Fast track bill bounces back to Senate

By Cathy Keim

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is alive and well due to political shenanigans to keep it going. When the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill was voted down by Democrats hoping to block TPA, the game was supposed to end. However, Speaker Boehner is determined to work with Majority Leader McConnell in the Senate to present fast track to the president.

Part of what makes this so confusing is that the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working overtime to present the Democratic president the gift that he has been longing for: more authority to pursue multiple trade bills with Congress only able to vote the deal up or down. Why would the Republicans be feverishly pursuing this goal?

The obvious answer is that free trade is so important that any way of achieving it is worth making any sacrifice. That may be what they are telling you, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of ways that this deal could lock the US into untenable trade agreements. Currency manipulation, immigration, patent and copyright issues are just a few of the areas that could turn against American workers.

Even when you look at the Maryland delegation’s votes, you will see strange bedfellows. First, take our two senators who split on the issue. I cannot find a statement by Senator Mikulski about her vote, but she voted no. Since she is not running for office again, she does not have to worry about offending the president.

Senator Cardin voted yes after he introduced an AIPAC backed amendment. AIPAC states:

On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to include an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. It also directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce.

I can understand why Senator Cardin would want to defend Israel when the current administration has shown real hostility towards them, but one has to ask if this is shortsighted on the Senator’s part. Giving the same administration fast track authority when the president has shown little interest in adhering to any restraints put upon him, may in the long run turn out worse for Israel. Perhaps Senator Cardin would do better to vote no and stop the whole fast track process.

Only one other representative from Maryland voted yes on TPA and that was Congressman John Delaney of the 6th Congressional District. He stated in a press release that:

Right now, two things are happening: 1) Congress is considering a bipartisan agreement that instructs the President on trade negotiations and begins the deliberation process for a new accord and 2) China is working on their own regional trade agreement. I support giving President Obama Trade Promotion Authority because it will give the President the tools he needs to negotiate the best trade deal for America and our workers. For the first time, the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority package includes groundbreaking environmental and labor standards and provides unprecedented human rights protections. The Trade Promotion Authority Package gives President Obama new ways to enforce these standards to make sure we’re not having a race to the bottom that drags American workers down. So it’s either going to be our country setting the terms for trade or it’s going to be China. I want our country, our government and this President setting the terms of international trade, not China.

Congressman Harris of the 1st Congressional District voted no. His Facebook page states:

Thousands of citizens in Maryland’s First District contacted my office regarding bills on trade that were recently considered in the House. Today, I voted against the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA) bill for a second time. Representing your views are of the utmost importance to me and it is truly an honor to serve the people in the First District.

He did not listen to his constituents about CRomnibus or voting out Boehner as Speaker of the House, but this time he heard us loud and clear and responded as we asked. I wonder if that is because former Delegate Mike Smigiel has announced that he is opposing Andy in the primary next April?

Representatives Donna Edwards (4th District) and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (8th District) are both running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski. Edwards is running to the left and Van Hollen is obliged to move left too. Van Hollen explains his reasons in a letter to Rep. Levin.

He lists multiple concerns such as currency manipulation, increased investor lawsuits, workers’ rights, environmental issues and more as his reasons for voting no.

Representatives Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Edwards, and Cummings all signed a letter to President Obama explaining why they were voting no on TPA.

For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.

(snip)

Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.

(snip)

Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.

Representative Steny Hoyer is the Minority Whip. He voted against TPA because:

Trade Promotion Authority legislation lays the foundation for how we approach trade policy as part of our overall economic strategy, and we cannot look at trade simply on its own. We must consider all the elements that affect American workers and jobs.

(snip)

Our workers deserve policies that boost our competitiveness and place us at an advantage in global markets, making it easier for them to get ahead.

He then lists a whole smorgasbord of expensive programs that he wants for the workers.

The reasons for the votes cast vary from constituent demands, to fear of China, to wanting more spending, to defending Israel and to pursuing a Senate seat. Some of the reasons I can agree with while others, like wanting the Export-Import Bank renewed, are not acceptable. However, on this important vote I am happy to have the Democrats join with as many Republicans as will stand against TPA.

Keep on calling and prodding your senators to vote against TPA. The cloture vote is expected today, with the final vote coming tomorrow. If the bill survives cloture, it will likely pass, so the ball is now in the Senate’s court.

If at first you don’t succeed in Maryland, try somewhere else

There have been occasions in the recent past where I wrote about state efforts to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, or PCUCPA for short. Needless to say, the concept is one that’s dead on arrival in a Democratic-controlled General Assembly here in Maryland, and that’s been PCUCPA’s fate in its various incarnations over the last several years.

But its fate is far different in states where the unborn are valued as people having a right to life as guaranteed in our Declaration of Independence. As Casey Mattox notes at RedState, there are fourteen states which have their own version of the law, although the enforcement of three have been halted for various (and likely dubious) legal reasons. Better still, a PCUCPA passed the House last month (with opposition mainly provided by liberal Democrats) and awaits action in the Senate.

Obviously the road to passage will become a lot more difficult in the Senate; my suspicion is that the PCUCPA will be filibustered to death because all but one or two of the 45 Democrats there will vote against cloture. It may not even get to 55 votes given the tendency of a couple Republicans to be squishy on pro-life issues. And even if the five Democrats necessary to gain cloture see the light and vote that way – assuming all 55 Republicans get on board, of course – the hurdle would get a lot taller once Barack Obama vetoes the bill, as he certainly would.

