Category Archives: Congress

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.

Most Americans still relatively moderate

middleroad“Does the Cantor race suggest that American politics is irredeemably in the grip of two mutually hostile ideologies, one zealously conservative, the other rabidly liberal?” columnist Doyle McManus asked. “Not really.” He noted that a recent Pew survey found plenty of evidence that a center still exists. “One-fifth of all Americans are either consistently liberal or conservative, but that means four-fifths are neither,” McManus wrote. “On individual issues, Pew found that majorities on both sides actually hold relatively moderate views. On immigration, for example, 76 percent of Americans told Pew they believe undocumented immigrants should be eligible for citizenship after meeting certain requirements; even among conservatives, 51 percent embraced an eventual path to citizenship.”

Congress unpopular but unlikely to change much

congressHow can it be that Congress is so unpopular, with an approval rating of 16 percent, yet congressional incumbents are so overwhelmingly favored to win, even after “Cantored” became a verb last week? Looking at the new Gallup Poll, the Washington Post’s Fix blog observed: “The lowest approval rate prior to 2014 was in the Republican wave of 1994, when only 22 percent of Americans approved of the job that Congress was doing. And that year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, ‘only’ 90 percent of Congress won re-election.” The Fix added: “People tend to re-elect their own members of Congress, regardless of how they feel about Congress on the whole.  (They pay very little attention to politics and vote for the name they know over the one they don’t.)”

 

 

Huelskamp’s loss of ag seat didn’t represent constituents

huelskampA seat on the House Agriculture Committee was a given for Kansas. But a year and a half after losing his spots on that panel and the House Budget Committee because of his combative relationship with House leadership, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, shows no signs of remorse. “The loss of the two seats – that was punishment for being too conservative,” he told Fox News host Mike Huckabee over the weekend. In discussing last week’s primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Huelskamp said: “At the end of the day, you’ve got to represent your constituents.” But how did getting booted off the ag panel represent Kansas’ “Big First”? The Kansas City Star’s Dave Helling noted that Huelskamp’s own GOP primary challenger, Alan LaPolice, has made regaining the ag spot a top priority: It’s possible, Helling wrote, “that rural Kansas voters will wonder why their current congressman would rather appear on Fox News than, you know, work on farm policy.”

Tiahrt flip-flop on snooping?

eavesdrop4National Security Agency snooping may be one of the few points of identifiable disagreement between Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and his predecessor-turned-challenger. “Mr. Pompeo says NSA isn’t listening to our calls but Gen. Clapper admits they are,” former Rep. Todd Tiahrt tweeted last week, linking to a commentary about Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s admission that analysts searched the content of Americans’ e-mails and phone calls without a warrant. But Tiahrt cast votes supporting President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping and the Patriot Act, which granted authorities sweeping new surveillance powers. And in a 2007 hearing, Tiahrt told then-DNI Mike McConnell: “I’m glad that we were able to update the law to move ourselves as a country into the electronic age…. I too am very hesitant to inject more lawyers and judicial process into the system, which appears to only slow things down and makes us in essence less safe.”

Pompeo-Tiahrt race a ‘referendum on earmarks’?

tiahrt2The Weekly Standard took note of the “curious challenge to a GOP incumbent” being posed by former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (in photo) to his successor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. An article by Mark Hemingway headlined “A Referendum on Earmarks” explored Tiahrt’s efforts to blame Wichita’s economic woes on Pompeo, quoting Tiahrt campaign manager Robert Noland as saying, “Half our aviation companies have left in the past couple years” and “when Todd was in office he did a lot of work to try to keep jobs here.” Hemingway observed: “It’s certainly a novel approach in the tea party era for a GOP candidate to signal they intend to bring home the federal bacon.”

Cantor defeat means nothing will get done in House

cantorericThe stunning defeat of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in a GOP primary Tuesday re-energizes the tea party, which had been struggling. But it saps the energy out of legislative activity in the House, particularly on immigration. “Not only is immigration reform a no-go for Republicans in this election, but it may well be off the table – assuming Republicans control the House – for the next several years,” wrote Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. He said that Republican lawmakers will “avoid doing anything – literally, anything – that could be used against them” in a primary and that “members will be afraid of their own shadows.”

