Playing Congressional Keep-Away

Terry H. Schwadron

March 5, 2019

Last month, President Trump badly wanted an invite to the House floor to offer his State of the Union address, even going so far as to exchange unpleasant words with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the issue.

He eventually did get in, after stopping the partial government shutdown that had been the sticking point, and offered a lengthy, read speech that generally drew yawns — and proved unsuccessful at winning congressional backing for rearranging federal finances to promote his concept of a border wall.

Today, the president probably would just as soon stay at his end of Pennsylvania Avenue, tossing whatever tweet bombs he wishes, but not actually having to engage with legislators of either party in either house of Congress.

Why? Because just enough members of Congress are unwilling to walk through the wheel of fire for the president into the maw of unconstitutional budget manipulations, and enough of the majority Democrats in the House are showing that they actually are angry enough to stop being polite.

It’s not just politics at play, though there certainly is all that, but some of the important document searching about to get under way could lead to criminal charges.

In the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, often an ally of the president, stood up last night and said, No, he will not stand by and allow the president to trod over Congress by redrawing the current federal budget lines to pay for Wall construction. He said it even though he believes in the Wall, in the president’s generally anti-immigration policies. His reasoning is that it plain old gives the president, whoever he or she may be, too much governmental authority, and that overrules the rationale.

“I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress,” Paul said, according to the newspaper. “We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing.”

In so doing, Paul joins fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Thom Tillis of North Carolina in blocking Trump’s desires, giving the opposition Democrats the four votes they need. More Republican senators have been wavering in support to what lawmakers see as executive overreach and a test of the constitutional separation of powers, including Lamar Alexander of Tennesee and Mario Rubio of Florida.

Still, the total will not be enough to overcome an expected presidential veto.

Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, chairman of the Judiciary Committee said he plans to request documents from scores of people and organizations connected to President Trump as part of an inquiry that could eventually lead to his impeachment.

Speaking on ABC News’s “This Week,” Nadler said his panel will be sending requests for documents to more than 80 individuals and entities (down from a reported 150), including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr.; Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization; and the Justice Department. The materials, the congressman said, would be used “to begin investigations to present the case to the American people about obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power.”

Had the president not spend close to two hours before the CPAC conservative politics gathering this weekend in a rambling attack on Democrats, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, witch hunt investigations, wayward Republican senators who are not supporting his emergency declaration to build the Wall, the evil media, Climate Control advocates and pretty much everything but the man in the moon that he does not like, he might spend today doing so.

Come to think of it, this combination of provocations are sure to draw more tweets that repeat the multi-headed attacks.

Indeed, several other House committees are digging aggressively into the president’s actions, his 2016 campaign, his businesses and his associates. The House Oversight and Reform Committee publicly questioned former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen, who implicated Trump in several serious crimes, including potential campaign finance violations connected to hush-money payoffs to women and possible fraud charges concerning falsified documents provided to banks and insurance companies.

Now Chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-MD, said that he, too, was interested in securing testimony from Trump’s children and Weisselberg, who has overseen the financial details of Trump’s business ventures for decades. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) asked his staff to begin preparing a request for Trump’s past tax returns to be submitted to the Treasury Department in the coming weeks. The House Intelligence and Financial Services committees also are conducting probes that could touch Trump personally.

Incongruously, Trump said for the millionth time that there was “no collusion” for anyone to find. No , perhaps, but there are plenty of other crimes in his administration.

Interestingly, the White House is under time pressure to present its new spending plan for next year. The president’s desire for more military spending, more Wall spending, the creation of a new Space Force, and the ever-present infrastructure discussion are running headlong into a growing deficit, the questions of whether the good economic effects of the tax cuts have peaked and the president’s diminishing persuasive powers over a split Congress.

With the Mueller report apparently due soon, this is the time to strap in and watch how the plot thickens.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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