Category Archives: Congress

Wolf’s views gaining notice

Wolf,MiltonMother Jones introduced Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf to readers with this headline: “Obama’s Tea Party Cousin Who’s Running for Senate Compared President to Hitler,” also noting Wolf has the backing of the prominent Senate Conservatives Fund in his GOP primary challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts. The Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, who has bemoaned “wacky, unvetted candidates who emulate the faction of the GOP voters dislike the most,” reacted by saying it’s a good thing that “Roberts is likable and solidly conservative.” She concluded: “Kansas Republicans have a clear choice. Republicans around the country better hope they get it right, or they’ll be spending a lot of time running from Wolf.”

Roberts didn’t poll well, either

robertspat2Negative campaign ads by his GOP challenger and news reports on his residency status may be hurting Sen. Pat Roberts’ approval ratings. Only 29 percent of Kansans approve of Roberts’ job performance while 38 percent disapprove, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. Also, 47 percent said that Roberts was focused on being a Washington, D.C., insider, while only 26 percent said he was focused on representing Kansas.

Snowden an ‘ordinary traitor,’ Pompeo said

snowden,edwardRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is not among those, including some in his own party, who consider National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden (in photo) to be a patriot. “He is just an ordinary traitor” who did “extraordinary damage” to our soldiers and sailors, Pompeo told The Eagle editorial board. Pompeo, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said that there are adequate safeguards in the NSA programs and that he has seen nothing that made him worry about Americans’ privacy. What was so damaging about the Snowden leak was that most of the information was about tactics, Pompeo said – and now the Russians know all of it.

Colyer: ‘Roberts was cool before conservative was cool’

robertsleftThe heat on Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., over his voting residency has stirred rumors that he might retire in favor of a “stronger candidate – potentially Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer,” according to the Hill. Tea partier Milton Wolf has a radio ad referring to the three-term Roberts as “the senator from Virginia.” But Roberts is fighting back, including with his own radio ad mentioning Kansas 11 times. Colyer told the Hill that “Pat Roberts is running and he’s a great candidate” and disputed any suggestions of insufficient conservatism on Roberts’ part: “He was cool before conservative was cool.” Meanwhile, national radio commentator Jim Hightower weighed in on Roberts’ tea party challenge and hard right turn. “Roberts has put on his crazy pants, altered his beliefs, and is dancing like a fool with the ideologues,” Hightower said, noting he voted against the farm bill and the United Nations treaty to ban discrimination against people with disabilities. He concluded: “Come on, Pat, you’ve been in Congress for 34 years, you’re 77 years old, and you’re getting a gold-plated pension for the rest of your life. Is six more years in the Senate really worth selling out people with disabilities – not to mention selling out your own integrity?”

Kochs, AFP pouring millions into Senate races

kochsAmericans for Prosperity is spending millions of dollars trying to shift control of the U.S. Senate. AFP, which is linked to the Koch brothers, already has spent $8.2 million on TV, radio and digital ads attacking Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Politico reported. That’s more than all Democratic outside groups have spent in every Senate race in the country combined. So far, AFP has spent about $15 million on Senate races and more than $4 million on House races. “It’s just not fair to have two folks in the country potentially determine the outcomes of these Senate races in states where they don’t even live,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

Still much to do on fiscal reform

nationaldebtThe federal deficit for 2014 will be $514 billion, or 3 percent of the size of the U.S. economy, according to new estimates by the Congressional Budget Office. As a share of gross domestic product, that’s the smallest deficit since 2007. Though the deficit has dropped dramatically, “our nation’s largest fiscal problems remain – and solving them is essential to future economic growth and prosperity,” the nonpartisan Concord Coalition said in a statement. According to the fiscal watchdog group, “these problems include mounting federal debt, rising interest and health care costs, an aging population and a tax code that lavishes hundreds of billions of dollars a year in subsidies on favored individuals and industries.”

