Politics January 8, 2017: 115th Congress convenes, Ryan reelected speaker and Senate sworn-in

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115th Congress convenes, Ryan reelected speaker and Senate sworn-in

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Congress met on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, for the 115th session and the first of Donald Trump’s administration with their leaders voted back. The ceremonial duties of the first day in the House and Senate went off smoothly with Paul Ryan (R-WI) being reelected Speaker of the House of Representatives and Nancy Pelosi (D- CA) as the Democratic Minority Leader. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden swore-in his last group of Senators including newly elected freshmen as well as 27 other Senators who won reelection in November.

In the House, the new Congress was swore-in, and they formally voted in their leaders. Ryan retained his speakership as expected with an almost unanimous vote the Republican caucus. Ryan received 239 votes with only Republican objector, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)
W ho decided to vote for Ryan opponent for the speakership in 2015 Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.). Ryan now embarks on his first full term as speaker presiding over a majority of 241 Republicans, while Pelosi’s Democrats gained six seats with 194 members.

Pelosi retained her minority leader post with 189 votes with only four Democrats defecting. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-New York) cast their votes for Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) who challenged Pelosi this past fall. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) voted for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), while Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) chose Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).

In the Senate, Vice President Biden presided over the swearing-in ceremonies of freshmen and those re-elected in November for the last time. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) greeted the 115th Congress and their families that attended the ceremony. McConnell expressed, “I’m pleased to welcome back familiar faces and express warm greetings to new members.” McConnell let the Senators know there is “hard work” to be done this term, but now they should “take a moment to celebrate the rich tradition of this day.”

The Senate chamber was filled with both the newcomers and past Senators including those that are just retiring. Past Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) joined the festivities while former Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Former Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) also attended the ceremony. With this 115th session, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) becomes the “longest serving female senator.”

Biden swore-in the freshmen senators in a separate ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Tuesday afternoon. Among the freshmen, two new Republicans, “Todd Young (R-Ind.) and John Kennedy (R-La.),” and five new Democrats “Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).”

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

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Politics January 10, 2017: Republicans face in backlash on the first day of 115th Congress

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Republicans face in backlash on the first day of 115th Congress

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Congress convened on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, for the 115th session and the first of Donald Trump’s administration in a rocky start. Even before the session officially started it began with controversy for the Republican majority in the House of Representatives who went against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and voted on Tuesday, Jan. 2 to “weaken” the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, before reversing their course the next day after Trump voiced his disapproval.

On Monday evening, GOP members of the House voted 119–74, to place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under House Ethics Committee at their conference meeting as part of their new rules package. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) were against the changes that immediate faced a backlash and bad press for the new GOP majority.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also spoke out against the GOP’s plan. Pelosi wrote in a statement released after the GOP reversed their vote, “House Republicans showed their true colors last night, and reversing their plans to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics will not obscure their clear contempt for ethics in the People’s House. Republicans should remember the strength of public outrage they faced in the space of 12 hours as they scheme to do lasting damage to the health and economic security of millions and millions of hard-working families.” The OCE was created in 2008 under Pelosi’s speakership and acts as an independent non-partisan office investigating any Congressional wrongdoing.

The proposal was authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). The changes would have prevented the OCE from investigating any criminal wrongdoing . Instead any issue would have had to be sent to the House Ethics Committee or law enforcement, and the HEC would have been given the power to cease any investigation. Additionally, the OCE would have ignored anonymous tips on wrongdoing essentially ending whistleblowing, and the changes would have stripped the office of a communication director aimed at hushing any wrongdoing in Congress and hiding it from the press and public. The concept was the exact opposite of Trump’s promise to drain Washington swamp, instead, it would have made it easier to fill the swamp and keep it all hidden.

The next morning the President-elect let his disapproval be known in two tweets. Trump wrote, “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it…their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!” Trump also used the Hashtag #DTS, “Drain the Swamp,” one of his campaign slogans, that he reiterated after the campaign that he would try to keep during his presidency. A senior GOP aide told CNN just how much Trump’s disapproving tweets altered the GOP’s course on the issue, “It’s safe to say that Trump’s tweets probably added to that pressure but it was already being heavily covered in the press.”

Soon after the Republican conference held an emergency meeting reversing their course. Before noon, on Tuesday the GOP conference voted to take out the changes to the ethics office from the 115th Congress’ rules package that was later voted on in the afternoon. Incoming House Ethics Committee Chairwoman Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) still believes the OCE needs to be reformed but in a bipartisan matter and will bring the matter up later in the session.

