Category Archives: Congress

So they said

robertsmug“With all due respect to Mr. Reid, I don’t think that James Madison’s wig fits on his head.” – Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., in Paola, criticizing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s planned Sept. 8 vote on a constitutional amendment to limit the money that can be donated to campaigns

“War on Women much?” – National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring, to the Weekly Standard, referring to how Chad Taylor, the Democrat challenging Roberts, drew national attention in 2011 when he announced his Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office, after a budget cut, would no longer prosecute misdemeanors including some domestic violence cases

“And you thought dumping ice water on your head was cold.” – Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., on GOP House members, including Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, who participated in an ALS fundraising challenge but voted to cut $1.5 billion from the 2011 budget of the National Institutes of Health, a portion of which went to ALS research

“I felt the helicopter hit something; later, someone said it was a rock. I thought the pilot would right it, but then I saw the ground come up…. Stuff fell on me; I didn’t know if they were people or things.” – New York Times foreign correspondent Alissa Rubin (formerly of The Eagle), describing the crash of a helicopter evacuating Yazidis in Kurdistan that left her with broken bones and a fractured skull

Need to start paying attention to Orman

orman,gregGreg Orman faces long odds as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in Kansas. But a recent poll and noteworthy endorsement make the Olathe businessman someone to watch. A survey released last week by Public Policy Polling showed Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., leading the race with 32 percent support, followed by Democrat Chad Taylor at 25 percent, Orman at 23 percent and Libertarian Randall Batson at 3 percent. But if the race were just between Orman and Roberts, Orman would be leading 43 to 33 percent, according to the survey. (Roberts leads Taylor 43 to 39 percent in a head-to-head matchup.) Orman also was endorsed last week by Jim Sherow, the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District. Sherow said that Orman “presents the best chance at providing Kansas new energy in the U.S. Senate.” A big challenge Orman faces – in addition to the fact that it’s a four-way race, not a two-way one – is that he has only 36 percent name recognition, according to the survey. But among those who have an opinion about him, he is seen favorably by Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Moran hopeful GOP can end gridlock in Senate

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Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Moran’s position on term limits.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said he is serving as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee because he wants to end the gridlock in the U.S. Senate, not because he loves politics, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. “If the Republicans get the majority and we can’t function, then I don’t know what the next step is,” Moran said at a candid town hall meeting in Baldwin City this week. Departing from the GOP rhetoric that unrealistically vows to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Moran spoke of possible changes to the law that President Obama might support – such as increasing the work threshold for when employers must provide health insurance from 30 hours a week to 40 hours. He also said he supports term limits but could make a case pro and con. “Many in Kansas see our glory days in the Senate as those of Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum, and both were in the Senate a long time,” he said.

Americans losing optimism about the future

libertyflagMore than three-fourths of American adults lack confidence that their children’s generation will have a better life than they do, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. That’s a record high. What’s more, the lack of faith is shared by Americans of all income levels, races, ages and ideologies. “This fractious nation is united by one thing: lost faith in the United States,” wrote Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. They also agree on another thing: 71 percent blame the nation’s economic problems mostly on the inability of elected officials in Washington, D.C., to get things done.

Poll suggests Pat Roberts can’t exhale yet

roberts3A Rasmussen Reports poll this week indicated that a fourth term for Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., still isn’t a sure thing, even though he dispatched tea partier Milton Wolf in the GOP primary. The firm found Roberts leading Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, the Democratic candidate, by only 44 to 40 percent – though 34 percent hadn’t heard of Taylor. Roberts was favored by male voters (49 to 38 percent) and Taylor by women (43 to 39 percent) and younger voters (41 to 32 percent), as reported by the Lawrence Journal-World. The poll also showed a sizable 49 percent unfavorable view of Roberts – likely at least in part because the survey was done right after his nasty TV ad war with Wolf. The poll didn’t include the wild-card candidacy of well-funded independent Greg Orman. But the Cook Political Report switched the Senate race in Kansas from “Solid R” to “Likely R,” and the New York Times’ politics blog the Upshot observed: “It’s hard to imagine Mr. Roberts actually losing, but something is brewing in Kansas.”