No viable GOP alternative to debt-ceiling bill

BudgetDeficitHouse Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is being blasted by some conservative groups for allowing a vote on a clean debt-ceiling bill. But House Republicans couldn’t agree among themselves on an alternative. And the last time Boehner deferred to the tea party crusaders on the budget, it resulted in the government-shutdown fiasco. “When you don’t have 218 votes, you have nothing,” Boehner said. All six of Kansas’ House and Senate members opposed raising the borrowing limit through March 2015. That wasn’t too surprising, though Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, was one of the few in House GOP leadership to vote against the bill.

Wolf making hay of Roberts’ residency, recliner

robertsleftU.S. Senate GOP candidate Milton Wolf wasted no time capitalizing on a New York Times article on how Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., switched his residency to a house owned by campaign donors in Dodge City. Wolf has a campaign ad running on conservative radio stations saying that “Roberts has left us behind.” Wolf also takes a dig at Roberts’ joke that he has “full access to the recliner” in the house. “Let’s clean house and give Pat Roberts and all the other career politicians permanent access to their very own La-Z-Boy recliners,” Wolf says at the end of the ad. Roberts adviser Leroy Towns dismissed Wolf and the ad, telling CNN that Kansans know Roberts and his work for the state.

Pompeo: Obama directive hurts intelligence capabilities

spyingliberty1Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and former White House attorney David B. Rivkin Jr. argued in a Wall Street Journal commentary that President Obama’s recent intelligence directive “undermines our intelligence capabilities in service of a novel cause: foreign privacy interests.” They especially criticized Obama for extending the “same privacy protections to foreigners that now apply to data regarding ‘U.S. persons’” and called on Congress to “hold him accountable for a directive that will hobble our foreign-intelligence capabilities, even as the world spies on us and threats to Americans multiply.”

Boehner, GOP to blame for failure on immigration reform

illegalimmigrationHouse Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says the reason the House won’t approve immigration reform is because Republicans don’t trust President Obama. No, it’s not. The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan immigration reform bill. The same bill could pass the House if Boehner would allow a vote. But he is being cowed by members of his party who oppose immigration reform. It’s also worth noting that the Obama administration has deported almost 2 million illegal immigrants in the past five years, nearly as many as the George W. Bush administration deported in eight years.

Kansas, Missouri on different pages on farm bill

KYLE DYCKFor the first time, all of Kansas’ representatives in the U.S. House voted against a farm bill, according to a New York Times analysis of votes going back to the 1950s. And of the entire congressional delegation, only Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., voted for the farm bill that President Obama signed Friday. “We were really disappointed that they didn’t vote with us,” said Steve Baccus, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau. A comparison of Kansas with neighboring Missouri is striking. Nine of Missouri’s 10 representatives and senators (including all seven Republicans) voted for the farm bill, and the 10th delegation member didn’t vote.

Kansas delegation is most conservative in House

rightturnonlyNational Journal’s 2013 vote ratings confirmed that Kansas has the most conservative delegation in the House, while ranking Sen. Pat Roberts as No. 8 among the 15 most conservative senators and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran as No. 16. None of the Kansas Republicans made the list of 15 most conservative representatives, though, with Mike Pompeo ranked as 48th most conservative, Kevin Yoder as 66th, Lynn Jenkins as 94th and Tim Huelskamp as a surprising 164th. The magazine judged the 2013 Congress to be “more polarized than any Congress since National Journal began calculating its ratings in 1982.”

When Roberts questioned surgeon general nominee

robertsmugThere was a moment during Tuesday’s Senate confirmation hearing for President Obama’s surgeon general nominee, Vivek Murthy, when Sen. Pat Roberts (in photo), R-Kan., suggested to the Boston physician, “with measured pride,” as Slate’s David Weigel put it, that Dodge City has some great Indian-American doctors and he ought to visit. Roberts told Murthy: “I’m going to invite you, because we have a wonderful doctor from India. She’s in her mid-30s, and she’s highly respected by the community. And another doctor from India that did my carpal tunnel when I did a stupid thing. And so, I think you’d be right at home, and we would welcome you.” Some Republicans on the panel quizzed Murthy about his comments on social media regarding the National Rifle Association and Obamacare’s contraception coverage. But his confirmation seems assured, given the controversial change in Senate rules to allow a simple majority to override filibusters on some of Obama’s nominations.

