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.

Upon further review…

You can tell I was beat last night when I wrote my previous post – driving for the better part of 10 hours will do that to a body.

But there was a key element I forgot to bring up about the 1,100 mile overall trip I took with Kim and her daughter to see my daughter become a wife. I saw a lot of farm fields, cows, and even a few horses and buggies riding through Ohio’s Amish country. One thing I didn’t see, though, was a whole lot of Obama or Romney signs or stickers in the two states which are considered the “battleground” states of my trip – Ohio and Pennsylvania.

That’s not to say there wasn’t some element of politics at play, and perhaps the fact I did the vast majority of the driving along interstate highways may have had something to do with the dearth of political propaganda. This may have been particularly true in Pennsylvania, where the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-70 simply served as a conduit for my passage. But it seemed the only place where I saw Romney and Obama battle it out was in Maryland, and that was a one-sided contest in Mitt Romney’s favor. Most of these signs were along U.S. 50 on the Eastern Shore.

Yet even driving through Ohio it seemed like there was much more interest in Josh Mandel’s U.S. Senate campaign than in the presidential sweepstakes. I saw a number of his signs dotting the landscape of rural northeastern and central Ohio. Similarly, there were quite a few Dan Bongino signs in Maryland with far fewer calling for Ben Cardin’s re-election.

Obviously these anecdotal results are skewed by the small, relatively conservative enclaves I drove through – perhaps driving through Montgomery or Prince George’s counties or through suburban Cleveland one is regularly greeted by signs professing undying support for Democratic candidates. That may mean a little more as these roads are somewhat more heavily traveled than the byways through Amish country in Ohio or U.S. 50 on the Shore. (On the other hand, a pocket of rural Obama support can be found just across the state line in Virginia through some of the hamlets along U.S. 13. The small Obama yard signs are in front of houses ranging from decently kept to barely structurally sound shacks, while the larger Romney, Scott Rigell, and George Allen signs are usually next to farm fields.)

But there is a value in yard signs as well. When I dabbled in precinct organization, I always wanted to have more yard signs on the block than the other guy did. If I couldn’t do that, I wanted at least one because it presented the fact that not everyone was willing to follow the commonly accepted norm that Democrats were entitled to rule my birthplace by fiat. Now while I rarely won the overall war, I think I did pretty well in my own precinct – not much of a consolation prize, but one nonetheless.

Yet that’s how political battles are won – one precinct at a time. Moreover, areas where one is strong can be used to provide more help to weaker areas. That’s why it burns me – and many others – up when resources which can be used to pick up the parts of (and races in) Maryland which serve as chinks in the armor of the majority party here are instead diverted to other states. While the other side is off trying to tip the scales someplace else, we can be effective in a rear guard action and plant our flag in a place they wrongly believed was safe.

Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up on November 7 realizing we have not only preserved a Constitutional republic by ousting a President thoroughly detrimental to America’s interests but removed a Senator who hasn’t held an honest job in four-and-a-half decades and picked up a couple House seats from right out under the nose of the Democratic establishment? I believe it’s quite doable, so let’s get to work!

Developing the Shore

There were a couple items I wanted to pass along because, as one who would prefer the area grow rather than shrivel up and die, we could use the help.

I’ll begin with Andy Harris:

(On Tuesday), Rep. Andy Harris (MD-01) joined Rep. Scott Rigell (VA-02) to pass legislation through the House that could create hundreds of jobs at an expanded Wallops Research Park, which is located near NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The bill removes restrictive federal government deed provisions that hinder job creation on the Delmarva. The legislation creates these jobs at no cost to hard-working taxpayers. Additionally, up to half of the potential high-paying jobs could be filled by Maryland’s Eastern Shore residents.

“We need to work to reduce undue burdens that the Federal Government is placing on the ability of local communities to create jobs,” said Rep. Andy Harris. “I will support any bill like this that helps foster an environment for job creation while costing hard-working taxpayers nothing.”

And then there’s former Harris opponent Senator E.J. Pipkin, working on the state side:

Senator E.J. Pipkin…announced that the Senate Finance Committee has approved his bill – SB 818 – to begin the process required to consider building a third span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Pipkin said, “I am elated that the Committee has taken the first step in the long journey toward what must happen – construction of another Bay Bridge span. No one who uses the Bay Bridge on a daily commute or on a weekend to visit Ocean City will debate the necessity for a third span.”

Senator Pipkin pointed out that the bridge carries an average of 68,000 vehicles each day. Five mile backups are not unusual at any time, but are common in the summer when an average of 100,000 vehicles cross the bay each day. “The bridge has the dubious distinction of having the worst traffic delays on the northeast coast,” he said. The Bay Bridge Transportation Needs Report revealed that 402 accidents occurred during its 3-year study period; a significantly higher volume than for similar highways.


Before any large project can commence, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires an Environmental Impact Statement. The process includes a public scoping process, data collection, analysis of policy alternatives and preparation of draft and final documents, all of which takes 6.1 years, as estimated in 2003. “Putting Maryland into the NEPA process would finally address the issue of a third span and enable us to make policy decisions to move forward,” declared Senator Pipkin.

Using the cost of NEPA studies for the ICC as a base and adjusting for inflation, the Department of Legislative Services projects a cost of $35 million between 2013-2017 for the NEPA study. The MdTA would pay for the cost of the study out of its operating expenses. “Last summer, the MdTA approved the largest toll increase in the State’s history, so it comes as a surprise that it now claims that this process would be too expensive.”

Pipkin stressed that SB 818 does not require that a third Bay Bridge be built, but enables us to move forward to the next step in considering our transportation needs. It will take 15 to 20 years to build a new Bay Bridge.

