Tag Archive: house of representatives

Take Back Congress 2018

March Madness this year had its share of surprises beginning with the history-making UMBC seeded #16 defeating in the first round my alma mater UVA seeded #1 (heart-breaking.) Likewise in our congressional primary it is always possible that the unexpected…
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Cole Campaign Releases Internet Ad

As I wrote last week, there are a number of upstart Democrats running for Congress against entrenched or wealthy Republicans in New Jersey this year. Generally, their campaigns can’t compete financially with the well-connected incumbents who have built up considerable…
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House of Representatives sputtering onward

The new 114th congressional session kicked off in early January with a few sputters. Its Republican membership has increased but so far not its openness to moderate issues. Nonetheless, two New Jersey Democrats (Reps. Norcross and Sires) have voted in support of Republican bills. Republicans who believe in “limited, constitutional government” have formed The House Freedom Caucus, whose membership includes New Jersey’s most rabid conservative Scott Garrett. Rep. Garrett earlier voted against John Boehner as Speaker, which did not endear him to leadership. So far the house seems to be operating under the principle of “same old same old.”  

House action:

  • Keystone XL Pipeline Act passed 266-153. Democrats Norcross and Sires voted Yes as did all NJ Republicans. All other NJ D’s voted No.

  • Promoting Job Creation and Reducing Small Business Burdens (weakens Dodd Franks legislation) passed 271-154. Democrat Sires and All NJ R’s voted Yes, and all other NJ D’s voted No.

  • Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act passed 253-169. Norcross (D) and all NJ R’s voted Yes. Other NJ D’s voted No.

  • Prohibit taxpayer abortions passed 242-179. All NJ R’s voted Yes; all D’s voted No.

  • Appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security (Limits the President’s authority to  to spare classes of deserving immigrants per his Executive Order.) passed 236-191. All NJ R’s voted Yes. All NJ D’s voted No.

    For committee assignments and power ratings, go below the fold.  

  • Independent Funders Spending Big But Not So Much In NJ

    With the possibility that Republicans might take over the U.S. Senate and with both parties trying to strengthen their margin in the House, money is flying around the country at electronic speeds and in quantities not seen before. The Huffington Post reports, “Super PACs are set to be a massive force in the 2014 midterms.” You can add to that monies expended by the national Democratic and Republican congressional and senatorial committees and other sources. However, the independent funders’ big money is not used to support every candidate.

    In New Jersey where there are few competitive races, only Democrat Aimee Belgard (CD 3) has been a beneficiary so far. Two independent groups using their own funds have spent over $700,000 since August 1, 2014, in their ads and other media to oppose her challenger Republican Tom MacArthur. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, headed by Rep. Steve Israel, has spent the largest amount, and the House Majority PAC (headed by Alixandria Lapp who used to work for the DCCC) also spent funds to to oppose MacArthur.

    Belgard’s campaign committee has directly received $827,000 through June 30 of which $341,000 was in committee contributions that includes $10,000 from EMILY’s List. MacArthur has not had independent funders spending on his behalf, but he loaned $3 million to his own campaign.  

    It’s big money and lots more independent funds will be spent before the elections are over. However much more might not be spent on NJ elections unless specific races draw closer. Even Cory Booker who last year drew a lot money from independent funders is not doing so this year, but he had $3.5 million cash on hand as of June 30, 2014 and is expected to win.  

    Adult Leadership

    It’s a well-known fact that Congress is dysfunctional. The Republican leadership behaves like a miffed three-year-old. “If you don’t play the game my way (i.e. stand in the way of progress), then I’ll take all my toys (i.e. shut down the government) and go home (i.e. take more vacation than any other Congress has in the past.)”

    Given the child-like behavior of Speaker John Boehner, Louis Gohmert, Michele Bachmann and the rest of that crowd, it would be beneficial to elect some real adults to the House of Representatives – people who would earn their salaries and perks by actually working for the American people, regardless of political affiliation.

    How does this premise of adult leadership apply to New Jersey’s Third Congressional District?

    On the Republican side, we have Tom MacArthur, a Rollo the Rich Kid who parachuted in to the district to use his vast fortune to buy an open seat. MacArthur himself has said that he will spend whatever amount of money it takes to get elected. His childish campaign material rarely talks about his policies but rather taunts his opponent, Aimee Belgard, with misinformation on her record and features manipulated photographs of her showing dirt all over her face.

    Aimee Belgard, on the other hand, exhibits the kind of adult leadership we need in Washington. As a minority member of the County Board of Freeholders, rather than being obstructionist, she works with the majority to get things done. Not all the things that she’d like – after all she’s still in the minority. But many improvements in the county, including more transparency, improved fiscal oversight, a better recycling program, and the rescue of a cherished nature center, are among her accomplishments on the board. And to everyone’s credit, while she and the GOP majority on the board may have ideological disagreements, all have kept the discussions civil and they treat each other with mutual respect. Isn’t that the kind of behavior we need in Congress?