Ryan assured the public in a statement explaining what the GOP representatives planned was not meant that the party would stifle abuses of power. In a statement, the speaker explained, “After eight years of operation, many members believe the Office of Congressional Ethics is in need of reform to protect due process and ensure it is operating according to its stated mission. I want to make clear that this House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards and the Office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress.”

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Politics December 2, 2016: Nancy Pelosi to remain House Democratic Minority Leader after re-election vote

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Nancy Pelosi to remain House Democratic Minority Leader after re-election vote

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D -CA) staved off challenger Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), to remain the House Democratic Minority Leader for the 115th Congress. On Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, House Democrats voted 134–63 in a closed-door meeting to keep Pelosi in as minority leader. The Nov. 15 elections were delayed at the closed-door meeting by request after the Nov. 8, election. Soon after Ryan, 43 announced his plans to challenge Pelosi, 76, but was unable to garner enough support to unseat her.

The Democratic caucus requested a delay in the elections of the Democratic House leadership posts at their Nov. 15 meeting. They were dissatisfied with Pelosi’s leadership and the direction of the party after their losses in the election. House Democrats picked up just six seats, lost the presidency and only picked up two Senate seats. Democrats wanted Pelosi to make changes in the leadership; she promises to every new session but never follows through. Democrats also needed time to reflect on the election and the message the American public sent the party.

Ryan announced his intention to challenge Pelosi on Nov. 17. Ryan argued the need for change after the Democrats crushing election defeat. He said the party needed a younger leadership and vision that would focus on the Democrats “economic message” and “geographic outreach.” Ryan told ABC News, “Donald Trump is the president, that is how bad we are out of touch, that the backbone of our party went and voted for Donald Trump, and I say that’s out fault. Clearly we have got to do something much different. We have to connect to these working-class voters and we have a broad coalition.” Ryan has been in the House representing first Ohio’s 13th district since he was elected in 2003.

The Ohio representative announced his candidacy with a letter to the Democratic caucus. Ryan wrote, “I have spent countless hours meeting and talking to Members of our Caucus, and the consensus is clear. What we are doing right now is not working. While having a position in Democratic Leadership has never been my life’s ambition, after this election I believe we all need to re-evaluate our roles within the Caucus, the Democratic Party, and our country. That is why I am announcing my run for Minority Leader of the Democratic Caucus and humbly request your support.” Only 11 House members publicly declared their support for Ryan.

At that point, Pelosi dismissed Ryan’s challenge telling the press, “I’ve regularly had some opponents. House Democrats must be unified, strategic, and unwavering.” Pelosi has been the Democratic House leader for 13 years, and during four of those years from 2007 to 2011, she was the first female Speaker of the House. Previously, Pelosi served as Democratic Whip. President Barack Obama essentially endorsed Pelosi, saying, “I cannot speak highly enough of Nancy Pelosi. She combines strong, progressive values with just extraordinary political skill.”

The following is the lineup this far for the new House Democratic leadership positions:

Minority (Democratic) Leadership:
Minority Leader: Nancy Pelosi
Minority Whip: Steny Hoyer
Assistant Democratic Leader: Jim Clyburn

Democratic Leadership:
Caucus Chairman: Joe Crowley
Caucus Vice-Chairman: Linda Sánchez
Campaign Committee Chairman: Ben Ray Luján

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics November 15, 2016: House Speaker Paul Ryan re-elected by Republican conference

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House Speaker Paul Ryan re-elected by Republican conference

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Wikimedia Commons

House Republicans have opted to re-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, (R- WI) to a second term. On Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 15, 2016, in a closed-door session Republicans unanimously voted that Ryan should stay on as House Speaker in the 115th session.

Ryan’s re-election with support from all Republicans is surprising, but after a week of shocks, that has become the new norm for Republicans. Ryan’s speakership was in danger before President-elect Donald Trump’s shocking upset victory a week ago on Tuesday, Nov. 8. His lack of support and distancing himself from Trump after a 2005 lewd tape emerged threatened Trump’s chances of winning the presidency. The conservative Freedom Caucus and some Southerner Republicans wanted Ryan replaced.

After the FBI reopened their investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Trump rose in the polls that changed, Ryan had a change of heart, he campaigned and told Americans particularly Republicans to vote for Trump. Since Trump’s election, Ryan has been President-elect Trump’s greatest endorser on Capitol Hill. Ryan sees himself guiding policy for the administration and Republican-controlled Congress. Ryan and Trump met on Thursday, Nov. 10 and had been talking on the phone each day.