The role of government is not to provide a vehicle for crony capitalism, but work on those areas which benefit the public at large. It seems like the Harris/Rigell measure does just that. Knowing Wallops Island is a federal installation which is vital for the national defense (a legitimate Constitutional function) I see no problem with private enterprise having a share in that success. To be quite honest, I never knew there was a Wallops Research Park, but that’s in part because it’s a little off the beaten path. Maybe that was part of their problem as well.

Of course, the local infrastructure may need improvement as the main highway to Wallops Island is the same two-lane artery which takes tourist traffic beyond Wallops Island to Chincoteague. At some point if the new venture is successful we may have to see Virginia Route 175 dualized – but that’s probably at least a decade off.

Transportation woes are hopefully being addressed with Pipkin’s proposal as well. But I believe a third span would be much more practical several miles south of the existing Bay Bridge. Geographically it makes a lot of sense to have a span from Dorchester County to Calvert County at a point where the Bay is relatively narrow, but I could already imagine the hue and cry from environmentalists and NIMBY types, particularly on the Eastern Shore. This would also require Maryland Route 16 to be seriously upgraded, at least to Cambridge.

But there would be advantages as well, particularly on the tourism and accessibility front. Opening a southern route may encourage more commerce between the fast-growing counties of Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore. Why should the mid-Shore reap all the benefits from a Bay crossing?

As Pipkin says, though, we are probably a couple decades away from a third span and by then there may not be anything left of the Lower Shore to connect with except for Ocean City. A state which is doing its best to strangle rural development in the War on Rural Maryland isn’t going to care whether we receive help or not, just as long as the tax dollars arrive.

WCRC meeting – August 2011

Last night’s was an interesting and informative Wicomico County Republican Club meeting to be sure, as County Council president Gail Bartkovich filled us in on some of the ins and outs of county government as it stands now.

As always we began with the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and my reading of the previous month’s minutes, with a treasurer’s report added for good measure. But Bartkovich began with some good red meat, announcing the elected school board resolution will be discussed once again – she also detailed how she came to be aware of the changes Delegate Conway proposed in a last-second meeting before the hearing. They were also getting input from the local NAACP regarding both the school board issue and redistricting in a future face-to-face meeting.

The key point of Gail’s discussion, though, settled on the creation of a Charter Review Committee. Required by charter on a decennial basis, Bartkovich announced that 25 county residents (some who had served on the previous committee a decade ago) were volunteering their time and talents – of that group, about 15 to 17 would be selected and the County Council would appoint the committee’s chair, with the committee then deciding on a vice-chair. The selection process would occur next month, with the first meeting (open to the public, by the way) to be held sometime in October and most likely at Council chambers. The series of public meeting would lead to recommendations, which would be voted on by County Council. They would vote whether to present the question to the public at the 2014 General Election. Continue reading “WCRC meeting – August 2011”

Co-opting the freshmen?

Honestly, I’m not a conspiratorial sort of guy but I did find this interesting.

As one of many events geared toward the incoming freshman Republican class of the House of Representatives, the TEA Party Patriots scheduled an orientation event this weekend. Among the featured speakers will be keynoter Edwin Meese and the event is sponsored in part by reformers from local TEA Party groups as well as getting assistance from Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn along with retiring Rep. John Shadegg and his group, Constitutional Congress.

That seems like a worthy event and TPP organizers claim they’d already sunk over $100,000 into making the arrangements when they learned another event was being planned for the same time and day by the Claremont Institute. Now I don’t have a big issue with a group which claims to:

 “(R)estore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. These principles are expressed most eloquently in the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” To recover the founding principles in our political life means recovering a limited and accountable government that respects private property, promotes stable family life, and maintains a strong national defense.”

I don’t think the TEA Party Patriots don’t so much object to the group, either. But their roster of “insider” speakers is most troubling to them. Among those featured at the Claremont event are Chip Saltsman, Tim Powers, and keynote speaker Bill Bennett. In particular, you may recall Saltsman ran for RNC Chair two years ago and before that ran Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign in 2008. Meanwhile, Powers is also a former Deputy Director in the RNC and co-chairman of a lobbying firm while Bennett is the former Secretary of Education under President Reagan and morning talk show host. All of them have been in Washington for years, and I happen to agree that the idea behind electing this class of 2010 was to bring an outsider, reform perspective to Washington.

(Of course, DeMint, Meese, and Shadegg are also Washington insiders too. But given the choice between the two and the influence of the TEA Party Patriots who helped place many of these freshmen in Congress I’d tend to prefer they hold sway. The newbies will have to deal with lobbyists soon enough.)

The action plan sought by the TPP was to contact the newly-minted Congressmen (among them our very own Andy Harris) and make certain they go to the TPP event. Certainly I would think many of his supporters read this site and would feel that hanging with DeMint, Coburn, Shadegg, et. al. would be a much better use of time. I know they are among my favorite members of Congress.

TPP puts it this way:

Explain the differences between the two events. We need to make sure they understand that the Claremont event is not an “official” event but one put on by lobbyists, for which they are being asked to skip the TPP and Constitutional Congress event.  They need to know what you, their new constituents, think about their choice, and how you’ll react if they choose to ignore the grassroots and immediately get in bed with DC lobbyists and RNC insiders.

So if you have a few spare minutes tomorrow, make your feelings known to your freshman Republican (for my friends down on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, that includes Scott Rigell too) and encourage them to dance with the ones who brung them.

Let’s not permit these greenhorns to be led down the wrong path.

(Note: apparently TPP had some personal cel numbers among the information given, so I redacted the contact information per their request. Sounds like these freshmen got the point.)