    Don’t Run the Country Like a Business

    In political campaigns, you often hear candidates promise that they will run the country like a business. To me, that’s almost a disqualifier.

    I live in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District, and the two major party candidates are running for a seat being vacated by the retirement of a former NFL football player.

    The Republican candidate is an insurance CEO (who lives 90 miles outside the district) and touts his business experience as a reason why the people of the district should send him to Washington. To me, being a successful businessman has about as much relevance as being an NFL offensive tackle when it comes to my vote.

    Brat, A Self-Made Phony Yet An Honest Representative of the Right

    Hypocrisy, exaggeration and deception are part and parcel of democratic politics, but all lies, I have learned, are not equal, nor should they be received that way. Some lies are much more deceptive, cunning and misleading than others, as are the liars that tell them. A good example is currently winding its way through the web and blogosphere, and it concerns the current darling of the Tea Party, David Brat.

    Brat’s unexpected primary victory against Republican Party Bigwig/Congressman Eric Cantor is huge news, and rightfully so. As a Tea Party favorite, Brat’s victory serves as a warning to more moderate Republicans that so-called free market, laissez-faire Tea Party values still hold credence with Republican voters.

    The Tea Party and its Republican supporters live in a sort of “way we never were” cloud where America is (or should be) rightfully a white, Christian country comprised of English-speaking hard workers who, in their noble, honest self-sufficiency are not in need, nor desire, any welfare-state handouts like Medicare, Social Security or almost anything else state-sponsored or supported. They see themselves as the once marginalized but now awakened  “Silent Majority” whose time to stand up – unapologetically so – for American values and identity has arrived. According to Tea Partiers and many Republicans, people who get a “boost” from government programs are cheating an otherwise fair and square system which rewards hard work and honesty with The Good Life.

    So wasn’t I surprised when I read that in his official campaign biography, Brat makes an astounding claim:

    “[Brat] tested his rural values against the intellectual elite while at Princeton and against the powerful elite at American University.”

    Okay, so from a reasonable reader’s perspective, the assertion here is immediately understood. Brat attended college as a sort of noble underdog undergraduate at Princeton University. The image is quite clear of a young conservative man standing up for good American Christian values in the profane, ivy covered halls of Princeton University…perhaps passionately defending the rights of the unborn against the Abortionist professors of that esteemed institution. Perhaps he made an entire U.S. government class gasp when he publicly proclaimed his stance against affirmative action or immigration or on some other hot button issue. So here’s the kicker:

    It never happened.

    Brat never gained admission to or graduated from Princeton University. He lied. He misrepresented himself and tried to convince his readers, supporters and others that he earned something that he did not.  

    In reality, Brat apparently – though I still think this needs to be confirmed – attended Princeton Theological Seminary. Is the seminary geographically located in the town of Princeton? Why yes, it is. Is it known by anyone, past or present, as being part of Princeton University? No, not by a long shot. In fact, its students and graduates either call it by name or refer to it as “PTS.”

    This is no small omission, and he shouldn’t get a break on it. America is indeed the land of fudged resumes, and of people reinventing themselves – sometimes twice over. But what we have here is a candidate who represents a movement that, like I mentioned earlier, is obsessed with merit and straightforwardness, and Brat, in his claims, honors neither. He’s a fraud and wannabe. His claims are an insult not just to Princeton alumni, but rather, to any and all of us who ever worked and earned a four-year college degree anywhere. Its especially stinging for those of us burdened with tens of thousands of dollars in college loans that the Tea Party demands we repay regardless of the cost to our families and the national economy. He’s a fake, a phony. He’s pathetic.

    But curiously enough, I will concede that Brat is a fine representative of the entire Tea Party movement, and that of the Republican Party as well. Because if you do really believe that you’ve earned everything in your life, and that you owe nothing to your society or nation or community, then you’re about as much as a hypocrite as he is. The truth is that most if not all Americans have received immense benefits, both directly and indirectly, from the various levels of government over the course of their lifetimes. Whether it was attending public school, driving on an interstate highway, breathing in relatively clean air, gaining a benefit from an unadulterated medication, cashing a Social Security/Medicare check or sending an email – we have all proven to be welfare kings and queens. We have all advanced at some point in our lives from the imperfect largesse of the Federal and State governments.

    And you don’t need a Princeton degree to figure that one out.  

    The War on Women Continues

    Right now, the Violence Against Women Act is being held up in Congress because Eric Cantor believes that Tribal authorities have no right to pursue justice for Native American women who are victims of rape by non-Native rapists.  Currently, in a fact I was made aware of by Chiefs I know personally here in NJ, American Indian women fall through terrifying cracks in our justice system in the United States because of problems with jurisdiction. When I was made aware of this  a few years ago, I could not believe it was not on the news every night. The situation is appalling.  Not only are these women subject to internal domestic abuse due to the harsh conditions so many must endure, they have to deal with being raped by non-native men who cannot be brought to justice in court. It is unthinkable and most Americans I know would be outraged by this – if only they knew it was happening.