House Ways and Means Committee

The Impact Of The California House Delegation–53 out of 435 House Of Representatives Members, And 16 Major Figures

California, the largest state with one out of every eight people in the nation–39.25 million out of 323 million in 2016—has 53 members in the House of Representatives–one out of every eight in the House.

Due to that reality, California House members tend to stand out as more significant than many in other state delegations, with 39 Democrats and 14 Republicans representing the state in the House of Representatives.

A large number of these Congressmen and Congresswomen are leaders in the House, and are often seen on cable television and on news websites.

Among the Republicans, we have:

Kevin McCarthy of the 23rd District is the House Majority Leader, second highest leader of the Republicans in the chamber.

Devin Nunes of the 22nd District is the House Intelligence Committee Chair, although he stepped aside on the investigation of Donald Trump, due to accusations that he had disclosed classified information to the public, and consulted with President Trump on committee actions.

Ed Royce of the 39th District is the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair.

Dana Rohrabacher of the 48th District has been controversial for his overly pro Russian, pro Vladimir Putin, advocacy.

Darrell Issa of the 49th District was the Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2011-2015, and is also known to be the wealthiest member of Congress.

Among the Democrats, we have:

Nancy Pelosi of the 12th District is former Speaker of the House from 2007-2011, and has been Minority Leader since 2011, and is, therefore, the highest ranking Democrat in Congress, and is always highly controversial as a result of her leadership position.

Barbara Lee is a very outspoken African American Congresswoman, representing the 13th District, and was the only person not to support the resolution authorizing the use of force after September 11, 2001. She has been in the past the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Jackie Speier of the 14th District has been a leader in the movement to expose sexual harassment, and to demand action on misbehavior of members of Congress.

Eric Swalwell of the 15th District has only been in Congress for five years, but has played a role on the House Intelligence Committee and House Judiciary Committee on the ongoing investigation into Donald Trump and Russian collusion, and is often seen on cable news programs.

Zoe Lofgren of the 19th District serves on the Oversight and Judiciary Committees and is an important figure with her 22 years in the House of Representatives.

Adam Schiff of the 28th District has become the major figure on the Democratic side of the House Intelligence Committee investigation into Donald Trump and Russian collusion, and earlier served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and has also served on the Appropriations Committee. He is considered an expert on foreign policy and national security issues. He is often seen on cable news programs.

Brad Sherman of the 30th District is a ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and has been in the House of Representatives for 21 years. He has also served on the Financial Services Committee.

Ted Lieu of the 33rd District has been in Congress for only three years, but is already an outspoken member, including a call for the impeachment of Donald Trump, and he has been made an Assistant Whip by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. He serves on the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees in the House of Representatives.

Karen Bass, African American from the 37th District, serves on the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees, and is quite outspoken, despite only seven years in the House of Representatives.

Linda Sanchez of the 38th District serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and is ranking member of the Ethics Committee, and is Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. She is also the Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, 5th ranking position in the House Democratic leadership, and first woman of color ever to be elected to a leadership position in the history of the US Congress.

Maxine Waters of the 43rd District, and African American, is the most outspoken critic of Donald Trump in Congress, and has called for his impeachment and removal from the Presidency. She has long been a firebrand on many issues, and is the most senior of twelve black women serving in Congress. She is a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and has been in Congress since 1991. She was also a strong critic of President George W. Bush, as well as of President Barack Obama. She also is the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, and previously served on the House Judiciary Committee. She has come under fire for her confrontational manner, and has been accused of and investigated for ethics violations.

So 5 Republicans and 11 Democrats, almost one third of the 53 House members from California, are major figures in what goes on in the House of Representatives on a daily basis.

Paul Ryan As Speaker Of The House: Will It Benefit His Party And The Nation?

So John Boehner is now retired as Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, head of the House Ways and Means Committee, and 2012 Vice Presidential nominee for Mitt Romney, is the new Speaker. So instead of being one heartbeat away from the Presidency as Vice President, Ryan is now two heartbeats away from the Presidency as Speaker of the House, and requires Secret Service protection, which will change his and his family’s lives dramatically!

Anyone who has read my blog regularly knows that I have not been a fan of Ryan, and in fact, was attacked by right wing websites for my strong opposition to Ryan.