Ryan told the conference that Vice President-elect Mike Pence told him Trump supports the entire House Republican leadership’s re-election. In the spirit of their new president, GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) gave Trump campaign hats red Make America great Again hats to each member.

Also, a new leadership position was created to help the new president. Ryan appointed Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) the congressional liaison to the Trump transition team. Collins was the one to second Ryan’s re-election. Collins said, “Paul Ryan’s future is as bright as ever. He has no opposition today. I’m seconding Paul Ryan’s nomination today as a sign of Trump’s support of Mr. Ryan. This is a team effort.”

On Tuesday, the Republicans also elected Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers to helm the National Republican Congressional Committee. Stivers was in the running with Rep. Roger Williams of Texas for the post. Now Ryan has to face a full vote in the House when they convene their new session in January, but with full support from the Republican majority, Ryan is certain to coast to a second term as Speaker of the House.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.

Politics November 5, 2016: Paul Ryan makes it clear he plans to run for House Speaker again for 115th Congress

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Paul Ryan makes it clear he plans to run for House Speaker again for 115th Congress

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: NPR

Despite the chatter that Rep. Paul Ryan would not be reelected as Speaker of the House of Representatives, he is still planning to run for a second full term. Ryan appeared on Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, on local Green Bay, Wisconsin radio show WTAQ’s “The Jerry Bader Show,” and he pushed back against claims by House Republicans that he could not win and should not run.

In the interview, Ryan dismissed a story published in the Hill on Thursday, claiming Republicans will not vote him because of his lack of support for Republican nominee Donald Trump. Ryan claimed, “This is the typical chatter you have every two years. They call it ‘palace intrigue’ in the Hill rags. I am going to seek to stay on as Speaker.”

Ryan cited the reasons why he wants and should remain, speaker, saying, “There’s a lot of unfinished work to do, and I think I can do a lot to help our cause and our country. I’ve led us to offer a very comprehensive agenda to take to the country and I want to execute and implement that agenda.”

The speaker has the support of his deputies for another term in the top spot in the House. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) have all spoken out supporting Ryan. According to House Republicans all the deputy leaders would be flawed candidates and would never win the votes to become speaker.

On Thursday, the Hill published a feature report entitled “Chatter grows that Ryan could step down” based on the comments of four House Republicans, one which is a “senior lawmaker.” The representatives expressed that there is animosity within the party against Ryan and he could not win the 218 voted needed to remain speaker.

The Conservative Freedom Caucus is against him, as are some mainstream Republicans in the south and districts with constituents who strongly support Trump. Add the possibility of losing10 to 20 seats and Ryan’s odds would go down lower according to the sources. Additionally, 10 Republicans did not vote for Ryan the first time around. All these factors could spell defeat.

The Republican sources claim that Ryan’s future as Speaker is tied to the election results. If Trump wins, Ryan would have an easier time winning reelection, if Clinton wins or Trump loses by a small margin Ryan will face the blame that he could help the nominee and bring the White House into Republican hands. Supporting the nominee also helps the down ballots as well making sure Congress remains in Republican control.

Republican constituents are upset with the Speaker for abandoning Trump after the 2005 lewd tape emerged believing Ryan’s support and campaigning would have helped the GOP nominee. The nominee and the speaker have had a contentious relationship through the primaries and even after Trump became the presumptive nominee, Ryan was always reluctant to support him and took long to endorse him.

Ryan now seems to see the benefits of supporting Trump even marginally. Republicans are returning and rallying around the nominee and the entire ticket after news broke that the FBI is renewing their investigation in Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton

Earlier this week Ryan announced that he voted for the party’s nominee, although he did not mention Trump by name. In the last days of the campaign, Ryan plans to campaign with Trump’s running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence on Saturday in Wisconsin where they will both be campaigning with Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, is facing a tough reelection battle.

In his interview with Bader Ryan touted the ticket more as anti-Clinton vote rather an endorsement for Trump’s qualities. Ryan expressed, “Let that be a case for voting against Hillary Clinton. Let that be a case for voting for Trump, Pence, [Sen. Ron] Johnson, Congress, everybody.” Ryan argued, “She will bring all this baggage in, think of the cloud that will surround her with this ongoing investigation and how the Clintons play the system. I don’t think we want to see that in the White House again.”

A week after the election House Republicans intend to vote for speaker on Nov. 15. Then Ryan will face the entire new 115th Congress, which makes their formal vote on the first day of the new session on Jan. 3, 2017.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert inpresidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.