Roberts’ record makes him safer than Cochran

yardsignIn the months leading up to last week’s tight GOP Senate primary in Mississippi, Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., were often mentioned together – longtime incumbents facing tea party challengers to their right. So why is the 76-year-old Cochran facing a June 24 runoff and seemingly in trouble while 78-year-old Roberts is looking strong for the August primary? “Cochran is an old-school pol who doesn’t often lead the charge against President Obama. He’s courtly, low-key. His opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, is a firebrand who’s been compared to a Southern preacher. That in-your-face approach appeals to conservative voters,” wrote the Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske. Meanwhile, Roberts has “been consistently tough on the president. And while he’s brought home his share of pork, he isn’t in Cochran’s league. Roberts votes so consistently conservative that his opponent, Milton Wolf, has struggled to make a case before the August primary,” Kraske wrote.

Moran made emotional VA plea shortly before dad’s death

morannewCondolences to Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., whose father, 98-year-old Ray Moran of Plainville, died Friday. A day earlier the senator had mentioned his father – who had served as an Army staff sergeant in North Africa and Italy in World War II and later worked for Skelly Oil Co. for 32 years – during an emotional plea on the Senate floor for a bipartisan solution to the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs. “We are called upon as American citizens, certainly as members of the United States Senate, to do all the things that we can do to demonstrate that we thank our veterans for their service, we respect them, and we love them. The Senate needs to rise to the occasion and not let the partisan politics of this place and this country divide us in a way in which we only symbolically respond but the end result is that we failed those who served and we failed our veterans who depend upon us just as we’ve depended upon them for their service to our country,” Moran concluded. The funeral and burial service for Ray Moran will be held Tuesday in Plainville.

Will campaign donors switch back to Tiahrt from Pompeo?

money-bag“Want to see a nasty GOP House primary? Oh, it’s just getting started in Kansas,” observed the Washington Post in reporting the news of former Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s decision to challenge his successor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. Among the fascinating questions about this two-month sprint will be whether Tiahrt comes up with the cash to rival Pompeo’s $2.1 million (as of March 31), and whether donors who shifted from Tiahrt to Pompeo will shift back or just back both. For example, OpenSecrets.org lists Koch Industries as the top contributor to both, crediting individuals and PACs connected to the Wichita-based company with more than $328,000 in donations to Tiahrt (1993-2010) and more than $239,000 to Pompeo (since 2010). Textron, which owns Cessna and now also Beechcraft, is third on both men’s lists. One big change for Tiahrt: His second-biggest source of contributions over his congressional career, Boeing, has nearly finished closing its Wichita site.

Tiahrt not sleeping well because of Pompeo?

tiahrtbackThe 4th Congressional District race suddenly became a lot more competitive now that former Rep. Todd Tiahrt is challenging incumbent Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita. It’s still unclear what Tiahrt’s case is against Pompeo. They both are very conservative and share the same views on most issues, including abortion. About the only policy difference Tiahrt has pointed to is Pompeo’s defense of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. Pompeo has a huge fundraising lead, but Tiahrt still has a lot of grassroots volunteers and is an aggressive campaigner. Tiahrt will also have to explain why he enthusiastically endorsed Pompeo in 2010 and 2012 but now thinks he should be voted out of office. When Tiahrt endorsed Pompeo in October 2010, he said three times that he’d “sleep well at night” if Pompeo replaced him.

GOP takeover of Senate could force it to govern

gridlockThough Congress’ approval rating has been at historic lows, most people like having divided control of Congress, which contributes to the current stagnation. Columnist John Dickerson argues that if voters really want change, they should try giving the GOP control of the Senate. Though that’s likely to result in all Obama hearings all the time, the GOP might also be forced to govern. “Republican strategists know the GOP has to shake the ‘party of no’ label, which means producing actual accomplishments,” Dickerson wrote.