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House Cleaning #7-2018: Joe Barton (R-TX-6)

Welcome to House Cleaning, 2018 edition. This series explores House of Representatives members who have either left Congress early or have decided not to seek re-election. This series covers what a Representative has accomplished in Congress from 2016 until they either resigned or decided not to seek re-election.

Texas Representative Joe Barton of the 6th District decided to retire on November 30th, 2017. He will be remembered as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He was also one of the Texas politicians behaving badly in 2017, brought down not by sexual harassment, but by revenge porn.

In the House, Joe Barton was beaten out by Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) in an internal House election to be the next chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden also beat one other Republican, John Shimkus (R-IL).

He was also the team manager of the annual Congressional baseball game, which was held for charity every year. The game was uneventful up until 2015, but gained notoriety in 2017 when Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) was shot by John Hodgkinson. Joe Barton was at the field practicing and was there with his son when Hodgkinson opened first. His son hid under a truck and was shielded by Congressmen and their aides until Capitol Police subdued Hodgkinson.

In the 2016 election, Joe Barton endorsed outgoing Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) for President and led his congressional outreach. Rick Perry, as those who followed the election will recall, was the first candidate out of the race, suspending his campaign on September 11, 2015.

On Abortion, on October 3rd, 2017, the Representative voted for HR 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would make it a crime for anyone to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the fetus was 20 weeks or older, with exceptions being made to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.  The 20-week mark is when many pro-life Republicans believe that the fetus can feel pain, hence the name of this act. The bill passed the House by a 237-189 vote. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On Cybersecurity, he and Senator Joe Markey (D-MA) teamed up to question VTech, a children’s toy company. At issue was how compliant VTech was in safeguarding children’s personal data as required by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The letter came in light of a data breach that invaded the profiles of 6.4 million children’s profiles and 5 million parents’ accounts. The letter read in part, “Among many requirements, COPPA requires these operators [such as VTech] to notify parents and obtain consent from them before collecting personal information from children, as well as take reasonable steps to protect the confidentiality, security, and integration of personal information collected about children.” The letter also inquired about the regular security protocols that that company used.

The Texas Representative was also part of the House Smart Transportation Caucus, which was formed in 2016. He, along with three of Congresspersons, wanted to address the issue of smart vehicles.

On Donald Trump, when Stephen K. Bannon, White House chief strategist, tried to order the Freedom Caucus members around, Joe Barton did not take kindly to the order that the Caucus must vote for legislation. A member of the Freedom Caucus himself, Barton was insulted by the order, telling Bannon that the only person who ordered him around was “my daddy,” and that even his father couldn’t always succeed in ordering him around. When asked about the incident later, he smiled and stated, “I will admit on the record that I took exception to a comment that he made. There is a separation of powers, and the president has a role and the Congress has a role. That’s all I’ll say.”

On the Economy, Joe Barton voted against an aid package for Hurricane Harvey victims because it would also mean increasing the debt ceiling and a three-month continuing resolution whereby funding for the government was kept at the same levels. Republicans have balked at increasing the debt ceiling, the amount of debt that the government can have at any one time, without cutting spending because it would simply mean another debt ceiling raise. This bill passed the House despite his objections, 316-90, and was signed into law.

He also voted for an earlier version of the bill, which would provide $7.85 billion to Harvey victims, which had no debt ceiling raise. This bill passed the House almost unanimously, 419-3.

After the votes, Barton joined part of a congressional task force that would head up Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. This task force would help direct and coordinate the spending of the massive $15.25 billion in aid that Congress had passed over his objections. He then held a press conference about tax relief for hurricane victims with one Democrat and one Republican.

The Representative from Texas would later vote for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, voting to change the tax code just like he and many other long-time incumbents had in 1986.  The bill passed the House, 227-205, and was signed into law by the President.

On Finance, the Representative from Texas voted for the Financial CHOICE Act, which would change provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. The bill passed the house, 233-186, largely on partisan lines.

On Foreign Policy, he voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This act would allow for Congress to review and counter acts of aggression by the governments of Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The bill passed almost unanimously, 419-3, on July 25th, 2017. It was later signed into law by the President.

On Health Care, Representative Barton is against the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. This explains his “yes” vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017, which would essentially turn Obamacare into Trumpcare. The bill passed the House, 217-213, along partisan lines. The law eventually died in the Senate.

Once the Energy and Commerce Committee began its markup for the repeal of Obamacare, Democrats hijacked the debate and began a marathon of offering amendments. The marathon lasted more than one day, and at one point Mr. Barton offered to buy Waffle House food for Democrats if they would only stop offering amendments.

