Several weeks ago the House Rules Committee held a hearing on about 40 reforms that members wanted to see brought up on the opening day of the next Congress in January 2019. The attention to it was, as you would expect, silence.

There wasn’t any news coverage, except from Paul Krawzak at Congressional Quarterly, who understands the subject matter.

The need for reform couldn’t be clearer, or more critical, or more timely.

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Are We Better Than This? Prove It. Deal With It.


“John’s voice will always come as a whisper over our shoulder: ‘We are better than this; America is better than this.’” — Eulogy for the late Senator John McCain at funeral services in the National Cathedral by former President George W. Bush

John McCain wasn’t alone wanting our politics to be better than this. It would do all of us some good to keep his memory alive more than a couple of weeks, despite what’s going on around us.

We know what ‘this’ is. It only took a few days for McCain’s legacy to turn to dust, replaced with more anger, distrust, dishonesty, hyperventilation, vulgarity, and incivility, and that, exclusive of President Donald Trump’s behavior.

The “this” has continued the erosion of American institutions and the abandonment of American values. I believe the vast majority of Americans agreed with McCain and are fed up with “this.” McCain preached the politics of inclusion and the personal behavior of courage and civility. He didn’t always succeed in putting them into practice, but they were among the values he considered critical to the survival of our grand experiment in self-governance.

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Trump Time Out To Restore Values, Institutions


We are a nation being consumed by our own anger, anxieties, disillusionment, and alienation from one another.

They are emotions widely exploited by a vast media empire that employs everyone from late night comedians to early morning news anchors. They are manifest in our tribal politics and social behavior. They are also, of course, manifest in the persona and politics of our President, who rubs them raw when he should be applying soothing salves.

It is Donald Trump, on whom we place much of the blame for this current condition, but the truth is he is not the cause; he is only the result. Continue reading

Trump Hysteria and A Little History


“The election of this man as President filled him with ‘smoldering dread.’ He believed that the worst said about this man was all too true. He had not only lied but had been caught in that lie, and the great majority of voters didn’t care.”

President Donald Trump? No. It is an excerpt from a new book describing how Henry Clay felt about the election of President Andrew Jackson, 190 years ago. The book by David and Jeanne Heidler is a vivid look back at the life of one of America’s greatest political figures.

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Speaker Ryan Slaying Windmills or Dragons


It is mindboggling, isn’t it, this election year? It’s like an untethered hot air balloon caught up in a windstorm.

The atmosphere is a toxic mixture of ignorance and arrogance, fueled by anger, disillusionment, distrust, some big egos and a lot of cash.

Intelligent, civil, informative, unifying, discourse? Forgetaboutit.

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A Christmas Gift for Those Who Govern


Bob Michel was greeted with a hearty round of applause when he was introduced as the special guest at the RAMS club Christmas lunch in Washington December 17.

One woman, among the room full of current and former congressional chiefs of staff, rose from her seat to give Michel a standing ovation.

As he went on with his introduction, Paul Vinovich, the RAMS Head, reminded the audience that it was also the 70th anniversary of what was the greatest battle of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge. Seventy years ago today, he said, Michel was fighting his way from Normandy Beach Continue reading

Short History of Executive Orders

Reprinted from TheFeeheryTheory.com

The President’s power to issue an executive order is not spelled out in the Constitution.

And for the first 75 years or so of our Republic, an executive order wasn’t even made public.  They were just directives sent from the White House to the various agencies, telling them what to do.

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302 Days to Go

Reprinted from Mullings.com

Add this to your Outlook calendar right now: Election day is November 4, 2014 – the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. 302 days from today.

All 435 voting U.S. House seats are up for election as are 35 Senate seats. There are 33 seats that would be contested in the normal rotation for the Senate but there are also special elections in Hawaii and South Carolina to fill vacancies.

This election will be the mid-term election in the second term of President Barack Obama’s Presidency. Historically this is not good news for members of the President’s Continue reading

Can’t Always Get What You Want

Reprinted from Mullings.com

In 1969, the Rolling Stones – who have been touring since about 1343 – put out an album that had as one of its songs, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

The U.S. House and Senate should do a quorum call right after the prayer and have every Member sing that song, every day they’re in session – which is only about five days a month. Continue reading

The Good News

Reprinted from TheFeeheryTheory.com

I want to focus on the good news.

The good news is that Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain, has come out of this entire mess as the only clear winner. His sermons have been on point, passionate, realistic and deeply spiritual. And he is now a rock star (as much as a Senate Chaplain can become a rock star).

The good news is that the government is finally open again.

The good news is that we didn’t default on our debts.

The good news is that the stock market largely ignored what was happening in Washington, figuring that we would figure it out. They were right. Continue reading

Republicans, Democrats, & the Righteous Few



There is no word that better explains the intractable nature of our government’s dysfunction, particularly now in the throes of frozen federal appropriations and a looming debt ceiling crisis.

Righteousness is a noun that describes an attitude that results in behavior “arising out of an outraged sense of justice or morality” (the appropo Webster definition). It is a behavior rooted in a sense of such uprightness that it is essentially free of guilt or sin. The righteous feel absolved from any need for self-judgment or self-reflection.

Can I have an amen?

We have heard President Obama again and again refuse to negotiate and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warning of Armageddon if no one acts. We have listened to Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee pontificate about the immorality of compromise, and we have heard the same refrain from dozens of Members of Congress from Justin Amash of Michigan to Continue reading

Kanye Counters Kardashian Slam, Really Good


It’s about time.