However, the bill is also useful in the sense that it may encourage other states without the law – but where most of the Congressional delegation voted for PCUCPA – to try and enact their own versions of it. To me, this is where the battle is properly fought. I may not like the fact that Maryland is a far-left loony bin of a state, but if those people who live there wish to foul their own nest with immoral laws it’s just going to make me have to work a little harder to change hearts and minds. As a citizen therein, I have just as much claim to moral superiority as any of them do. While it may seem counter-intuitive, I don’t believe in Constitutional amendments banning abortion or establishing marriage as between one man and one woman at this time – however, I reserve the right to change my mind on this in the future. Once upon a time I was against term limits, too.

Yet even if you don’t believe life begins at conception, the action of taking the life of a fetus barely a week away from viability (the earliest known premature baby to survive gestated in less than 22 weeks) and proven through research to be capable of feeling pain should be obvious. At this point in the process it should be obvious to the woman carrying the child that she is pregnant.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that those who are militantly pro-abortion are all for abortion up to and including the trip through the birth canal. (In extreme cases, the right doesn’t even stop at birth.) This is the “choice” some would have us believe is a viable option.

The other reason PCUCPA won’t get through Congress is the reason Mattox touched upon – the Left is very afraid that taking a case against PCUCPA would result in the Supreme Court revisiting Roe v. Wade and vacating their previously ill-considered decision – no more ersatz “right to privacy” and restoration of the states’ rights to choose their own path. As slowly as the wheels of justice turn, it may be a case heard under the next administration so it will be interesting to see if any SCOTUS changes play out during the 2016 campaign.

Can we trust our leaders on trade agreements?

By Cathy Keim

It all comes down to trust.

I do not want to minimize the complexity of negotiating trade agreements, particularly ones that involve multiple nations spanning the globe. However, in its eagerness to complete this trade agreement, our government is currently ignoring its citizens across the political spectrum. Perhaps this is just the way it is going to be from now on.

The Constitutional limits have been frayed to the point that nobody expects anybody to have any restraint anymore. This President has overstepped the boundaries frequently and the legislative branch has not peeped. Oh, they may growl occasionally for the rubes back home, but once they are safely back in DC, they roll over and play dead.

The trade agreements that are currently on the table are the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). All of these could be placed on fast track under the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) if the House approves it as the Senate already has done.

Fast track would mean that no amendments could be added to the agreements. They would be voted up or down by a simple majority.

Trade agreements are difficult because they have so many partners all jockeying for the best deal. For this reason, the President has been given TPA routinely since the 70s. So what is different this time? Why are so many people concerned about fast tracking these agreements?

For many of us, the answer is that trust has been broken. We see the President overreaching his authority repeatedly, so why would we want to give him more authority?

What is so difficult to understand about this? And yet, our senators just gave him fast track and the leaders in the House are pushing to follow right behind.

The House Republicans could block TPA in a heartbeat, but they are so mesmerized by “free trade” that they cannot pull their eyes away and consider the big picture.

The Democrats loathe these bills because their party is owned by the unions, but they are disciplined and will follow their leader to the end. Harry Reid did not vote for TPA, but he knew it had the votes to pass in the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is walking a much tougher line. She must supply enough Democrat votes to get this over the finish line, but she is reluctant to vote for it herself or to push one more Democrat to vote for it than she has to. They are counting the votes to see how many safe Democrats must fall on their sword to make this happen for the President.

After much thought, it seems that the final points to consider are:

  1. The vote for TPA is essentially a vote for TPP. No trade agreement has ever been stopped once it came under fast track.
  2. Congress should not vote on bills it has not read. This bill is over 800 pages. Senators Cruz and Paul signed into the locked room to read this bill, but nobody has said how long they took to read it. Personally, if they were not in there for several hours, I cannot agree with the comment that they “read” the bill. A question for your congressman is: have you read the bill, and if so, how long did it take you?
  3. This President has overstepped his authority on so many issues that he should not be rewarded with additional authority.
  4. Congress should quit cowering and take responsibility for their Constitutional duties, rather than voting away responsibility to the executive branch.
  5. The trade agreements can still be worked on without fast tracking them.
  6. TPA or fast tracking can be considered again after the next President is in office if the new executive renews trust.

The lack of transparency of this administration, the outright lies, and the total disregard for their Constitutional limits demands that Congress respond with strength and firmness. So far, we have seen neither.

I cannot tell you which evils are going to be unleashed upon the American workers if TPA is passed, but only that they will be many. This will play out exactly like Obamacare: slowly but surely – and always to our detriment – one horror after another will be exposed.

Can we trust our administration on trade?

The question is worth asking: Do you really want Congress to give this administration fast track on a secret trade deal?

I received a phone call earlier this week from Grover Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform, urging me to tell my congressman that I want him to vote for the trade promotion authority (TPA) because it will be good for America and bring jobs. I let them connect me to Congressman Harris’ office and then told the staffer that I was adamantly opposed to TPA.

I found it very interesting that Grover Norquist would be pushing this legislation. What does it have to do with tax reform? At his website he has an op-ed posted that paints a rosy picture of all the advantages of trade. While I agree that trade is important, I find myself wondering what is behind his support? He didn’t mention taxes at all.

Norquist has a record of pushing immigration reform, saying that people are an asset, not a liability.

I do not see people as a liability, but I can see that allowing millions of illegal immigrants into our work force would displace American workers.

Ask yourself why should a citizen support giving this president more authority to expedite an enormous piece of legislation, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that is so secret that only people with security clearances are allowed to read it. It is kept under lock and key. The representatives can go in to read it, but they cannot take any notes out.

This sounds like something that we have to pass to find out what is in it! That has worked out well for us previously, hasn’t it?

