Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category
By John Feehery
“These guys are like the Hatfields and McCoys. That’s why they can’t get anything done in Congress.”
My cab driver pretty much nailed it on the head. Relations between the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress have taken on all of the characteristics of that famous family feud.
The Hatfield-McCoy feud started out when a McCoy came home from the Civil War as a Union soldier, angering a group of Hatfields, who had formed a pro-Confederacy vigilante group called the “Logan wildcats.” They promptly murdered him.
For the next three decades, members of the Hatfield and McCoy families took turns murdering one another, piling grievance over grievance, and contributing to the general lawlessness of the mountainous regime between West Virginia and Kentucky.
Like that brawl, the fight between the Republicans and Democrats in the Congress is based on distrust, regional bias and an irrational desire for revenge.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) summed it up pretty well when he said, “In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”
But this just isn’t a Republican issue. And it isn’t a new one, either.
I remember distinctly when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) instructed her Democratic colleagues to not cooperate with Republican efforts to modernize Medicare with a prescription drug benefit during the Bush administration. Then-Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) did everything in his power to get the minority on board, but it wasn’t until Republicans could prove they had the votes — which took a three-hour roll call on the House floor — that Pelosi allowed her caucus to vote for the final package.
The roots of this distrust probably started in 1984, when congressional Democrats strong-armed the seating of Rep. Frank McCloskey (D-Ind.) over the intense objections of House Republicans, who believed that Rick McIntyre had won the seat.
The McCloskey-McIntyre feud helped radicalize House Republicans, and eventually they flocked to the leadership of Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who offered a new and more aggressive political strategy of demonizing Democrats. Eventually, Gingrich succeeded in bringing ethics charges against Rep. Jim Wright (D-Texas), who resigned in disgrace.
When Gingrich gained the Speaker’s gavel, congressional Democrats launched a tough ethics-based campaign against the firebrand Republican, and the damage he sustained during that effort eventually drove him from the office.
The ethics wars subsided during the bulk of the Hastert years, as the new Speaker tried to move on from the Clinton impeachment and as the country came together post-9/11.
But they never quite disappeared, and by the second term of the Bush administration, the Jack Abramoff and Mark Foley scandals once again roiled the House.
The backdrop of these ethics wars was an ideological resorting of the parties, led by House redistricting but by no means restricted to the lower chamber. Blue Dog Democrats were targeted for extinction by Pelosi, and centrist Republicans like the late Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.) were chased out of the GOP by right-wing insurgents.
In this blood feud, it is not enough to be either a Republican or a Democrat. You have to pledge ideological fidelity to a set of beliefs, and more importantly, you have to demonstrate dislike and a certain amount of disgust for the other team.
It is awfully hard to legislate in divided government amid a feud.
Some will see this as a Republican conspiracy against President Obama, but this feud pre-dates the rise of the former Illinois senator.
Eventually, the Hatfields and McCoys got tired of feuding. On June 14, 2003, the two families signed an official truce, and today, you can go see the “Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show” in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and get a few laughs at the expense of the former feuders.
Hopefully, in a hundred years, someone will find a good reason to laugh at the congressional family feud. Today, though, it’s not very funny.
By John Feehery
Mark Sanford is set to return to Congress.
For those who don’t remember him when he was first in the House of Representatives, Sanford was the original Tea Party guy.
From the historic class of 1994, Mark was a rabble-rouser. He voted against Appropriations bills. He bucked the leadership. He spoke out against excess spending. He promised to serve only three terms and then he stuck to that promise, an amazing feat when you consider he came from the State that was once represented by Strom Thurmond and Fritz Hollings, and Hollings was the Junior Senator.
South Carolina produced some amazing leaders in the 1990′s. Aside from Sanford, Lindsey Graham came from that class. Bob Inglis came from the class before.
Graham and Inglis are fascinating political creatures, as is Sanford.
South Carolina is always seen as your typical Southern state, all for State’s rights, pretty redneck, very, very conservative bible beaters, the typical stereotypes. But Inglis and Graham (and Sanford) broke that mold.
Inglis too stuck to his term limit pledge, ran for something else, ran and won again for the House, and then lost because he was seen as too much of political reformer. Inglis also became a convert in the cause of global warming and voted against the troop surge in 2007.
Graham was a leader in the trial to impeach Bill Clinton, ran for Strom Thurmond’s seat when he finally died, and then has also tacked left and right depending on the issue. Graham is a fixture on the Sunday Show circuit, the leading defense hawk in the Upper Chamber, in the middle of the scrum on immigration reform, and generally one of the most quotable members of the Senate. He too has at times been a bit moderate on climate change, probably because if the oceans continue to rise, the South Carolina coastline will be in big trouble.
Jim DeMint, who replaced Bob Inglis in the House and then who went on to the Senate, is your more typical version of the South Carolina conservative. He left the Senate because it didn’t fit into his vision of a conservative paradise and he decided to go to Heritage Foundation, where he could maintain his purity.
DeMint’s departure has made it easier for Sanford to re-enter politics.
As we all know, the former Governor left office after he left the country in pursuit of his lover. Sadly for Mark and his then wife, Jenny, his wife was not his lover.
If this were a Hollywood script (and how could it not it be, eventually) Sanford’s pursuit of his Argentinian girlfriend would be seen as a modern day version of Romeo and Juliet. It is a love story, albeit a tawdry love story involving a jilted ex-wife, a tax-payer paid vacation, a scandal of epic proportions.
Jenny Sanford, the ex, was always seen as the brains in the operation, and yet Mark Sanford seems to be doing pretty well without her in his comeback. Who knew?
The Democrats have put forward the sister of a leading Comedy Channel celebrity. That seems to be her only qualification. Really.
And yet, the media believes that being the sister of a Comedy Channel celebrity is perfectly acceptable in this era of celebrity worship.
That’s the world we live in.
Mark Sanford has decided that his road to redemption leads him straight back to the United States House of Representatives. I guess if you are going to do penance, the House is pretty good place to do it.