Let’s Talk Impeachment …

Impeachment: a word that is on everybody’s minds these days, both Republican and Democrat.

“Whispers about impeachment, the most familiar constitutional procedure for removing a president, began to circulate even before Trump had taken the oath of office. But two months into Trump’s presidency, those whispers – and the search for any other possible emergency exit – have grown into an open conversation …” – The Guardian, 22 March 2017

Dan Rather on the Trump-Russian connections: “We may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling.”

nixon-resignsOn August 9, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon became the only U.S. president to resign from office, in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  After two years of investigations and scandal, it was time.  Nixon said, “By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”  Nixon was guilty of a number of things, however I thought then, and I still think today, that he made a tough decision, the right decision, in the best interest of the nation.  Okay, granted, he had lost the support he needed in Congress, had lost the confidence of the nation, and would have likely been removed from office within a year, but still, I respect that he had the dignity to resign when he did. Had he not resigned, impeachment would have been the next step … a step that would have been costly and would have further divided the nation.  The House Judiciary Committee had already charged him with “high crimes and misdemeanors” in its bill of impeachment in July. There is no doubt that Nixon would have been impeached, but he might have, like Andrew Johnson before him and William Jefferson Clinton after, remained in office.

Nixon denied any wrongdoing, despite mounting evidence, until the bitter end.  Based on what we have seen thus far, I would expect no less from Trump when the investigations into his ties to the Russian government are eventually laid bare.  I suspect, however, that unlike Nixon, Trump will not have the grace to resign, but rather will force a full impeachment process, further dividing a nation that is already about as far divided as a nation can be without engaging in armed combat.

Article II, Section IV of the U.S. Constitution states, “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The last of these, ‘high crimes and misdemeanors, is subjective and much would depend on how the 115th Congress decided to define it.  The process for impeachment is fairly simple, but by no means speedy:

  • Impeachment proceedings begin in the House of Representatives, once the Justice Department or an independent council investigates charges & presents them to the House Judiciary Committee.
  • The House Judiciary Committee then reviews the evidence, drafts the Articles of Impeachment, and debates the Articles, deciding whether to pass them to the full House.
  • The full House debates the Articles, then votes on whether to impeach. Only a simple majority (51%) is required for impeachment.  If 51% vote to impeach, the president is considered impeached, but is not yet out of office.
  • The Senate holds a trial to decide whether the president should remain in office. The House Judiciary Committee presents the evidence, acting as prosecutor, and the accused will have attorneys present to present his defense. The Chief Justice of Supreme Court acts as Judge and rules on admissibility of evidence, and the full Senate is the jury.
  • The Senate votes, and a two-thirds majority is required to remove the president from office.

Simple, right?  Well … yes … and no.  Think about the current composition of the 115th Congress and what, by their actions, they have indicated thus far.  We have 100 Senators, 52 of whom are Republicans, and 430 Representatives (there are currently 5 vacant seats), 237 of whom are Republicans.  Thus far, all bills have been voted on along almost strict party lines, with the Republicans throwing all their support to Trump.  What this means is that the Justice Department will need to have solid evidence of criminal acts committed by Trump in order to get the House to consider impeachment.  And the Justice Department is currently under the leadership of one Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III, a blatant racist who should never have been even considered, but who was hand-picked by Trump and then confirmed by the Republican-led Senate. See the conundrum?

The evidence is mounting that there will be, after the FBI finishes its investigation, and an independent commission (hopefully) conducts an investigation, incontrovertible grounds for impeachment.  If it turns out, as I believe, that Trump had direct connections to the Russian government and was aware of their efforts to alter the results of the 2016 election, or if certain of Trump’s campaign staff had connections and Trump was aware of those connections, that would be grounds for impeachment on the grounds of treason.  Another, though less likely possibility is that charges may stem from Trump  allegedly violating constitutional bans on receiving certain gifts – a problem rooted in his failure to divest from his real estate, hotel and branding businesses.

I think that whether or not the Department of Justice is willing to bring charges and then whether the House of Representatives and later the Senate are willing to follow through with the impeachment process is a matter of timing.  There are signs that some Republicans in Congress are already tiring of Trump’s shenanigans, such as his baseless claim that Obama had wiretapped his phones during the presidential campaign, his bald-faced lies, his tirades, and the blame game he is so fond of playing.  While there are undoubtedly some who will ride his coattails regardless of his actions, I firmly believe there are men and women of good conscience in the Republican party in Congress, and when push comes to shove, I believe they will opt to do the right thing.  But as of today, they are still supporting Trump, no matter what.  So, maybe in a month, maybe in two months, impeachment charges would move forward, but if they were handed down today, I am skeptical. It is rather a matter of giving him enough rope, enough time to figure out how to tie the knot in the rope, to hang himself.