Even more mind-boggling is that this is a “living” agreement. It can be changed in the future, but the changes would not come before Congress. You have to trust your president a lot to give away all Congressional oversight. Not only that, but the other countries in this enormous agreement could decide to admit another country to the agreement or to change the rules, but once again, Congress would have no opportunity to block any of these future changes once they pass TPA.

Congress would have a chance to review the deal, but their hands would be tied by not being able to amend it, they would have a very short time to discuss it, and it would only require 51 votes in the Senate to pass rather than the normal 60.

The lack of transparency and mistrust of our leaders is enough to make me skeptical of increased executive authority. But it gets better.

Senator Jeff Sessions, who chairs a senate immigration panel, issued an alert which begins:

Congress has the responsibility to ensure that any international trade agreement entered into by the United States must serve the national interest, not merely the interests of those crafting the proposal in secret. It must improve the quality of life, the earnings, and the per-capita wealth of everyday working Americans. The sustained long-term loss of middle class jobs and incomes should compel all lawmakers to apply added scrutiny to a “fast-track” procedure wherein Congress would yield its legislative powers and allow the White House to implement one of largest global financial agreements in our history—comprising at least 12 nations and nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP. The request for fast-track also comes at a time when the Administration has established a recurring pattern of sidestepping the law, the Congress, and the Constitution in order to repeal sovereign protections for U.S. workers in deference to favored financial and political allies.

Then he lists five problems with the current legislation, which subsequently did pass the Senate and is now before the House.

  1. Consolidation Of Power In The Executive Branch.
  2. Increased Trade Deficits.
  3. Ceding Sovereign Authority To International Powers.
  4. Currency Manipulation.
  5. Immigration Increases.

Please read his alert for all the details, but lets just look at the immigration issue since Michael touched on it Monday.

Immigration is bound to be a big topic in the upcoming presidential election. If TPA and TPP pass, some objectors have said that it would allow free movement of workers amongst the nations in the agreement just as workers are allowed to move around the EU. That would mean that the USA would not be able to refuse to let workers into our country.

Senator Sessions added in a later release that:

Fast-track includes negotiating objectives to remove barriers to services that could easily be used by the Administration to justify the expansion of foreign worker programs. There is also an entire chapter on “Temporary Entry” in TPP, which could be used to facilitate the admission of more temporary foreign workers into the United States. Even if immigration or temporary entry prohibitions were included in fast track, the negotiating objectives laid out by fast track are not binding on the Administration. If any future trade deal, TPP or otherwise, contains language that paves the way for more foreign workers, members will be powerless to strike the offending provision. Additionally, the “living agreement” provision allows for subsequent amendments to the trade agreement after its initial implementation, creating an altogether new avenue for changes to foreign worker programs. Finally, the President has refused to foreclose the possibility of using executive actions or side agreements to facilitate foreign worker expansions, as he did with South Korea as part of the recent South Korean trade deal. In short, fast-track creates broad new avenues for the White House to bring in more foreign workers – whether in the light of day, or behind closed doors no one can open – while giving up for six years the meaningful ability of Congress to do anything about it.

Immigration is bound to be a big topic in the upcoming presidential election. The lawsuit brought by 26 states against the executive overreach on immigration has slowed things down enough to buy some time to debate this issue during the presidential campaign season.

Immigration and Common Core need to be brought up at every chance so that we can see where the candidates really stand on these issues. We need to push hard to get the truth out of the candidates and to convince them that we will hold them accountable should we decide to put them in office.

Between illegal immigration, the refugee resettlement programs which bring in 70,000 people a year from some of the most vocal enemies of our country, and work visas that are hard to track to actually know how many are here, we need to take a breather on immigration. I would welcome the candidate that would say we need time to assimilate those immigrants that are legally here, to build a fence to stop the madness on our southern border, and to screen any potential refugees to see if they are jihadists posing as refugees to gain access to America.

Let’s do our best to find that candidate and then to get him or her elected! In the meantime, call your congressman and tell them to vote NO on TPA.

So believers now equate with the KKK?

Over a year ago, the wheels of justice began rolling with a lawsuit questioning whether the Bladensburg Peace Cross inappropriately established religion. In the ensuing months, the claims and counterclaims have trickled in, and onetime Maryland U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas has occasionally kept me (and others) updated on the process.

But now the case has taken an interesting turn:

Question: Should the federal courts allow comfortable white atheists to use the suffering of black Americans as a battering ram to force their opinions on all Americans?

Answer: We’re about to find out, with the Bladensburg Memorial WWI Peace Cross case.

Earlier this month, the atheists filed an “expert witness” opinion about the Memorial. In their opinion, the “expert” chosen by the atheists pulled the Ku Klux Klan card, associating the Memorial Peace Cross with the Klan and its racist ideology.

It is not the first time in this case that the atheists have hijacked black suffering in America to force their views upon the rest of us. In their initial complaint in federal court, the atheists attacked the Memorial Peace Cross on two fronts: first, under the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment to the Constitution ; and second, under Title 42, United States Code, section 1983 (42 USC 1983).

42 USC 1983 dates to the aftermath of the Civil War. It was one of the so-called “Klan Acts” enacted by Congress to protect newly-freed black people from mistreatment by state and local governments. Today the atheists are trying to use 42 USC 1983 it to dismantle the Peace Cross. So much for congressional intent.

In my judgment, playing the Ku Klux Klan card is an atheist “Hail Mary” pass (with apologies to Our Lady) to try and rescue what is in my judgment a doomed lawsuit. By pulling the KKK card, they have drawn a line in the sand and dared federal Judge Deborah Chasenow to step across.