Roberts likely to fight off Wolf

Wolf,MiltonWhile noting that “since 1946, just 5 percent of incumbent senators seeking re-election have lost in their party primary,” Sabato’s Crystal Ball (issued by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics) said last week that Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., is likely to fend off tea party challenger Milton Wolf (in photo): “Let’s see if Wolf can raise the kind of money he needs to make a show of strength to outside conservative groups. The only polling we’ve seen comes with the obvious caveat that it was commissioned by the incumbent’s campaign, but the survey showed Roberts leading Wolf 69 to 15 percent among likely GOP primary voters. Also worth noting is that while some other conservative groups have endorsed Roberts, the Club for Growth – despite having little use for the incumbent Roberts – has not waded into this race yet.”

Pro-con: Is Obama overreaching on executive orders?

Inaugural Swearing InFact is, U.S. presidents do have vast powers under Article II of the Constitution, especially when it comes to waging war and protecting national security. But “vast” isn’t the same as “unlimited.” Too many presidents – Republican and Democrat – have stretched the interpretation of their powers to the limit, and sometimes beyond. In that sense, President Obama is no different from past presidents. But in crucial ways, he has used and abused his powers in ways his predecessors could only fantasize about. Unilaterally raising the federal minimum wage for government contractors may have Republicans in Congress pulling their hair out, but that’s among the least of this president’s usurpations of their lawmaking authority. Committing American airpower in 2011 to help overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi without so much as consulting Congress was a milestone in presidential overreach. Obama decided in 2012 that Congress wasn’t doing enough to reform U.S. immigration laws, so he signed an executive order barring the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service from deporting minors and relatives of U.S. service members living in the United States illegally. When the president decided to delay his health care law’s “employer mandate,” he engaged in nothing less than wholesale lawlessness. Congress has for too long delegated far too much of its power to the executive branch. It’s past time the legislative branch used its authority to hold this president to account. – Ben Boychuk, City Journal

Two words: “Unitary executive.” You might not remember those words – Republicans in Congress certainly don’t seem to. They were the name of a theory, advocated by Dick Cheney in particular, under which the George W. Bush administration unilaterally chose to ignore Congress and its legal obligations, pretty much whenever it chose. A law against warrantless wiretapping? Ignore it. Treaties against torture? Ignore them. Don’t like the new law Congress passed? Don’t veto it – sign it, but add a “signing statement” explaining why you won’t actually obey it. All of this happened with the near-total acquiescence of congressional Republicans throughout the Bush administration. Much as it did its love of fiscal austerity and the filibuster, the GOP rediscovered its fidelity to the rule of law with alacrity in 2009, when President Obama took office. It’s clear what’s going on here: Republicans don’t believe in a constrained, limited presidency. They believe in constraining and limiting Democrats. It’s not the same thing, and observers can be forgiven for rolling their eyes at the crocodile tears of self-styled defenders of the Constitution. If Republicans want to limit the presidency, let them prove it when one of their own is in the White House. – Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Magazine

Huelskamp’s tweets embarrassing but not surprising

huelskamp,timIt was disappointing and embarrassing that Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, tweeted belittling comments while President Obama was delivering his State of the Union address Tuesday. It’s fine to oppose Obama and criticize what he said, but doing so during the speech was disrespectful of the presidency and the address. Sadly, such behavior is what Kansans have come to expect from Huelskamp. It’s also what Americans now expect from the House of Representatives. As Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty noted, “Lately it’s not if a breach of decorum will occur, but when.”

Will House act on immigration reform?

Barack ObamaThere isn’t much cause to hope that the current Congress will work together for the common good. But one significant reform that it could accomplish, if House leadership allows it, is immigration reform. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, but GOP leaders haven’t allowed a vote in the House. “Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted,” Obama said in his State of the Union address Tuesday. “I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same.” By not scolding House lawmakers or mentioning specific provisions that must be in the bill, Obama was extending an olive branch. But as Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post wrote: “Will/can House Republican leaders – many of whom applauded Obama’s line on immigration – grasp it?”