On Immigration, Rep. Barton held a press conference about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order (DACA, often referred to as President Obama’s “illegal amnesty order”) with thirteen other Republicans.

On June 29th, 2017, he voted for Kate’s Law. This bill would provide an increase in penalty severity for illegal immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes, are deported, and then re-enter the U.S. illegally. The law’s namesake is Kate Steinle, who was allegedly shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had seven felonies. This law passed the House 257-167, but has not been signed into law by the President. The alleged murderer was later acquitted after the vote, which essentially removes any legal connection it would have had with the illegal immigrant.

He voted for the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill would withhold federal funds from states and localities that are “sanctuary cities/states” for illegal immigrants. The bill passed the House, 228-195. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

Representative Joe Barton’s decision not to seek reelection was the result of “revenge porn,” the act by which consensually obtained nude photos of someone are circulated online without the subject’s consent. A nude selfie of Barton surfaced, and Barton was quick to confirm that he had in fact had “sexual relationships with other mature adult women” before his divorce from second wife was finalized and while separated from her, but he stressed that these relationships were “consensual,” and later added, “I am sorry I did not use better judgment during those days. I am sorry that I let my constituents down.” He also sent racy texts to an Arlington GP activist while Barton was still married. These texts were leaked by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Not all was as his public statements seemed, however. The woman to whom he sent the nude pictures and videos to initially refused. Further, when Barton found out that the woman was getting to know his other mistresses, he responded by threatening to call the Capitol Police if she ever shared the pictures or videos and broke the relationship off. In an audio recording of a call to the anonymous woman, he stated, “I would tell them [the Capitol Police] that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photos and videos with you that I wouldn’t like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career. That’s the truth.” It is known that he stated this because the Washington Post transcribed an audio recording between him and his mistress.

In a reaction to the new revelations, Barton remarked, “As the transcript reflects I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted.” It was a very public method of responding to the perpetrator and following through on exactly what he said he would do.

Some good did come out of the event. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), reacting as typical Washington politicians did when some harm came to members of their own legislative body, proposed a “revenge porn” law that would make the act of sharing sexually explicit imagery without consent of the subject a federal offense. It was a law that was very overdue to debated.

Texas Republicans and the federal and local levels applied the usual pressure to attempt to get Barton to resign. At first, he had no plans to relinquish he spot on the Energy and Commerce Committee. Then, on November 30th, 2017, three weeks after announcing he would seek an 18th term, Rep. Barton announced that he would not seek re-election.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Barton stated, “there are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside.” This interview came only days after the same newspaper wrote a glowing review of Barton for his decision to stay in Congress despite the leaving of many of his fellow Texan Representatives. He further stated in the interview, “Much work remains in Washington and I hope to carry on the torch for the 6th District. I look forward to the upcoming primary election in Texas.”

 

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House Cleaning #6-2018: Beto O’Rourke (D-TX-16)

Welcome to House Cleaning, 2018 edition. This series explores House of Representatives members who have either left Congress early or have decided not to seek re-election. This series covers what a Representative has accomplished in Congress from 2016 until they either resigned or decided not to seek re-election.

Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is a Democratic Representative from the 16th District of Texas. Mr. O’Rourke’s chief concern was border security. He announced that he would not seek reelection on March 31st, 2017, and is expected to challenge Ted Cruz (R-TX) for Senate. Since he announced his retirement from the House so early in the new Congressional term, he did not have a chance to vote on any key legislation until several months after he made his announcement.

On the 2018 Senate race with Ted Cruz, Beto O‘Rourke is believed to have the best chance to win the US Senate seat and help give Democrats back the majority in the Senate. However, the odds of taking back the majority in the Senate are stacked against Democrats in the upcoming midterm election. This is because ten Democrats are running that are running for reelection to the Senate are doing so in states that President Donald Trump (R-NY) won in 2016. There are also 25 Democrats up for reelection in the Senate, and Democrats would have to hold on to all 25, plus pick up three more. Texas, Arizona, and Nevada are regarded as the three Senate seats most likely to be won by Democrats.

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) believes that Representative O’Rourke is a “good guy,” but also thinks that challenging Ted Cruz is a “suicide mission,” and further noted that Democrats have not won a statewide election (Presidential, Gubernatorial, or Senate) since 1994.