The other option is that, under the 25th Amendment, Trump could be declared ‘unfit to serve’, but in my opinion, that is even more of a long-shot than impeachment. In order for this option to be enacted, the Vice-President and a majority of the top 15 members of the cabinet must find the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.  Those people all owe their jobs to Trump, and I find it highly unlikely they would go against him, especially if there were a possibility they would lose the battle and then have to live with the consequences.

In the long run, it boils down to We The People.  We must make our voices heard … our Senators and Representatives must be made to hear our voices and realize that we are the ones who have the power to decide whether they return to Congress after the next round of elections in 2018.  We need to remember that they work for us, not the other way around. While having the president impeached and removed from office may be divisive and disruptive, it is rather like having a cancerous growth removed … it is painful, but life-saving.  I believe having Trump removed will be painful for some in the short-term, but life-saving for our democratic principles in the long-term.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch …

Since long before the inauguration on 20 January, we have been focused on a series of news stories that keep us all reading, watching, listening, and for some of us, writing until long after the candles have burned low.  For the last two weeks or so, the big stories have surrounded Mike Flynn, who was forced to resign just 24 days after being sworn in as National Security Advisor, Jeff Sessions, who lied under oath about possible Russian connections and meetings, and Jared Kushner.  We have focused on the confirmation process for a number of Trump’s cabinet selections, including Sessions, DeVos, Pruitt and others.  We have followed closely Trump’s disastrous ban on travelers from seven Middle Eastern, primarily Muslim nations and its aftermath.  But with our attention pulled in so many different directions, trying to stay abreast of the important things and the trivial as well, like Trump’s Trivial Tweets, we have not been particularly enlightened about the legislation being somewhat more quietly proposed in Congress.

Perhaps in part we have failed to focus on Congressional activity because for the past four years, there has been relatively little and we have, for the most part, come to expect little, if any, work from our well-paid elected officials.  But that is changing, as they seem motivated to push forth as much damage as possible before many are ousted in 20 months.

The following are just nine bills that have been proposed in the House of Representatives in the past two months.  Each contains a link, who proposed the bill, and a brief summary where available.

HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency

Proposed by Florida freshman representative Matt Gaetz, below is the full text of the bill (no summary needed):

“The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”

The likelihood of this bill ever being passed into law is slim, but I find the very notion of it to be chilling nonetheless.

HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education

Proposed in January by Representative Steve King of Iowa

This bill proposes a federal school voucher program; limits the authority of Deptartment of Education, repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and repeals the No Hungry Kids Act that set nutritional guidelines for schools.

Numerous reliable studies have found that there is little, if any benefit in using public monies to provide private school educations to a few, and it deprives the majority of children from a quality public school education: Fordham Foundation,  Brookings Institute

Interestingly, Steve King actually re-introduced the No Hungry Kids Act in 2015 and is now calling for its repeal!

HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education

Proposed by Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky

Full text of bill: “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”

“Neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn,” Massie said in a press release announcing the bill.

This, like the termination of the EPA, has few teeth and next to no chance of becoming law, but again … the implication is chilling.

HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife

Proposed by Representative Don Young of Alaska, already passed in House of Representatives

This bill would repeal protections for ‘non-subsistence’ killing of wildlife in Alaska, in other words allow for unlimited hunting and killing of animals for sport.

HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act

Proposed by Representative Bill Flores of Texas

The bill would simply ‘undo’ ACA with no replacement yet proposed, leaving more than 20 million people without health insurance.

HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood

Introduced by Representative Diane Black of Tennessee

The bill would prohibit for any use, funds for Planned Parenthood unless they certify that the affiliates and clinics will not perform, and will not provide any funds to any other entity that performs, an abortion.  Exceptions are made in cases of rape, incest or where the woman’s life is in danger.

This is worthy of an entire post, but in short, Planned Parenthood provides so many services that safeguard women’s health and have nothing to do with abortion, that the concept of punitive withholding of funds is nothing short of shameful!  In fact, many of the services it provides actually help reduce the number of abortions.

HR 785 National Right to Work

Proposed by Representative Steve King of Iowa (busy little daemon, isn’t he?)