Kansas senators hardly the biggest spenders

monopolymanKansas Republicans Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts showed up midway through a ranking of what U.S. Senate offices cost in a year. According to data from the Sunlight Foundation, Moran’s office spent $2.6 million between April 2013 and March 2014, compared with the $2.5 million spent by Roberts’ office. The biggest spenders were California Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who each spent more than $4 million, followed by Florida Republican Marco Rubio and Texas Republicans Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. In going over the numbers, which don’t include costs of leadership offices, the Washington Post noted that the Senate spent more than $370,000 in a year in staff costs on hairstylists and barbers.

Wall Street Journal editorial congratulates Kansas voters

pompeo2Because the incumbents all won, Kansas’ GOP primary didn’t deliver the drama that had been forecast for the congressional races by the national political media. But the Wall Street Journal editorial board hailed the victories of “spending reformers” Mike Pompeo (in photo) and Tim Huelskamp over “challenges from corporate rent-seekers. Their victories ought to give Republicans in Congress the confidence to buck crony capitalists,” the editorial board wrote. The editorial noted approvingly that both had voted against the farm bill, that Huelskamp wants to eliminate the pro-ethanol renewable fuel standard and that Pompeo wants to end all energy subsidies, also describing Todd Tiahrt as Pompeo’s “pork-barrel predecessor.” It concluded: “Congratulations to Kansas voters for rewarding principle, and we hope Republicans across the country take the message.”

GOP struggling with low favorability ratings

elephantupsidedownA new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that only 35 percent of the public has a favorable view of the GOP (49 percent for the Democratic Party). But the numbers get even worse when divided by gender, race and age. Only 33 percent of women have a favorable view of the GOP. Only 16 percent of African-Americans and 29 percent of Latinos view the GOP favorably. And among adults ages 18-29, only 31 percent view the GOP favorably. Also of note, 51 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the job that their own member of Congress is doing

Huelskamp not chastened by close election

huelskamp,timAfter not having been endorsed by the state’s largest agriculture organizations, and after a virtually unknown opponent won 45 percent of the vote in the GOP primary Tuesday, you might think that U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, would be a little chastened. You might think he would commit himself to becoming a productive member of Congress. But no. Huelskamp lashed out Wednesday against “a shadowy, out-of-state super PAC” that smeared his reputation, and said that he “will not be bullied.” That’s been Huelskamp’s pattern: Blame others for his own failings, then double down on those failings.

Long-term federal debt forecast is frightening

BudgetDeficitThe declining federal budget deficit is encouraging, but long-term forecasts show spending mushrooming to unsustainable levels. A report released recently by the Congressional Budget Office projects debt rising continuously after 2017. Assuming that policymakers allow temporary spending and tax-cut provisions to expire and do not further increase deficits (which is highly unlikely), debt will rise from 74 percent of gross domestic product in 2014 to 108 percent by 2040, 147 percent by 2060, and 212 percent by 2085, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget noted. If policymakers don’t act responsibly (which is much more likely), debt could increase to 170 percent of GDP by 2040 and keep climbing. An aging population, rising health care costs and rising interest payments are driving the debt projections. “There are no gimmicks to get around the demographics,” warned Robert L. Bixby, executive director on the nonpartisan Concord Coalition.

Beware of last-minute campaign mailers, ads

mud.jpbHeading into the final weekend before Tuesday’s primary, voters should beware of last-minute mailers and ads attacking political candidates. Such claims usually are misleading and exaggerated. The worst offenders often aren’t the opposing candidates but third-party groups. For example, Americans for Prosperity-Kansas – a critic of public education and education funding – has been attacking some pro-education lawmakers for not voting last session for a school funding bill (that also eliminated state-mandated due-process rights for teachers and granted tax credits for business donations to private schools). Mailers proclaim that “when our schools needed a lifeline,” the lawmakers voted “no.” The cynicism and hypocrisy are stunning. Political action committees also have launched new TV ads attacking congressional candidates, including Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita.