However, this is a fresh start in the House of Representatives, and we should all wish Ryan good luck, as he tries to organize the Republican Party: deal with the Tea Party Freedom Caucus members (eleven of them not voting for him as Speaker); and learn to “cross the aisle” more and work with the Democratic minority.

Ryan has potential to be a great Speaker, but it all depends on how he deals with intransigent members.

Certainly, the nation needs a stable and competent House to do “the business of the people.”

The Destruction Of The Speakership Of The House Of Representatives Under Republican Control Since 1994

The Speaker of the House of Representatives is two heartbeats away from the Presidency, and is the top constitutional officer in the legislative branch of government.

The Speaker is chosen by the majority party in the chamber, and he has responsibilities which include introducing the President of the United States at a State of the Union address, and all other special speakers to a joint session of Congress, including foreign government leaders.  The Speaker has been second in line of succession to the Presidency since the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.

The Speakership has had its major figures historically, including those for whom House Office Buildings are named: Joseph Cannon, Nicholas Longworth, Sam Rayburn, and Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.  It also has had a President, James K. Polk, and two Vice Presidents, Schuyler Colfax and John Nance Garner, as Speakers.  It also had three Presidential nominees, John Bell, James G. Blaine and Henry Clay.

Henry Clay was the greatest single figure in the whole history of Congress, who ran for President three times, including against Polk in 1844.  It also has had Thomas B. Reed, who promoted the growth of the office to its all time greatest authority, continuing under Joseph Cannon.

It also had John McCormack, who played a major role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and much of the Great Society programs of Lyndon B. Johnson.  Had there been no 25th Amendment passed in 1967, Carl Albert would have succeeded Richard Nixon when he resigned in 1974.  Were it not for Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to be Speaker, there would have been no ObamaCare legislation passed in 2010.

It was a rebellion of progressives in the Republican Party in 1910 , in combination with the minority Democrats, that created a “revolution” in House rules, stripping the Speaker of the absolute control of events that existed under Thomas B. Reed and Joseph Cannon, but still the office has played a major role in American history.

Since the Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives in 1994, after 40 years of being in the minority, and keeping control except for 2007-2011, the Speakership has become an office of disaster and controversy.

First, Newt Gingrich became very confrontational with Bill Clinton, and caused crisis after crisis, until he was forced to resign, with his private scandalous love life being discovered as Bill Clinton faced impeachment for his own scandalous love life.  Bob Livingston was supposed to succeed Gingrich, but his own private scandalous love life prevented that, so Dennis Hastert, a back bencher, became Speaker, lasted longer than any Republican in the position, and avoided most controversy, until now in retirement we have learned of his abuse of male students while a teacher and wrestling coach in high school in the years before he engaged in politics.

John Boehner came into the Speakership under Barack Obama, and faced a Tea Party rebellion, which prevented ability to negotiate, and finally, he lost the confidence of his party, and decided to resign, but his planned successor, Kevin McCarthy, self destructed in the past two weeks, and decided yesterday that he would not run for Speaker, uncertain of support of the Tea Party element.  So now Boehner is back temporarily, and there is a major crisis among House Republicans as to who would be acceptable as an alternative, with Paul Ryan, head of the House Ways and Means Committee and 2012 Vice Presidential nominee, being pressured to take the job, but not wanting to take it.

The Speakership is in crisis, and the Republican Party has done great damage to the position in the past 21 years, and besmirched the historical reputation of the position and of the House of Representatives, and the only way to retrieve it is the hope that, somehow, the Democrats can regain control in 2016, but considered highly unlikely!

80 Years Of Social Security And Counting: The Most Successful “Safety Net” Program In American History!

On August 14, 1935 the Social Security Act became law during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, with Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York and Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins key figures in promoting its passage.

For the first time, there was the pledge of providing senior citizens with some financial support in their later years.

Additionally, widows and orphans, and the disabled would be covered under the law.

The US was behind Germany, Great Britain, and France, industrialized nations which had enacted such legislation decades earlier.

There was bipartisan support from progressive Republicans and from Democrats, but more conservative Republicans set as their goal to destroy Social Security, as early as the Presidential Election of 1936.