In 2015 the Bladensburg WWI Memorial Peace Cross has about as much to do with the Klan as the guillotine has to do with modern humanism. Pulling the KKK card to attack the Memorial is the next-to-last refuge of a scoundrel. Let’s see if this group of privileged white malcontents gets away with it.

Knowing the political climate in Maryland, they just might. Bear in mind that this case has dragged on for over a year, and it’s fortunate that Douglas is assisting the defendants on a pro bono basis.

But it’s always fascinating to me to see what else Douglas is up to, and it turns out he has a couple other irons in the fire.

One is a PAC he created called the Job Homes Future PAC, which, as its mission, “aims to put the American workforce back where it belongs:   in first place on our nation’s priority list.  It is time to pick a fight with Congress on behalf of the American workforce.” (Emphasis in original.) As in many cases I’ve seen over the years, I suspect this may be the prelude to a political run.

Further evidence comes in a cryptic comment left on Richard’s Facebook page after he appeared before the Charles County Republican Central Committee in April:

Great having you join us. I really enjoyed your words to us. I totally agree with your positions and look forward to supporting your campaign to give Maryland a responsive representative in 2016. Hoyer must go.

It’s interesting that, while no one has filed the FEC campaign finance paperwork to challenge Steny Hoyer on the GOP side, two candidates are already on the GOP primary ballot – Mark Arness, who lost in the 2014 GOP primary to Chris Chaffee, and Charles Faddis, a former CIA officer for whom Congress runs in the family – his grandfather, also named Charles, was a House member in the World War II era. So Richard would be joining in a contested race should he choose that route, but neither of the two have raised a significant amount of money yet. With the recent entrance of Chrys Kefalas into the race, the Senate nomination would also be contested should Douglas choose that route again.

Of course, Richard may also choose to stay on the civilian side as he’s become a reasonably in-demand political commentator based on his experiences with luminaries like Senator Jesse Helms and with foreign policy and the role of the Senate.

In any case, he will be one to watch as 2016 approaches and this court case reaches its conclusion in the federal district court.

Will Maryland join a Convention of States or an Article V Convention?

By Cathy Keim

The push for an Article V Convention is growing nationwide, and it is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. The citizens are aware that they are not being heard and they are looking for ways to correct this.

An Article V Convention or Convention of the States is one of two ways to amend the Constitution of the United States. In case you’ve forgotten, here is Article V:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, (emphasis added) or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate

All previous amendments have been through Congress. However, the Convention of States method has been utilized to put pressure on Congress to act. For example, the states wanted to have direct election of their senators but Congress would not oblige – so the states began the process of calling for a convention of states. Once they got within one state of achieving the two thirds needed, Congress acted rather than losing its prerogative. (This led to the Seventeenth Amendment.)

Maryland has legislation under consideration now which states:

Applying to the U.S. Congress for an amendments convention called under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that affirms every citizen’s freedom to vote and restores free and fair elections in America.

This bill is filed as HJ2 by Delegate Sheila Hixson and is cross-filed with SJ2 by Senator Paul Pinsky. It was introduced last session also, but did not come to the floor for a vote. (Editor’s note: The Senate version from 2014, however, passed committee 9-2 with all three Republicans on the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee voting yes.)

Reading the bill summary left me perplexed. Who thinks we need an amendment to restore free and fair elections? My mind thought of voter fraud, but who would want to amend the Constitution to fix that issue? After some phone calls to Delegate Hixson and Senator Pinsky’s offices, though, the confusion was cleared up.

This bill is the result of the work of Get Money Out of Maryland (GMOM) and its allies. They claim to be bipartisan, but the groups in the allies list lean distinctly progressive.

The bills have a total of sixty-nine sponsors of which two are Republicans, so I suppose that makes it bipartisan.

GMOM states:

The Citizens United v FEC decision by the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for unlimited campaign expenditures in elections, which corporations and the extremely wealthy have used with devastating impact in the last few elections. This misguided decision reversed decades of campaign finance regulation at the state and federal level, turning our public elections into private auctions. With regard to voting rights, Supreme Court justices in the Bush v Gore decision declared that there is no individual right to vote in the Constitution and in its aftermath, there has been a concerted attack upon the right to vote across the country. These legal travesties require remedy if we are going to preserve representative democracy and create a more perfect union. (Emphasis in original.)

According to Senator Pinsky’s spokesman, the principal point of this amendment is that there is too much money in politics since the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case opened the floodgates. GMOM wants the Citizens United ruling reversed so the only option is to exert pressure on Congress via an Article V Convention to amend the Constitution. Their expectation is that Congress will act if the states approach the two-thirds approval level as happened with the direct election of senators.

GMOM states that Vermont, California, Illinois, and New Jersey have already passed the “Democracy” amendment and several other states, such as Maryland, are considering the bill now.

Working from the opposite side of the political spectrum is the group Citizens for Self-Governance which states:

Citizens concerned for the future of their country, under a federal government that’s increasingly bloated, corrupt, reckless and invasive, have a constitutional option. We can call a Convention of States to return the country to its original vision of a limited federal government that is of, by and for the people.

They also add:

Rather than calling a convention for a specific amendment, Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) has launched the Convention of the States Project to urge state legislatures to properly use Article V to call a convention for a particular subject—reducing the power of Washington, D.C. It is important to note that a convention for an individual amendment (e.g. a Balanced Budget Amendment) would be limited to that single idea. Requiring a balanced budget is a great idea that CSG fully supports. Congress, however, could comply with a Balanced Budget Amendment by simply raising taxes. We need spending restraints as well. We need restraints on taxation. We need prohibitions against improper federal regulation. We need to stop unfunded mandates.