If someone disses your woman, you should diss ‘em back. It’s the law of the jungle.

I’ve been wondering how Kanye was going to respond to Ray J; how he was going to jab the knife into the rib cage, just far enough to inflict pain, but cause no damage.

When the time was right, Kanye made his music the sharp blade of his revenge. He stepped onto the stage of Jimmy Fallon’s late night show last week, in a leather skirt, no less, and sang his hit ‘Bound 2,’ with new lyrics that answered Ray J’s ‘Hit It First,’ about how he hooked up with Kim Kardashian before Kanye. It was bad, really bad. The woman just had a baby, for crying out loud. Continue reading

Great Debate Coming on Syria


The Congressional debate on Syria, if not trumped by a United Nations resolution confiscating that country’s chemical weapons, and hopefully it will, could well be one of the greatest national debates in some time. It will certainly be instructive. The American people may learn a lot about how their government functions, or doesn’t.

Let’s just hope those who participate in the discourse, including the media, will keep in mind that the United States response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government on its own people is more about who we are as a people than how we respond as a nation.

Fortunately, the debate should transcend partisanship and electioneering. The issues don’t break along party lines and it is doubtful punishing Syria will tilt an election in 2014, even a primary, one way or the other. Continue reading


Reprinted from Mullings.com

Now, the Congressional nose-counting begins: Who’s for the resolution to attack Syria, who’s against, who’s undecided, and who is calling their chief of staff asking, “What’s all this about Syria? Where the hell is Syria?

Those are mostly U.S. Senators.

Problem is, there is no resolution to be for or against.

The White House sent one up to the Hill on Sunday a couple of hours after the President’s staff found out he was going to ask for Congressional approval, but was being told in home room that a social studies paper was due by third period. Put something on paper and hope the teacher is in a good mood.

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Asking for Permission

Reprinted from TheFeeheryTheory.com

In matters of foreign policy, tis far better for Presidents to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

If a President takes bold and decisive action, the Congress will usually follow along.

If a President dithers and negotiates and asks the opinions of scores of lawmakers, all of whom have different constituencies and vested interests, the result is usually a mess.

Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory, amid murky Constitutional concerns. Congress didn’t blink, because it was such a damn good deal.

President Reagan sent a few missiles into Libya to send a message to Muammar Khadafy. While a few members of Congress may have complained, most saw it as a justified strike. Continue reading

Syria (sly)

Reprinted from Mullings.com

I decided to run the annual Back to School issue on Friday because I thought events surrounding Syria were moving too quickly.

For the first time in over 15 years, I was correct.

Syria is bordered by Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea. That is important because most of its neighbors don’t like the Assad regime. And he doesn’t like them.

Let’s stipulate that what we’re talking about is the use of Tomahawk Cruise missiles (or some analogous – stand-off weapon) and not invading Syria. Continue reading

Random Thoughts


I would guess that most current and former Hill employees get really rankled every August when well-tanned and rested television anchors like Bill Hemmer of Fox News (it is really hard to take that guy seriously), get indignant over Congress leaving Washington for August recess. Hemmer is not alone, of course. August recess wisecracking is a popular sport.

Fox, however, has lowered the bar even more. It just spent a lot of money conducting survey research, which Hemmer reported on August 8. Breaking news, breaking news, stop the presses: “A new Fox news national poll has found that 82 percent of voters think Congress hasn’t worked hard enough to go on vacation for five weeks.”

Hemmer looks like he’s 12, but I wonder why he acts like it? Continue reading

The Imperfect Storm

Reprinted from TheFeeheryTheory.com

As members of Congress prepare to depart for the August break at the end of the week, they will be packing talking points from their caucus messaging packets that seek to explain why Congress hasn’t accomplished very much since the last time they went home.

With congressional ratings bouncing around at an all-time low, it is hard to imagine that whatever they have to say will have any resonance with voters.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) tried to put a unique spin on congressional inaction when he said that politicians should be measured not by how many laws are passed, but by how many laws were repealed.

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Higher Salaries to Attract Better Candidates

Reprinted from TelemachusLeaps.com

I got to thinking the other day about what was ‘more important’ to the United States of America: Having great referees in our professional sports leagues….or having great representatives and senators in Congress in Washington?

Apparently, based on the way we pay our elected representatives versus professional referees, we ‘value’ the services of NFL/MLB and NHL referees at or around the same level as we ‘value’ our elected officials in this nation.

We know, we know: ‘The market values rare talent’. Alex Rodriguez, LeBron James, and Peyton Manning are those ‘rare talents’ and command massive salaries up to $25M per year. ‘They put fannies in the seats and sell advertising on the tube!’ team owners and general managers say to justify such exorbitant salaries. Continue reading

Dog Days

Reprinted from TheFeeheryTheory.com

Originally printed in The Hill

The dog days of summer used to be dedicated to the appropriations process on Capitol Hill.

Both the House and the Senate would slog through 13 spending bills, usually under an open amendment process. Members of the various subcommittees would fend off hostile amendments, defending projects, programs and spending levels.

When the bills passed the House or Senate floors, members of both bodies would put out press releases, touting the bacon they would be bringing home for local constituencies. And back home, those constituents would applaud news of funds from Washington, to build bridges, to fund the local Veterans Affairs hospital, or whatever else was being touted by those press releases. Continue reading