But Social Security has survived eight decades, and has done so much good for the nation, and its most vulnerable citizens.

Even now, there are proposals to change Social Security, as was done in 1983, by a deal between President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, raising the retirement to age 66 and 67 for full benefits, depending on year of birth.

Now there is the call to raise the retirement age further, and cut benefits over the long haul, bitterly opposed by progressives and Democrats. Also, George W. Bush tried to privatize part of Social Security, which failed of enactment in 2005, but again is being promoted by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

The tax base has been raised, but even now, only the first $118,500 is taxed, and many feel there should be no limit on the tax base, as that allows those who make much higher incomes to avoid further taxation, and putting the burden on the average American who does not earn more than $118,500.

The point is that by raising the tax base to unlimited income would insure the long term survival of Social Security.

It is essential to insure that the most successful “Safety Net” program in American history continued to survive and prosper!

July 30, 1965 To July 30, 2015: 50 Years Of Medicare!

Today is the 50the Anniversary of Medicare, finally brought about by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

An idea originally proposed by Theodore Roosevelt in his Progressive (Bull Moose) Party campaign of 1912; further conceptualized by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the mid 1930s, but thought to be moving too rapidly for Congress, when there was the fight over Social Security in 1935; and promoted by Harry Truman in his promotion of his Fair Deal, it was signed into law with former President Truman sitting next to Johnson at the Truman Museum and Library in Independence, Missouri.

Johnson accomplished what John F. Kennedy wanted to fulfill in his New Frontier agenda, but was unable to do because of the opposition of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, but Johnson convinced Mills to move ahead, as part of LBJ’s great “wheeler dealer” abilities to promote his Great Society.

Medicare was a “God send” to millions of senior citizens, who no longer had to go into poverty as a result of medical and health issues, and it made the last years of the elderly a lot less stressful and worrisome.

Of course, the issue of cost overruns and corruption has arisen, and with people living longer, there is a long term problem in Medicare, but careful administration and some tax increases will manage to keep Medicare afloat for the long run, although present House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential running mate in 2012), wants to phase it out over time.

Many Republicans want this, but Democrats will fight tooth and nail to insure the continuation and financial stability of the greatest social program since Social Security, an essential part of the “safety net”, and part of the social justice agenda of liberals and progressives since the time of Theodore Roosevelt!

Former Senator Russ Feingold, In LaFollette Progressive Tradition, Attempting Return To Senate In 2016 Election!

Wisconsin, the home of LaFollette progressivism a century ago, and the home of many progressive leaders since “Fighting Bob” LaFollette became the most prominent progressive in America, has had difficult times recently with the election of Scott Walker as Governor and Ron Johnson as Senator, defeating Senator Russ Feingold, one of the finest public servants ever to grace Wisconsin government and the US Senate, in the 2010 midterm elections.

Between Congressman Paul Ryan being the Vice Presidential nominee for Mitt Romney in the Presidential Election of 2012 and being elevated to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman in 2015; and Governor Walker hoping to be the Republican Presidential nominee in 2016; along with the backward, regressive record of Senator Johnson, Wisconsin has been dealt a terrible hand, and it is time to move to return Wisconsin to its proud progressive tradition!

That can be accomplished by working to prevent Scott Walker from being the GOP Presidential nominee, and by bringing Russ Feingold back to the US Senate, kicking Ron Johnson out!

There is great hope for change, now that Feingold has decided to attempt a return to his Senate seat, which he honored with an outstanding record from 1993-2011!

Feingold can be part of the mission of the Democrats to return to control of the US Senate in the 2016 Congressional elections. He has been one of the most outstanding members of the US Senate in the past two decades, and his defeat was a major blow that helped to undermine any chance of Wisconsin continuing its traditional role as a state which led the nation in so many ways!

President Obama Not Acting Like A “Lame Duck”!

Barack Obama could be said to have suffered a defeat in the midterm elections, when his Democratic party lost control of the US Senate, and the House of Representatives majority became the largest since 1929 for the Republican Party.

And yet, Obama has been on a “tear” since, and it is clear that he is NOT acting like a “lame duck”, and will work to accomplish as many goals as he can, with or without cooperation of the GOP majority in Congress.