Both sides of the debate assure their followers that the Article V Convention cannot spiral out of control and rewrite the entire Constitution once they convene. Their main defense against this is that any amendment that comes out of the convention still has to be approved by three quarters of the states, thus giving ample room for rogue amendments to be stopped.

You may want to keep an eye on how Maryland’s effort plays out this legislative session – although from the progressive side, it still illustrates the discontent that is growing as citizens realize that their overlords in DC are not listening to them. It is striking (and terrifying) that the progressives feel that President Obama is not doing enough to reach their goals, while the conservatives feel attacked and denigrated by their weak and ineffective leadership under Speaker Boehner and Senate Leader McConnell.

Perhaps the only people happy with the current system are the politicians that are in power and the wealthy elites and crony capitalists that consort with and fund their campaigns. Outside that narrow group, there is a battle brewing.

Further humiliation?

March 12, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics · Comments Off 

When Barbara Mikulski announced she wouldn’t seek another term the other day, one thing I pointed out was the effect on downticket races for Congress. Sure enough, we already have two members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation signaling their intent to run – Eighth District Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Fourth District Congresswoman Donna Edwards have indicated they are in, although in Edwards’ case she’s looking to expand her reach as a Senator.

Edwards’ gaffe-tastic logo error may be a sign of how things will go in the race to succeed her, particularly as the man who “ran” the weakest statewide Democratic race in recent memory decided he wants in on the race. Yes, Anthony Brown has his sights set on a Congressional seat to replace Edwards.

I will grant that running in a Congressional race in one’s home county is a much easier push than running a statewide race with no real political record to speak of save eight years in the House of Delegates and eight years riding on the coattails of Martin O’Malley. But Brown took a race that was all but conceded to him at the beginning of 2014 (and even after the primary in June) and imploded thanks to a poor campaign and woeful lack of accomplishment. In Democratic circles, though, that’s a resume enhancement so one would have to make Brown an odds-on favorite.

Yet there is also the matter of a $500,000 loan to his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign by the Laborers’ Political League Educational Fund as well as over $30,000 in other unpaid bills Brown owed as of his last financial report. I’m definitely not an expert on campaign finance, but ask yourself: would you give a campaign contribution to a guy who’s racked up so much debt needing to be repaid?

Fortunately for Brown, for all intents and purposes the Democratic primary is the election in that district - Edwards won both general elections in the current Fourth District with over 70 percent of the vote. But he will certainly have to fend off a number of challengers to make it through the primary and job one for the other challengers will be to remind voters how Brown gacked up a shoo-in gubernatorial race by running an incompetent campaign.

It would be a lot harder for Brown to lose the Fourth District race to a Republican, but losing to the GOP is something with which he has familiarity. I would be very surprised if establishment Democrats in that district back Brown.

Congressman Harris, we are waiting!

By Cathy Keim

The failure of Congress to hold President Obama accountable for his increasingly aggressive executive overreach is about to make them irrelevant. They have reneged on their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The protection against a tyrant that our Founders put into our Constitution was the separation of powers. Congress has abdicated their responsibility to resist and stop illegal actions by this president particularly by the power of the purse.

Back on January 6, 2015, in response to pressure from many angry constituents over his vote to re-elect John Boehner as Speaker of the House, Andy Harris posted the following on his Facebook page:

In November, Speaker Boehner was re-nominated by the Republican House Conference without a single opponent stepping forward. That was the appropriate time for an alternative to step forward and be considered by House Republicans. Today’s vote on the House floor was simply whether Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner was going to be Speaker of the House. I hope that we can now move forward and work with the Senate to pass common-sense conservative policies. If Speaker Boehner does not deliver on his promises, a Republican House Conference can be called by 50 members and I would join in that call. (Emphasis mine.)

I have no problem standing up for conservative principles to the Speaker and Republican leadership, such as my vote against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, as well as my votes against the Ryan-Murray budget deal and debt ceiling increases. Please know that I will continue to fight for conservative values and Maryland’s First District in the 114th Congress.

So, I am asking, “Congressman Harris, Speaker Boehner has clearly failed miserably at stopping the executive amnesty overreach. What are you going to do about it?”

The loss of jobs to illegal immigrants, the cost of welfare benefits, Social Security payments for older people that have not paid into the system, tax credits from the IRS for the previous three years amounting to thousands of dollars, etc. etc. The costs are extremely high both in taxpayer dollars expended and in stress to our citizens that cannot find jobs.

Congressman Harris, the damage from this illegal amnesty is far reaching. Again, I urge: please tell us what you plan to do about it.

P.S. Governor Hogan, our state budget is already in the red. This amnesty is going to cause additional drains on our taxpayers. Maryland joined in supporting the executive overreach prior to you being sworn in, but I cannot find any statement from you to say that you disagree with the amnesty.

In a “friend of the court” brief filed Monday, attorneys general from 12 states and the District of Columbia threw their backing behind the president’s executive actions, which could help nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the U.S., allowing them to seek work without fear of deportation.

Officials from 12 states – Washington, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Vermont – and the District of Columbia filed the brief Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

In fact, according to WorldNetDaily, your press secretary ducked questions on the subject when asked.

Immigration and the DHS

By Cathy Keim

I thought that we would have a one-week reprieve to fight the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding showdown, but Boehner and the House caved today. Boehner passed the clean funding bill with 182 Democrats and 75 Republicans voting yes and 167 Republicans voting no.

