Sen. John Cornyn. Photo: Gage Skidmore
Caveat – by the time this runs God only knows what shenanigans I will have missed since writing it. Keeping up with the new and awful normal is not easy, y’all.
The 115th Congress of These United States has been sworn in and is getting ready to work. Granted, I imagine they might be the slightest bit rusty seeing as how the last three years were the most stagnant and least productive of all congresses since we started measuring that, but I expect things to change now that the Republicans control two branches of government with likely the third following as soon as Donald Trump figures out which crony or television personality he wants to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
So, citizens and resident of the greater Houston area, let’s take a look at what our scampy little representatives got up to the first week back on the job.
Following in Trump’s lead to maybe provoke a war with one of the most powerful countries on Earth, Sen. Ted Cruz (along with governor Greg Abbott because why not), met with the president of Taiwan during her oversees trip. The Chinese government, traditionally very sensitive to any move that might recognize Taiwan as an independent entity, asked the senator and the governor to please not do this in the wake of already tense relationships between the two countries. You might recall that China recently seized a naval probe of ours not long the president-elect had a phone conversation with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen following his narrow defeat of Hillary Clinton. Luckily, they gave it back, but Cruz seems hellbent on annoying a nuclear superpower just because he can.
Meanwhile, there’s Sen. John Cornyn, who seems to now have the unenviable job as point man for the Senate’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Speaking to reporters last Thursday, he is now claiming that the Republican replacement of “Obamacare” will instead focus on single healthcare issues at a time rather than the sweeping alternative that we have been assured was lurking somewhere in the back of the Republican playbook for the last six year. Still, Cornyn does have something of a knack for forcing through fairly good laws, even in the doldrums of the last congress, so maybe there is hope yet.
Shout out to my own Representative Ted Poe, whose leukemia is now in remission and who has introduced a border security bill that doesn’t include a Game of Thrones-esque wall. Unfortunately, Rep. Michael McCaul seems to still be proceeding with the erect-a-Roman-Empire-period-solution idea. Back in December he wrote an op-ed for FOX detailing the idea Trump has recently been talking about, that Mexico would pay for our magnificent wall on a “payment plan,” which is slightly better than Trump’s claim they will reimburse us. Then again, considering that a recent Wall Street Journal report shows that Trump is over a billion dollars in debt, I’m not sure he actually understands how reimbursement works.
One thing you can say for McCaul, though; he is a Republican taking the recent Russian hacking attempts seriously, and at least privately says he is getting through to Trump on the seriousness of this issue.
And finally, Rep. John Culberson was one of our congressmen that got the rug pulled out under him by both Trump and the GOP leadership in a rather embarrassing move last week. Back in 2010, John Boehner moved to have the unpopular practice of earmarks, having funds for a project go to a specific recipient rather than a bidder, put under a moratorium in hopes of curbing unethical abuses and spending.
Then, the new congress decided to try and do away with both an independent ethics office that overseas them, and reinstate earmarks, a move led by Culberson and Tom Rooney of Florida. Trump unleashed a tweet-storm against the after-hours, all Republican ethics vote, and motivated citizens contacted their representatives in enough numbers that both measures were backed down.
Speaker Paul Ryan, realizing that the Republicans were already courting disaster with the ethics move, called off the earmarks vote. He subsequently worked out a deal with Culberson and Rooney, offering to bring up earmarks again in March through the regular channel and in the light of day.
In less embarrassing news, both Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Gene Green have signed onto a resolution asking Trump to sever his business ties to avoid conflict of interest as a president. And man, the conflicts of interests, in addition to possibly being unconstitutional as heck, are a mile long.