Pompeo and Tiahrt both pandering on impeachment

ObamaIn their testy Sunday debate on KNSS Radio 1330-AM, both Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and former Rep. Todd Tiahrt said they would vote to impeach President Obama (in photo). “If such a bill were introduced, I would,” Pompeo said, jumping into a criticism of the “absolute overreach” of the administration. Tiahrt said Obama “had broken the law” and he also proudly declared: “I’ve already voted to impeach Bill Clinton on all four counts.” Saying they’d vote to impeach Obama is like a future juror declaring someone guilty even before charges are filed, testimony is heard and jury deliberations are held. Shouldn’t they be above such right-wing pandering?

So they said

santorum“Sam Brownback ruffles feathers. He takes on dragons.” – former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (in photo), campaigning in Olathe for the governor’s re-election

“Reagan didn’t turn the country around in the first six months of tax reduction. I think we’re in fine shape.” – Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, telling Bloomberg that criticism of Brownback’s tax cuts is unwarranted and Kansas is the “point of the spear”

“Well, they don’t call the Senate the assisted living home for nothing.” – Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., after a Johnson County GOP official inadvertently introduced him as the state’s “senior citizen” rather than its senior senator

“I think he’s a fine man. He just lacks leadership skills. Washington is in a deadlock, but that might be a good thing when you’re talking about government.” – former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, talking about President Obama during a Cottonwood Falls visit

Orman ad likely resonates with Kansans

orman,gregGreg Orman faces long odds running as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in Kansas. But a campaign advertisement he released last week likely will resonate with many Kansans. It shows red and blue teams competing in a muddy tug-of-war contest. “Washington’s stuck between two parties who care more about winning than they care about our country,” Orman says in the ad, adding that “most Kansans just want government to live within its means and stop telling the rest of us how to live our lives.”

No wonder farm groups aren’t backing Huelskamp

huelskamp,timThe decision by top Kansas farm groups not to endorse Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, speaks a thousand words about Huelskamp’s misplaced priorities and belligerent behavior. Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association refused to endorse Huelskamp, who was kicked off the House Agriculture Committee and has voted repeatedly against farm bills. And this wasn’t an insider decision; local committees in each county in Huelskamp’s district voted on whom Farm Bureau should endorse. Though Huelskamp’s combative, uncompromising style gets him bookings on cable TV talk shows, it has made him an ineffective representative for the farmers and ranchers in his district – and anyone else who wants to see results, not just “no” votes.

Glickman’s tips for democracy

congressinsessionIn Politico magazine, former Wichita congressman Dan Glickman and former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe proposed “Ten Ways to Strengthen Democracy.” Among their ideas to “fix the electoral process, return Congress to legislating and enhance public service”: Increase primary participation with a single June primary date for congressional primaries and more open primaries. Let special commissions handle redistricting. Increase disclosure of political contributions, including those made to independent groups, and of spending by congressional leadership PACs. Reform the filibuster and Senate debate. Empower congressional committees. Adopt a biennial budget cycle. Synchronize House and Senate workweeks. And “the president and congressional leadership should hold regular monthly meetings.” Glickman and Snowe co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform.

Tiahrt not impressed by 57 votes against Obamacare

tiahrtnewmugA campaign commercial by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, brags that he has voted 57 times against Obamacare. His GOP primary opponent, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, isn’t impressed. Somewhere between the seventh and 57th vote they should have figured out it wouldn’t work, Tiahrt told The Eagle editorial board. The GOP House needs to pick its fights wisely, Tiahrt said, and use its power over the purse strings to get what it wants. Pompeo concedes that “there is a little bit of repetition” to some of the votes. But he told the editorial board that the Affordable Care Act is such an enormous change that House Republicans have an obligation to continue to make their case and express their vision.

Congress unlikely to pass budget on time

congressclockCongress is running out of time to pass a budget, and the likelihood of it doing so by the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 is looking slim. “The House has passed only five of the 12 required appropriations bills while the Senate is batting zero on them,” the Concord Coalition reported. The fiscal watchdog group warned: “Failure to act in a timely manner risks another costly government shutdown or one enormous and unwieldy omnibus bill that lumps all unfinished business together.”