We can take a moment to look at what the struggle was about. At its most basic level we had about 50 to 55 Congressmen and a handful of Senators that were fighting to stop the illegal amnesty overreach of the President. These few are men of principle that were standing for the rule of law that is the only protection the states have against federal dereliction of duty. At PJ Media, Andy McCarthy says:

The federal usurpation of the states’ capacity to defend themselves makes Congress responsible for the security and economic welfare of the states. Toward that end, Congress has enacted laws to protect the states against the wages of illegal immigration – the threats posed to public safety, to social services underwritten by state taxpayers, to the job market, and to the rule of law. These are the kinds of laws the states would enact themselves, and would enforce in a manner consistent with local conditions and sensibilities, if the federal government had not gobbled up their powers.

Those congressional laws are the states’ only defense. Those laws are what President Obama, through his illegal executive actions, is eviscerating. Therefore, Congress not only has an obligation to protect the institution of Congress, the legislative authority of which President Obama is usurping. Congress also has an extraordinary duty to defend the security of the states, which federal law has rendered defenseless.

Republicans should stop talking about this lawless amnesty as if it is only Obama’s decree. From the point of view of the states, the offense is coming from the federal government – not just the president. Congressional Republicans are a part of that government. They have their own constitutional obligations. If they aid and abet the president’s shredding of immigration laws that are meant to protect the states, then they are betraying the states and their citizens every bit as much as the president is. (emphasis mine)

The federal government has extended its control over the immigration laws and regulations so that no state can protect itself from the effects of immigration. Notice that I said immigration, not just illegal immigration.

It is time to take note that our federal government has been bringing in thousands of immigrants legally by deeming them refugees. Since they are classified as refugees, they are entitled to all the welfare benefits immediately upon entering the USA. In addition, these refugees are placed around the country (called seeding) so that they can change the very fabric of our nation. The states are not allowed to refuse these refugees, but they are required to pay for the additional costs due to increased school enrollments, health care costs, housing, etc.

There are reports that the illegal immigrants that this amnesty covers will be deemed refugees so that they can collect the benefits that they otherwise would not be eligible for.

Many, if not most, of the current refugees are Muslims, including refugees from Syria. We are completely unable to ascertain whether these refugees are actually fleeing for their lives or whether they are coming into our country for the purpose of jihad. At this time, we have not been giving priority to Christian refugees despite the brutal persecution that is occurring in the Middle East.

The State Department assures us that the refugees are vetted to weed out any danger. This is the same State Department that cannot state that ISIS is a radical Islamist organization.

If you want to do due diligence on the refugee resettlement problem, then you must go to Refugee Resettlement Watch and start reading what Ann Corcoran has been blogging about for years.

We need to demand that our leaders stop the flow of immigrants, both legal and illegal, into our country to give us time to assess who is coming. We really do not know how many illegal and legal immigrants are here. We have no idea whether they are assimilating into our way of life. There are dangerous indicators that assimilation is not occurring as it did with previous immigrant waves due to the multi-cultural mania that pervades our schools and media.

I was told last week that some students at our local high school will not even stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. If we cannot get our homegrown youth to exercise rudimentary allegiance, then why would we think that we can assimilate masses of people from societies that loathe our way of life?

Now, back to the DHS debacle. We needed our Republican leaders to use the power of the purse to shut down Obama’s illegal amnesty. They had the ability to do this. The House could have refused to give one penny to pay for the illegal amnesty. If the Senate continued to refuse to pass a bill that would provide funding for DHS, but not fund the illegal portions, then the House should not have budged. They should have stood their ground and let the DHS shut down.

About 200,000 of the 230,000 DHS employees are essential, so they would have shown up for work anyway. Andy McCarthy points out:

Homeland security in the United States is more than adequately provided for by the hundreds of billions of dollars that continue to be spent each year — and that Congress has already approved for this year — on the Justice Department, the FBI, the 17-agency intelligence community, the armed forces, and state and local police forces.

Boehner, Andy Harris and the other GOP congressmen should have found the courage to join the bold few men of principle that are standing up for us. You can see who voted no on the final vote on Friday by going here. These were the men that were standing on principle that Obama’s amnesty was unconstitutional.

Today Andy Harris voted no for the DHS bill, but it was too late. Boehner passed it with Democrat votes. The betrayal is complete. Andy Harris will tell us that he voted no and and that should be good enough for us. Do not fall for the final vote tally. You must look at the whole episode. The Republicans that voted no to the DHS funding bill today should now do what they should have done in January: vote John Boehner out as Speaker.

Citizens’ Mandate a sign of the times

By Cathy Keim

A few days ago Michael posted the question: How will people respond if Jeb Bush is the GOP nominee this time around? He gave quite a few options to choose from. So far only one comment has popped up on the blog comment section and it was not positive towards Jeb.

Personally, I am not in favor of another Bush running for president, even if he was the one that was supposed to be president according to GOP folklore. We are not a kingdom, but a republic. We do not have royalty and do not need another Kennedy, Clinton or Bush for our survival. In fact, a Clinton or Bush as our next president might be more detrimental than other choices. I know that Bush is considered the lesser of two evils in a Clinton-Bush match up, but he still has terrible positions on Common Core and immigration, which are two huge issues.

Rather than waiting for the elites in the GOP and the donor class to tell us whom we may vote for, we should be actively working towards vetting and then getting behind a conservative candidate early. Marylanders do not have much of a part to play in the early primaries, but we can still do our homework and then support our candidate early so that they have a better chance of making it through the primary process without being picked off one by one as we have seen in the past.

The GOP leadership has already shown itself to be arrogant and disinclined to actually listen to their base. They are willing to campaign to the base, but not to actually govern for them once elected. Jeb Bush has made it clear that he will win the nomination his way or just go home. He is not going to “pander” to the base.