“Right to work” is a shorthand for laws throughout the country that prohibit labour unions from requiring workers to pay dues as a condition of employment. Proponents say the law is necessary to end “forced unionism.”

Without unions financially able to go to bat for them, the working class will almost inevitably see lower wages and fewer benefits. Long term, the bill would effectively end labour unions altogether.

HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill

Proposed by Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania

This bill prohibits a state or local government from receiving federal financial assistance for a minimum of one year if it restricts or prohibits a government entity or official from: (1) sending to or receiving from the responsible federal immigration agency information regarding an individual’s citizenship or immigration status, or (2) maintaining or exchanging information about an individual’s status.

Another move to make wide scale deportation of immigrants easier for federal agencies.

HR 147 Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act

Proposed by Representative Trent Franks of Arizona

This bill imposes criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly or knowingly attempts to: (1) perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought based on the sex, gender, colour or race of the child, or the race of a parent; (2) use force or the threat of force to intentionally injure or intimidate any person for the purpose of coercing a sex-selection or race-selection abortion; (3) solicit or accept funds for the performance of such an abortion; or (4) transport a woman into the United States or across a state line for the purpose of obtaining such an abortion. Violations or attempted violations shall result in fines and/or imprisonment for up to five years.”

While the wording may seem harmless enough … only abortions for the purpose of gender/race selection would be subject … the potential for abuse and discrimination is 100% guaranteed.  This bill would be an abomination to a woman’s right to make choices about her own body and would penalize minorities and low-income women.

I cannot write in-depth about any one of these bills in this post — almost every one could constitute an entire post by itself.  My intent here is only to make the reader aware of some of the bills being proposed and considered by our not-so-illustrious House of Representatives while our focus has been elsewhere.

While it is good to see Congress actually working, I would prefer they put their efforts toward building good legislation, rather than tearing down some of the better laws we already have, such as those protecting our environment, educating our children, and protecting workers, women’s rights, healthcare, immigrants, etc.  It should be noted that the 113th and 114th passed 296 and 329 laws, respectively. It is estimated that only 5%-10% of all bills ever get signed into law.  We can only hope that the nine I listed above fall into oblivion, as they are neither worthy of, nor in the best interest of We The People. In order to help this happen, we must all do our part, contacting our Congressmen and letting them know our feelings, whether by email, letter, phone call or personal visit!

Here’s One We Overlooked …

Last week, the night before the opening of the 115th Congress, the nation was outraged by Republican house members’ attempt to dismantle the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.  It was all the news, and for once people in both parties sat up, took notice, and complained loudly.  Thus, by the end of the next day, that single rule had been rescinded.  But that particular item overshadowed the rest of the legislation, and thus we did not notice other parts of the rules package that were not rescinded.  Two in particular have come onto my radar, and I shall write of the second in a separate post. The first is the reinstatement of the Holman rule.

The Holman rule “empowers any member of Congress to propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program”. With the vote of a majority of the House and the Senate, the pay of an individual federal government employee could be reduced to $1 or a specific program eliminated. The rule originally targeted patronage jobs, particularly customs collectors, but the federal workforce shifted over time to a civil service insulated from politics. Terminations or pay cuts passed through the Holman rule would override any civil service, union, or other employment protections.

The Holman rule was originally developed in 1876, named after Indiana Congressman William Steele Holman who was known for being fiscally conservative, to say the least. Holman railed against government waste. One anecdote illustrates his frugality:

“In 1885, he went west on an inspection tour with other members of the Committee on Indian Affairs. Unlike the rest, he refused to go by sleeping car, because it would cost the government too much, and slept in his seat instead. When they reached Fort Yates, in Dakota Territory, he balked at paying five dollars for the steamer ride to Bismarck, pointing out that the post had army ambulances and mules. “The mules are not earning anything,” he argued. “They are idle; they will convey us.” And so they did, much to the annoyance of his fellow-traveler, Congressman Joseph Cannon of Illinois, who tipped the wagon-driver to run over every single stone in the road as a punishment. As he arrived at Fort Lincoln, the commander proposed that they fire a salute. “No! no! for God’s sake, don’t!” Cannon protested. “He will object to the useless waste of powder.”

In 1983, the Holman rule was suspended by Speaker of the House, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill. Tip O’Neill was a humanitarian, and as President Bill Clinton said in his eulogy for O’Neill, “Tip O’Neill was the nation’s most prominent, powerful and loyal champion of working people… He loved politics and government because he saw that politics and government could make a difference in people’s lives. And he loved people most of all.”