Obviously, Obama cannot pass legislation on his own, but he can veto legislation, and prevent destructive behavior by the Republican majority.

So new House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin can wish to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but Obama will be able to prevent much, if any damage, to these signature programs promoted into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Obama has been able to get judicial appointments approved by the outgoing Democratic Senate majority, and those judges have lifetime tenure.

Obama can, legally, by executive order, promote many changes that do not need Congressional approval, and every President has utilized this power to bring about changes, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but the issue of the authority to use executive orders is a clear cut one!

So Barack Obama still has two years to bring historic change, and he is now liberated to do what he wishes to do that is allowable under our Constitution and history, and he no longer needs to be cautious, but instead can become aggressive and outspoken, knowing that even if he was to be impeached and brought to trial by the Republican Congress, that he is untouchable, as there is no way to gain a two thirds majority in the US Senate to remove him.

Instead, he has the opportunity to make his Presidency more transformative and historic at a time when so much of what he has already done is bearing fruit!

Eric Cantor Not Only Congressional Leader Defeated For Re-election

The defeat of Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader in his Congressional primary in Virginia by David Brat, was stunning and shocking, but not the first time that a Congressional leader was defeated for renomination or reelection.

Other prominent cases include:

Senator Richard Lugar, former Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, of Indiana in 2012 by Richard Mourdock

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota in 2004 by John Thune

House Speaker Tom Foley of Washington State in 1994 by George Nethercutt

Former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski of Illinois in 1994 by Michael Flanagan

Congressman Emanuel Celler, House Judiciary Committee Chairman of New York, in 1972 by Elizabeth Holtzman

Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas of Illinois in 1950 by Everett Dirksen

Senator Robert La Follette, Jr of Wisconsin in 1946 by Joseph McCarthy

Notice that ONLY Cantor, Lugar and La Follette, Jr. were Republican officeholders defeated, while the others listed were all Democrats.

So it is newsworthy and highly unusual for Congressional leaders and prominent members to lose reelection!

Paul Ryan Out To Destroy Medicare And Social Security

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan may be the new Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in 2015, if the Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives!

This is another reason to work to acquire the 17 seats needed for the Democrats to gain control.

Ryan, having a nice inheritance and a wife whose family has money, does not need to worry about the future, as most Americans do.

He is now proposing that Medicare be voluntary for those under 55, endangering the health care of those people who decide to opt out, and then, when elderly, have inferior health care. Those ignorant people who do what Ryan suggests would be given a voucher, which would not cover all health care when retired.

This is similar to the idea of George W. Bush to make Social Security voluntary for those under 55, and allow them to put their funds in the stock market, which collapsed in 2008!

So Ryan, like President Bush, wants people to gamble, and in so doing, help to destroy Medicare and Social Security!

If the funding is removed, it insures the demise of the LBJ and FDR signature programs that have made America a better place!

Is that surprising, when the GOP has set out to destroy ObamaCare, the third part of this great set of social programs, what makes America a place equal to the advanced social reforms of Europe and Japan?

Should Congressman Paul Ryan Have Ultimate Control Of The National Budget? NO! :(

One of the earliest planned actions of the House Republicans, once they take control on Wednesday, is to propose that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin be given total control over the House budget as it will go through the House Ways and Means Committee.

If this happens, it will be an unprecedented move, giving one member of the House total control, without a vote on each part of the budget by the entire House of Representatives.

Ryan, while regarded by some as very bright and talented a legislator, has a very extreme view of budgetary matters, with the emphasis on cutting taxes endlessly on the wealthy, and ruthlessly cutting programs on education, health care, social security, the environment, and all other domestic programs.

It is an extreme right wing radical attack on the budgetary process, with the likely outcome being further polarization of the social classes and a direct attack on the whole concept of the New Deal and the Great Society!

It would represent an attempt to take us back to the years before Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. It would negate much of the 20th century reforms that have advanced this nation into the 21st century!

Fortunately, the Senate and the President would stand in the way, but it will mean total gridlock and stalemate, instead of cooperative progress to deal with the many social and economic issues the country faces in 2011!

It would be a tremendous tragedy of massive proportions, with the outcome for 2012 hard to predict! 🙁