In an effort to talk some sense into the GOP elites, a group of conservative leaders got together and wrote a Citizens’ Mandate after the November 2014 landslide elections. The hope was to motivate the GOP majorities in the House and Senate to actually stop the unconstitutional overreaches that the Obama administration has made a daily occurrence.

Despite the November landslide election, the first things the Republicans did was pass the CRomnibus bill in the lame duck session and then re-elect Boehner as the Speaker of the House. The current DHS funding fight was supposed to be where the GOP finally stood their ground against the executive overreach. So far, this has been less than an awe inspiring fight as Mitch McConnell frantically tries to pass the hot potato back to the House rather than pressuring eight vulnerable Democrat Senators to vote for cloture. The House loudly proclaims that they have done their duty, but that the awful Senate won’t do their part.

Finally, you begin to figure out that it is all showmanship to make the rubes out there think that they really, really did try hard to beat back the out-of-control executive branch, but it just wasn’t possible. Next stop, immigration “reform” as the Chamber of Commerce and business leaders wanted all along.

This means that many people will not see the point in voting Republican again. If we give them a landslide victory and this is what we get, then if Jeb Bush is the nominee, I predict that many people will just stay home.

The GOP is quite sure this will not happen as the Democrats are so much worse. But are they?

It is time for the GOP leadership to read the Citizens’ Mandate carefully and think about their choices. Andy McCarthy in National Review wrote about the Mandate. Please read the whole article, but McCarthy concludes:

Conservatives fear that Republicans, with their eyes on 2016 and their ears on professional political consultants, have drawn the wrong lesson from last November’s good fortune. Voters are not suddenly infatuated with Republicans. Voters are alarmed at the direction in which President Obama is taking the country, and they elected the only available alternative.

The fate of 2016’s race for the White House will be decided by how well Republicans heed the mandate of 2014’s referendum on Obama’s policies. Will Republicans use the next two years to stop the president? If, instead, they use the next two years to further enable the president’s fundamental transformation of the United States, they will not have convinced the country that they can govern. They will have convinced their base that they are not worthy of support.

Then Ann Coulter piles on:

Why don’t Republicans spend all their airtime attacking the media for lying about what Obama’s amnesty does and what the Democrats are doing? It’s hard to avoid concluding that Republicans aren’t trying to make the right arguments. In fact, it kind of looks like they’re intentionally throwing the fight on amnesty.

If a Republican majority in both houses of Congress can’t stop Obama from issuing illegal immigrants Social Security cards and years of back welfare payments, there is no reason to vote Republican ever again.

In January, Diana Waterman, the head of the Maryland GOP, sent out a letter saying:

If we want to be successful next year and beyond, we must continue to work together!! Please work with me to foster this unity – we have shown we can do it. We must not lose sight of our goals – victory in 2016 and 2018!!!

No, my goals are not victory for the GOP in 2016 and 2018. My goals are to stop the fundamental changes that the Obama administration is ramming down our throats each and every day. The Republican Party is currently the only vehicle available to me to try and stop the disaster. If the Republican Party continues to show that it cannot or will not make the effort, then no, I will not support them in 2016.

There are many others that feel the same way. We may not be a majority, but I suspect there are enough of us to keep the GOP nominees from winning. I will not stay at home. I will vote, but it will not be for Republican candidates if they continue this farce.

A question of priorities

The “90 days of terror” I call the General Assembly session do not begin until next Wednesday, but once some incumbent members were safely re-elected they pre-filed a small number of bills in each chamber – 39 in the House and 15 in the Senate.

Pre-filed bills are interesting because it gives a glimpse into what those members who introduce them believe to be burning questions. In the Senate, it’s apparent Senator Joan Carter Conway is most worried about the availability of prescription drugs in a state of emergency while Delegate Cheryl Glenn believes the establishment of the Hattie N. Harrison Memorial Scholarship for “students who pledge to work in fields of critical shortage in the State on completion of their studies” is top on her list. (Harrison was a longtime Delegate from Baltimore City who died in office early in the 2013 session.) Respectively, these bills were dubbed SB1 and HB1, presumably since they were the first bills requested for filing.

This stands in opposition to our Congress, which tends to use the lowest number bills for priority items. For example, there is no H.R. 1 yet in the 114th Congress because they reserve the number for the Speaker’s use on a bill he deems a priority. (It was used for the Tax Reform Act of 2014 in the last session.) S. 1 this term is the bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which Congress has tried to pass on several prior occasions.

Of the 54 bills in the hopper so far, most deal with mundane issues. But there are a few interesting Senate bills which could have merit: Senator Jim Brochin is trying to eliminate the annual indexing of the gasoline tax to inflation, while bills to exempt certain non-profits from paying a state-mandated minimum wage increase and to open up the election canvassing process to outside observers were introduced by Senator Joe Getty before he took a position in the Hogan administration. (This is interesting as Delegate Kelly Schulz also pre-filed bills on the House side. I’d be curious to know who would be considered to be the lead sponsor in the cases where that sponsor is no longer in the MGA.)

On the House side, Delegate Glenn also wants to accelerate the already-adopted $10.10 per hour minimum wage from 2018 to 2015 while Delegate Aruna Miller seeks to ban e-cigarettes from indoor venues. On the good side, Delegate Schulz wants to make sure only citizens register to vote, stop Common Core in its tracks, and eliminate one piece of the gun law.