Pompeo joining in ‘destination’ fundraising

pompeo,mikeRep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, was one of the lawmakers mentioned and pictured in a New York Times article on “destination fundraisers, where business interests blend with pleasure in exclusive vacation venues.” Pompeo was among the “special guests” at a “Winter Escape to Vail Weekend” early this month at the Four Seasons Resort, when the “suggested contribution” was $2,500 per political action committee and $1,500 per individual. “Neither the lawmakers nor the lobbyists attending the events want to talk about them, even though such trips are permitted under the law,” the Times reported, though Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., was quoted as saying of the Colorado gathering: “This was a good way to raise some funds.” A health care lobbyist who attended called it “a way to get some large chunks of a lawmaker’s time.” The fundraising trend is bipartisan: “It has become kind of the norm,” said Democratic lobbyist Vic Fazio, a former California congressman.

Is another investigation of Benghazi needed?

clinton,benghaziThough the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan report last week on the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks in Benghazi, Libya, columnist Cal Thomas wants more investigation. “What is needed is for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to appoint a select committee, modeled after the Senate Watergate Committee, with subpoena powers to question under oath witnesses and those in charge,” Thomas wrote.

Public doesn’t like surveillance, but it’s not a policy priority

eavesdrop4Though 63 percent of Americans don’t like government surveillance of U.S. citizens, only 42 percent consider it an extremely or very important priority for Congress and the president, lower than 15 other priorities, according to a recent Gallup poll.

‘War on poverty’ anniversary prompts reflections, criticisms, reforms

CLAIRE CRAWFORDPresident Johnson’s “war on poverty” was announced 50 years ago this week. The mixed results of this war have prompted a lot of reflection and some criticism. Columnist Cal Thomas wrote: “Today, with roughly the same number of people below the poverty level as in 1964 and with many addicted to government “benefits,” robbing them of a work ethic, it is clear that the poor have mostly lost the war.” Others, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., used the anniversary to announce reform proposals.

Lack of moderates not just a problem for GOP

donkeysIt’s not just the Republican Party that is losing moderates. The number of moderate Democrats in Congress is also shrinking. During the 111th Congress, from 2009 through 2010, there were 54 members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate and conservative Democratic lawmakers. Now there are only 15 members, the Washington Post reported. Some of the lawmakers lost elections after redistricting placed them in Republican-leaning districts. Others retired out of frustration with gridlock and partisanship. The loss of moderation on both sides is a key reason why this past Congress was the least productive ever.

Moran says GOP needs to work on image

morannewSen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., recently told a gathering in Waterville in Marshall County that calls to his office are about evenly split between those who want him to find compromise and those urging him “not to budge one inch,” the Marysville Advocate reported. “I actually think both segments are right,” Moran said, suggesting there are “many things we can compromise on.” Moran also advocated that his party work on its public image. “It’s not just a matter of communication. Our policies have to be beneficial to all Americans. . . . We have to get rid of the image that we care about the wealthiest compared to the everyday person. Those things are very important if you want to see a future for the Republican Party.”

Kansans losing about $1.5 million a week in benefits

joblessThe expiration of emergency unemployment insurance benefits on Dec. 28 already has taken about $1.5 million out of the pockets of 4,400 Kansans, according to Democrats on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Nationwide, about 1.3 million people lost about $400 million in weekly benefits when Congress didn’t renew the Federal Unemployment Compensation program.

Is Roberts’ conservatism a ‘foxhole conversion’?

rightturnonlySen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., was recently ranked as the fifth most conservative member of the Senate by Heritage Action for America. So how could some tea party groups consider him not conservative enough? The Madison Project, which is headed by former Kansas congressman Jim Ryun, attributed Roberts’ current ranking to an election-year foxhole conversion, the Washington Times reported. Roberts was ranked much lower on Heritage Action’s 2012 list, before he was facing a primary challenge for 2014. His 65 percent rating for 2012 was the lowest of the Kansas delegation. But other conservatives warn that tea party groups are undermining their credibility by trying to paint Roberts as some liberal.