No surprise that KochPAC prefers Pompeo

pompeo2“KochPAC is proud to support Mike Pompeo for Congress based on his strong support for market-based policies and economic freedom, which benefits society as a whole,” Mark Nichols, vice president of government and public affairs for Koch Industries, told Politico. That’s not surprising, as the Wichita Republican has been closely associated, politically and ideologically, with Koch Industries. Some liberal groups even call Pompeo the congressman from Koch. But Koch had also been a longtime backer of Pompeo’s opponent, Todd Tiahrt. The former representative received nearly $330,000 from Koch’s political action committee and Koch employees during his eight terms in Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Is tea party challenge making Roberts cranky?

roberts2Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., “has never been the cheeriest guy in the Senate,” Politico reported this week. But the GOP primary challenge by Milton Wolf “has sent the senator into a frequent state of agitation.” Roberts “has appeared increasingly on edge, several of his colleagues say, and his voting pattern, according to rankings by conservative groups, has shifted markedly to the right,” the website reported. When asked by The Eagle editorial board last week about Wolf’s charge that he is a career politician who is out of touch with Kansas, Roberts noted that he recently completed a listening tour of all 105 Kansas counties. “That’s just ridiculous,” he said.

Moran, Roberts disagree on federal media shield law

justiceladyMore than 70 media organizations recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate leaders asking for a vote on the Free Flow of Information Act, a media shield law meant to help protect reporters when federal prosecutors try to compel them to reveal their sources. “The ability to protect confidential sources is the oxygen that investigative reporting needs to survive,” the organizations wrote. Asked last week by The Eagle editorial board about a federal shield law, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said he sponsored such a bill in the House and likely would be supportive as a senator. Moran pointed to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal as a great example of investigative journalism and its benefits. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told the editorial board that such a law shouldn’t be needed if the First Amendment is applied properly. The issue has taken on more urgency since the U.S. Supreme Court declined last month to take up the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, who was told by a federal appeals court to testify in the case of a CIA officer accused of leaking classified information related to Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama trails predecessors in executive orders

penmanshipPresident Obama was appropriately reined in by the U.S. Supreme Court for overreaching on some of his executive actions. But it is worth noting that despite all the GOP howling, Obama has actually issued fewer executive orders than nearly all 20th- and 21st-century presidents. So far, Obama has issued 182 executive orders, according to the American Presidency Project. That’s well below the pace of other two-term presidents, including George W. Bush (291), Bill Clinton (364), Ronald Reagan (381) and Dwight D. Eisenhower (484). And as Obama argued Monday, some of his executive actions have been prompted by the failure of Congress to pass – or even vote on – legislation. “Pass a bill. Solve a problem,” he advised lawmakers.

Erect safeguards against mass surveillance

eavesdrop“One year ago this month, Americans learned that their government was engaged in secret dragnet surveillance, which contradicted years of assurances to the contrary from senior government officials and intelligence leaders,” Sens. Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Rand Paul wrote. “On this anniversary, it is more important than ever to let Congress and the administration know that Americans will reject half-measures that could still allow the government to collect millions of Americans’ records without any individual suspicion or evidence of wrongdoing. It is time to end the dragnet – and to affirm that we can keep our nation secure without trampling on and abandoning Americans’ constitutional rights.”

Little faith in Obama, political parties, Congress

thumbsdownOnly 41 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of President Obama, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey. Public opinion of the Democratic Party is slightly worse, 38 percent positive, while only 29 percent have a positive opinion of the Republican Party and 22 percent of the tea party. Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll found that only 7 percent of Americans have confidence in Congress, a record low.

Huelskamp to husbands: ‘Love your family’

huelskamp,timRep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, made an emotional speech Thursday at the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C. Standing with his family and addressing “every husband in America,” Huelskamp said: “Your children need you. Your woman, your wife, she needs you. It’s time that you become a real man and stand up for those who need you. Love your family, love your wife, love your children because they desperately need you. They’re desperately looking for a husband. They’re desperately looking for a father. Be a real man of God, because this is about you. Marriage is about you, and your wife, and your children.” But critics noted that Huelskamp doesn’t believe “marriage is about you” if you are gay, despite public opinion moving toward extending marriage equality to same-sex couples. According to the Pew Research Center, opposition to same-sex marriage has dropped from 54 to 39 percent in just five years.