Obviously there will be a lot more than this. Just as an example, one prospective bill that aroused a spirited discussion at an event for Delegate-elect Carl Anderton earlier tonight is Anderton’s as-yet-unreleased proposal to address our tax differential, an idea for which Salisbury mayor Jim Ireton (a possible 2018 opponent) is also pushing - however, the two probably differ on how to accomplish this goal. Once the legislation is written and introduced, it can get a fair hearing.

This also gives me the opportunity to remind readers about a great organization of volunteers called Maryland Legislative Watch, for which I have read and evaluated bills the last two sessions (and would gladly do so again.) They are a key to a more informed public, so I encourage you to check them out. Chances are we will once again see over 2.500 bills introduced and if the first 54 are any guide, it will be yet another intriguing session. And we haven’t even seen Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda yet.

Harris explains his vote for Boehner

Needless to say, many conservatives around the country are disappointed (but not surprised) that the House of Representatives they elected to be the counterweight to Barack Obama decided to elect as its Speaker an insider who has shown little fortitude in fighting for the cause of limited government.

Included in that number who re-elected Boehner as Speaker was our own representative, Andy Harris. He took to social media to explain why, but I think it’s relevant to express my thoughts on why his assessment was incorrect by dividing his statement into portions.

In November, Speaker Boehner was re-nominated by the Republican House Conference without a single opponent stepping forward. That was the appropriate time for an alternative to step forward and be considered by House Republicans.

A lot changed in two months. The House vote occurred on November 13, before Barack Obama followed through on his pledge to take executive action on immigration and before the CRomnibus bill was voted on – in fact, the idea was hatched around that time. It was his handling of these two events and unwillingness to take a stand which included any slim prospect of a government shutdown which angered a number of conservatives. Too many things were taken off the table.

So the timing argument isn’t one which holds water with me.

Today’s vote on the House floor was simply whether Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner was going to be Speaker of the House.

Wrong. There was no chance Pelosi was going to be Speaker. The idea was to bring a second ballot in the hopes that Boehner would see the light, withdraw his name, and allow a compromise candidate to emerge. As Erick Erickson wrote, fellow Ohioan Jim Jordan may have been that guy.

I hope that we can now move forward and work with the Senate to pass common-sense conservative policies. If Speaker Boehner does not deliver on his promises, a Republican House Conference can be called by 50 members and I would join in that call.

Color me extremely, extremely skeptical on that one. We have a four-year track record of a lack of leadership and of kicking multiple cans down the road. And I can already see the excuses.

Over the summer: “We can’t call a conference now – we’re in the middle of working on the FY2016 budget and it would be a distraction.”

Come next fall: “We can’t call a conference now because it would handicap our nominee in 2016. The media would have a field day.”

In 2016: “It’s too close to the election, we can’t risk the infighting and distractions.” And so on. It would be a waiting game where they would hope to outlast our side.

I have no problem standing up for conservative principles to the Speaker and Republican leadership, such as my vote against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, as well as my votes against the Ryan-Murray budget deal and debt ceiling increases.

But you voted for the CRomnibus, while civil libertarians dislike your vote for CISPA and FISA, so both these items you cite are somewhat mixed bags on the whole.

Please know that I will continue to fight for conservative values and Maryland’s First District in the 114th Congress.

You’re not off to a good start.

I go back to something I highlighted in a previous post on this subject, which reprinted a letter from the Wicomico Society of Patriots:

I am aware that it is potentially politically dangerous for Andy Harris to vote against Boehner. If Boehner were to win anyway, then he can retaliate by removing people from their prestigious positions. Andy Harris is on the appropriations committee, one of the most powerful committees. However, we did not vote for Andy Harris so that he could protect his political power in DC. We voted for Andy Harris to stop the Obama agenda. Boehner has been completely ineffectual in stopping Obama.

Sadly. John Boehner is the kind of leader who would be so petty as to punish conservative opponents – whose constituencies are the backbone of the Republican Party – so he’s no leader at all. If only he would exhibit the same backbone to the opposition. It will be worth checking out what happens to the 25 Republicans who did not support Boehner – locally Rep. Scott Rigell, who represents the Eastern Shore of Virginia, was among those opposed.

As for Harris, the questions have to be asked: is this the first major signal of the slide toward the center exhibited by those who have become comfortable inside the Beltway? And how much of an effect will it have on his 2016 prospects? It’s early but if there’s a sentiment underneath the surface that says a more conservative alternative would get the grassroots support that is needed to overcome Andy’s financial advantage – basically, that campaign would have to begin in the next few weeks given the 2016 primary is tentatively scheduled for April 5.

It’s clear that in its current configuration the First District is a Republican stronghold as Harris won in 2012 with 63% of the vote only to breach the 70% threshold in November – yet against a completely unknown, underfunded, and outclassed opponent Harris got just 78% of the primary vote in 2014. (Harris was unopposed in the primary in 2012 and beat Rob Fisher with 67% in 2010.) So Harris does have his detractors and hasn’t faced a “name” Republican opponent since his primary win (with 43%) over then-Congressman Wayne Gilchrest and fellow State Senator E.J. Pipkin.

There’s also been the sentiment that the Eastern Shore needs “one of ours” in the House. While Harris is not a stranger to the Eastern Shore, one part of the reason we were represented by Frank Kratovil for two years was Frank’s successful case that he had “Eastern Shore values” because he lived here (albeit as a come-here who lived almost within sight of the Bay Bridge.)

Perhaps the two saving graces that Andy will have is distance from the election and the slight chance that Boehner figures out the reason we elected more Republicans to the House. But that light you might see looking toward Washington is that of a whole lot of bridges burning.

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    Maryland Primary Election will be April 26, 2016.

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