The Holman rule clears a path for indiscriminate actions against individuals by self-serving members of congress. Even if a member of congress proposes to use the Holman rule, it still requires a majority of both House and Senate before it can be applied.  However, that safeguard appears to be somewhat meaningless in light of today’s unified Republican rule.

The revival of the Holman Rule was the brainchild of Representative H. Morgan Griffith, a Republican (surprise!) from Virginia.  When asked about the likelihood that the rule would be used indiscriminately, he replied, “I can’t tell you it won’t happen. The power is there. But isn’t that appropriate? Who runs this country, the people of the United States or the people on the people’s payroll?” Perchance he does not realize that he is one of the ‘people on the people’s payroll’, and that We The People seem to matter very little to our elected officials.

The re-establishment of the Holman rule puts last month’s request by the Trump transition team for names of individual Energy Department employees and contractors who worked on climate change issues in a whole new light.  The request was seen as threatening from the outset, but now appears to be even more so.  The following week, the team also requested a list of names of those within the State Department who had worked on gender equality issues. Though the Department of Energy refused to honour Trump’s request, I’m sure there are few, if any, hurdles to Congress obtaining the names.  If nothing else, Trump could make a quick phone call to his friend, Putin, and request the Russian hacking team get the information he seeks.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Even a number of house Republicans attempted to block the revival of the Holman rule, including Barabara Comstock from Virginia, though in the end she voted for the package. Democrats voted unanimously against.

“This rules package provides [the Congressional Majority] with the surgical tools necessary to reach into the inner workings of the federal government and cut away each part and employee that runs afoul of their ideological agenda.” – Gerry Connolly , Democrat from Northern Virginia, home to many government workers.

“It undermines civil service protections; it goes back to the nineteenth century. Republicans have consistently made our hardworking federal employees scapegoats, in my opinion, for lack of performance of the federal government itself, and this rule change will enable them to make short-sighted and ideologically driven changes to our nation’s civil service.” – House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

In a number of posts over the course of the past year, I have followed the progress of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as he has manipulated the democracy of Turkey in order to gain a greater degree of executive control, transforming what was once a democracy into, effectively, an autocracy.  I see the same thing happening here, only at an even more accelerated rate than in Turkey.  There can no longer be any doubt that Trump and his minions in Congress plan to change the entire structure of our government, creating an environment where the citizens have no voice and no control.  Will he be successful?  That depends on us, my friends.  Will we resist in every possible way, or will we sit back, much as the Germans and Italians did 80 years ago and “hope for the best”?

Busy Little Rats …

The House of Representatives that opened the 115th session on Tuesday, 03 January 2017, is 88% the same House that we had last year and the year before.  Only 52 representatives changed, 25 Democrats and 27 Republicans, for a 12% overall change.  Why do I mention this?  Well, think about it.  This is NOT an all new House of Representatives, but for the most part is the same tired old House from 2016. Congress as a whole last year did almost nothing.  They refused to even interview the president’s nominee for Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.  They refused to fund efforts to combat the Zika virus, refused to provide resources to help Louisiana after severe flooding, and much more. They sat on the Flint water crisis. Politico dubbed Congress as the “Seinfeld Congress”, all about nothing. They should have been ashamed to accept a paycheck, but obviously it did not occur to them.

rats-1So here it is, the fifth day of January, and the 115th Congress convened just two days ago.  The essentially same lazy congress of 2016, however, is suddenly energized and ready to get down to business.  They are so eager, in fact, that they even started early with the now historic, failed move by Republican representatives on Monday night to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) without giving the electorate or the Democratic representatives a chance to weigh in.  Aren’t they just the most ambitious little creatures, rather like rats running around the ship’s deck while the captain sleeps at the helm? Such dedicated rats they are.

But they did not stop there.  On Tuesday, still patting themselves on the back over what they thought was their success the night before, they effectively changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to the states and other entities, making it much easier to give away federally-owned lands.  Understand that when I say federally-owned lands, I mean lands that you and I own, land belonging to We The People.  Under this legislation, public lands including national parks and forests could be turned over to the states, who could then sell them to private companies for activities such as mining, logging, and otherwise destroying not only the natural beauty, but in many cases, water and other resources, as well as wildlife. Unlike most legislation, it is not subject to approval by the Senate or a presidential signature. It is effective immediately. The House rules change was met with sharp criticism from conservation and watchdog groups, as well as hunters and fishermen.

