As my bride and I were settling down to watch an episode of “Walker Texas Ranger” last night, the words of the show’s theme song rang out,
The eyes of the ranger are upon you…any wrong you do he’s gonna see…
Yesterday, Newly Re-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the rest of the Members of the House of Representatives found out that “the eyes of the President-elect” were upon them.
The Washington Post reports that
The Trump effect has landed forcefully on Capitol Hill.
Less than two hours after President-elect Donald Trump criticized House Republicans — in a tweet, of course — for trying to gut an ethics investigative unit on the first day of business in the new Congress, those plans lay in shambles in the Republican conference’s meeting room.
The immediate outcome was to keep intact the independent Office of Congressional Ethics — exactly the status quo that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and his leadership team had hoped to protect. That result, however, appeared largely to be the result of Trump’s intervention rather than Ryan’s maneuvering.
There was a broader outcome, too: The unruly Republican caucus that has wreaked havoc in the House for the entirety of Ryan’s tenure fell in line. And there were signs, judging from Tuesday’s drama, that they might continue doing so this year.
House leaders attributed the reversal of the ethics decision to many factors, not the least of which was a rough period of media coverage highlighting how the lawmakers were abandoning Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” of Washington of corruption.
But lurking behind it all was the prospect that Trump’s political power, now aimed at Capitol Hill, can instill fear and force action. By aiming his social-media fire hose on fellow Republicans — even as he assembles a Cabinet filled with billionaires and insiders — Trump made clear that he intends to continue giving voice to the anti-establishment outsiders who propelled him through the Republican primaries against much more seasoned politicians and to an electoral-college win against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
That may give Trump leverage over those members of the Republican conference who have claimed the “outsider” mantle for the past six years, a period when the most conservative Republicans have gained stature back home by flouting leadership, whether it was John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) as speaker or Ryan for the past 15 months.
These Republicans regularly turned their backs on party leadership and claimed ideological purity in their carefully crafted districts that were bastions of like-minded conservatives. They operated on the assumption that the only likely political penalty was a primary challenge from the right.
Now, their party’s leader wields a Twitter account with 18.5 million followers. As he prepares to enter the Oval Office in little more than two weeks, Trump is far more popular in their districts than they are. He employs as his chief strategist the former leader of Breitbart News, a conservative media outlet that has included among its top targets the skewering of Republicans not deemed suitably conservative.
As a result, the first day of the 115th Congress served as a sort of beta test of how some Republicans will react when Trump sics his media power on them. If the most conservative flank tries to buck Trump on a pricey infrastructure deal, how will they handle the heat from Trump’s Twitter feed? If moderate Republicans try to block his moves on health care, will they withstand the heat if Trump goes to Breitbart to attack them by name?
On Tuesday the answer came fast: Run for cover.
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog . . . their number one act and priority,” Trump asked in a pair of tweets just after 10 a.m., adding that there were “so many other things of far greater importance.”
By 11:50 a.m., literally 10 minutes before the constitutionally mandated start of the new Congress, Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called an emergency meeting. Some Republicans piled into the meeting with their children in tow, there to see their mother or father sworn into another term in Congress.
The night before, by a large margin, House Republicans had approved an amendment to their new rules package for the 115th Congress that would have substantially impaled the investigative capabilities of the Office of Congressional Ethics — an independent body that was formed almost a decade ago after a raft of mostly Republican corruption cases landed in federal courthouses.
The OCE, as it is known, was meant to serve as a quasi-grand jury that would handle complaints from the public and tipsters, as well as reviewing media stories of potentially corrupt acts. If there’s a high likelihood an infraction occurred, it gets referred to the House Ethics Committee, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and has full subpoena power and can mete out punishment.
Lawmakers in both parties have seen the OCE as overly zealous at times, and there have been previous calls to rein in the team of former federal prosecutors who have overseen it the past nine years.
But the Monday night massacre of OCE, on a federal holiday, with almost 50 Republicans still not back in Washington, came with little warning or debate. It was an amendment offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the House Judiciary Committee chairman, and Ryan and McCarthy tried to tell their rank and file they would look foolish if they blew up the ethics process in this manner.
The leaders were steamrolled, with Goodlatte winning 119 to 74.
At the same time Tuesday morning that Trump was tweeting his displeasure, Ryan’s office issued a wordy statement that tried to explain what had happened, and McCarthy held a media briefing. Neither could clearly explain what would come next.
Then the leaders brought in the rank and file for another meeting. Many arguments were made about appearances and how the issue was dominating media coverage.
Oh, and someone brought up Trump.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a recent chairman of the Ethics Committee, said that members of the House GOP leadership mentioned Trump’s opposition to the OCE changes at the brief closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement, giving weight to reversing Monday night’s decision.
“That should be a consideration,” Dent said, explaining how leaders framed the thinking.
Within minutes, lawmakers rolled out of their meeting, having completely reversed course. Nothing would change for the OCE.
Instead, the normally fractious House GOP marched upstairs and displayed the most unity it has shown in the vote for speaker in six years: All but one Republican supported Ryan, who lost 10 Republican votes in his initial vote in October 2015.
“We will deliver,” Ryan told the House in his valedictory speech.
What slays me about this whole “incident” is the fact that the Establishment Republicans seem to be quite content, in their moderately left-leaning stupor, even after the mandate that We The People delivered to them on November 8th, 2016, to be totally oblivious and tone deaf of their Base, average hard working middle-class Americans like you and me.
You know, the people who actually put them into office.
They keep on making bad choices.
Spineless Vichy Republicans have been a barrier to Republican victory for as long as I can remember. Like Quakers, Establishment Republicans seem to believe that passive resistance and reaching out to their sworn enemies as “friends”, is the way to defeat those who oppose you.
It has been especially bad during Obama’s reign, as the House and Senate Republican Leadership apparently cherished their friendship with the Democrats more than they did the wishes of the folks back home. Yes, they talked a good game, but so did Jon Lovitz in those “Liar Sketches” during the old days of Saturday Night Live, back when they were actually funny.
Yeah, my wife Morgan Fairchild. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the ticket!
In 1975, Ronald Wilson Reagan gave a speech which sums up our present situation and average Americans’ visceral disdain for the Professional Politicians, who value the Washingtonian Status Quo, above US.
Americans are hungry to feel once again a sense of mission and greatness.
I don ‘t know about you, but I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, “We must broaden the base of our party” — when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents.
It was a feeling that there was not a sufficient difference now between the parties that kept a majority of the voters away from the polls. When have we ever advocated a closed-door policy? Who has ever been barred from participating?
Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?
…A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.
I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism. It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.
Note to the GOP Elite:
You guys are now facing the same situation that faced Victor von Frankenstein, in the classic movie: You have created this “monster”.
…a pi$$ed-off base who voted for an “outsider”, a non-professional politician talking directly to the people…
And, you have lost control.
Your only hope is to catch this lighting in a bottle and to ride this lightning bolt all the way through Donald J. Trump’s tenure as President of the United States of America, supporting him and passing legislation in accordance with the wishes of the American Voters who made him the “Leader of your Political Party”.
Your phony boloney jobs are at stake.
Until He Comes,