They also found time to put together a four-point plan for dismantling the nation’s Affordable Healthcare Act, though they have not yet come up with the promised “wonderful, great” plan that Trump promised would replace ACA and be so much better, while costing the government less.

And then there is the Midnight Relief Bill that breezed through on Wednesday.  This bill will allow Congress to repeal in a single vote any rule finalized in the last 60 legislative days of the Obama administration.  President Obama has said he will veto the bill if it makes it to his desk before January 20th.  Now seriously, what are the odds??? Are you getting the picture now?

rat-2These ambitious rats did more work in one day than the mostly same group of rats did in all of 2016!  If only they had done a percentage of this much last year …  What amazes me is that so many Republican representatives were re-elected last year after a do-nothing year … nay, two do-nothing years!

The ultimate agenda of this Congress includes a reversal of environmental regulations they feel has limited energy production as well as financial regulations that they say burdened businesses and employers. Planned Parenthood, one of several women’s health organizations Obama took steps to protect with new regulations last month, will find itself once more on the chopping block. Yesterday, The House passed a resolution calling for the repeal of a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements that the United States allowed to pass last month by abstaining from the vote. Several senators want to use the Security Council vote as an excuse to start defunding the United Nations and withholding foreign aid from countries that supported the resolution.

It becomes more clear every day, though there was little doubt to begin with, that the only goal of the 115th Congress is to reverse the gains that have been made over the past eight years by the Obama administration.  We may well lose the protection of our national parks, forests, and even some national monuments.  Environmental protections are likely to be a mere shell by the time the next Congress takes office in two years.  And of course, the great strides we made in equality have already suffered and we will almost certainly see wide-spread, state-sponsored discrimination by the end of 2017.

There are two factors that could block much of the planned legislation of the Republicans in Congress.  If enough Republican senators and representatives possess values and the courage to defend those values, they could turn the tide.  The news coming from the House so far hasn’t given much hope for that, but that leads to the other thing that could stop this trainwreck … us.  Yes, you, me, your friends, your neighbors, your family.  We are not powerless, but we are if we sit back and helplessly shrug our shoulders, grumble & complain, and do nothing.  Write to the members of Congress representing your state!  Tell them that you do not like their agenda and the when they next come up for re-election you will not vote for them unless they do the right thing.  These men and women are OUR employees!  We put them in office, we pay their salary, and they are supposed to represent US.  Currently they are representing themselves, their agenda reflects that which benefits them and the lobbyist organizations such as big business, the NRA and others who compensate them monetarily and in other ways for voting for those things that will add to their bank accounts.  Meanwhile, We The People are losing ground every day.  I have included links to the government sites where you can find complete contact information for both representatives and senators at the end of this post.  Share it with anybody you know who is willing to take a stand, to fight against the injustices that I believe we are about to be subjected to. Our nation is depending on us.  The planet is counting on us.  And now, I shall step down from my soapbox.  Thanks for listening!

Contact list for House of Representatives

Contact list for Senate


Chief Rat

Ethics Schmethics!

“True freedom requires the rule of law and justice, and a judicial system in which the rights of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others.” – Jonathan Sacks
Yesterday I wrote a post about the devious, underhanded efforts of House Republicans to dismantle the independent Office of Congressional Ethics on Monday night. Though unsuccessful by the end of Tuesday, their attempt speaks volumes about their own ‘ethics’ and what we might be able to expect during the next two years. As so often happens, fellow-blogger Hugh Curtler has penned a post on the same topic, but from, as he says, a more abstract point of view. Frankly, I like his post better than mine and I think it is well worth sharing. Please take a moment to read Hugh’s post and drop him a comment to let him know what you think. Thank you, Hugh, for a great post and for unspoken permission to share!


Not long after the Republicans in the dark of night, prior to the opening of the new session, eliminated the independent Office of Congressional Ethics they knuckled under to immense pressure to rescind the move. It would have placed the responsibility for determining ethical and non-ethical practices in the hands of the Congress itself. But despite the reversal this attempt sends a clear message to the world: ethics simply don’t matter; they just get in the way of what we want to do. It isn’t so much that the independent group was doing its “due diligence” and watching the hen-house like a fox (who eats only naughty hens) and that now the fox will be dismissed. It’s the principle of the thing, and “taking it back,” or “having your fingers crossed” does not alter the fact that this is what the group wants to do! The horse is out of the barn and we now know exactly what it…

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