In his defense, O’Rourke told POLITICO, “People want to win and they want to play offense. And Texas represents that.” He later confirmed this to the Texas Tribune, stating, “It’s very likely that I will run for Senate in 2018.” He later told the Houston Chronicle that he had a chance against Cruz, noting that Cruz had spent the past four years “running for president…while he should’ve been serving the people of Texas.”

On Border Security, O’Rourke envisions a future where drones made by General Atomics (a texas company?) will patrol the US-Mexico Border. However, there may be a vast difference between O’Rourke’s future for the drones and the future envisioned by General Atomics.

He’s also journeyed to the US-Mexico border and has documented his entire trip on Snapchat. O’Rourke also visited McAllen, a Texan town on the US-Mexico Border, where he had one in a series of constituent outreach events. He is also against Trump’s border wall.

He’s also been to Juarez, Mexico for lunch. Juarez is one of the most infamous cities in Mexico. When US citizens think about cartel violence in Mexico, Juarez is usually one of the first places that comes to mind. O’Rourke was likely trying to prove that the border was not as dangerous as Americans think.

On Defense, he is against military base realignment and closures (BRAC) and has made proposals to to withhold funding from such ventures.

On Health Care, even though he is against TrumpCare, he has refused to use the mantra of “Make America Sick Again” when discussing TrumpCare. “That shit doesn’t work,” Representative O’Rourke explained. “If I were only listening to Nancy Pelosi, al I would be telling you is the Republicans want to make America sick again. I mean that’s great in San Francisco [but] it’s not what I think, it’s not how I speak and it’s not what I am hearing from my constituents.”

Many of Mr. O’Rourke’s votes were cast after he announced he was leaving the House. He won the primary in his state and is now poised to race against Ted Cruz in a showdown for one of two of the United States Senate seats in Texas. Recent polling as of May 22nd, 2018, show him seven points behind Ted Cruz.

 

House Cleaning #5-2018: Gene Green (D-TX-29)

Welcome to House Cleaning, 2018 edition. This series explores House of Representatives members who have either left Congress early or have decided not to seek re-election. This series covers what a Representative has done in Congress from 2016 until they either resigned or decided not to seek re-election.

Gene Green is a Democratic Representative from the 29th District of Texas. From 2016 until the day he announced his retirement, Mr. Green did not lead many efforts in Congress and kept a low profile. He announced that he was not running for re-election on November 14th, 2017.

Rep. Green only inspired two articles to be carried by national news outlets. One is that, along with Joe Barton (R-TX), he gave the former longest-serving Representative John Dingell (D-IL) with a paperweight in the shape of Texas. Dingell remarked wryly that there was “a lot of paper” because it was heavily packed with tissue paper.

The other is that he was also spotted at a fundraiser for Veronica Escobar (D-TX), who was running to replace Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) as he ran for Senate against Ted Cruz (R-TX). If elected, Ms. Escobar would be the first Hispanic congresswoman elected from Texas.  

On Abortion, the Representative voted against HR 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on October 3rd, 2017. This bill would make it a crime for anyone to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the fetus was 20 weeks or older, with exceptions being made to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.  The 20-week mark is when many pro-life Republicans believe that the fetus can feel pain, hence the name of this act. The bill passed the House by a 237-189 vote. It later died in the Senate. 

On the Economy, he voted for the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which would provide relief for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The bill passed the House 316-90, and was later signed into law. He did, however, vote for an earlier version of the bill, which would provide $7.85 billion to Harvey victims, which had no debt ceiling raise. This bill passed the House almost unanimously, 419-3.

On Foreign Policy, the Representative voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This act would allow for Congress to review and counter acts of aggression by the governments of Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The bill passed almost unanimously, 419-3, on July 25th, 2017. It was later signed into law by the President.

On Finance, Representative Green voted against the Financial CHOICE Act. This bill would have reformed the Dodd-Frank Act as well as removed the designation of “too big to fail” from giant insurance companies.  The Act passed on June 8th, 2017, by a vote of 233-186, along partisan lines.

On Healthcare, Representative Green supports the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. This explains his “no” vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017, which would essentially turn Obamacare into Trumpcare.

Rep. Green held a press conference with guests to President Trump’s speech. The subject of the speech was healthcare, and the guests he had chosen would be some of his constituents that would adversely affected by Obamacare.

The bill passed the House, 217-213, along partisan lines. The law eventually died in the Senate.

On Immigration, he voted against Kate’s Law on June 29th, 2017. This bill would provide an increase in penalty severity for illegal immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes, who are deported, and then re-enter the U.S. illegally. The law’s namesake is Kate Steinle, who was allegedly shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had seven felonies. This law passed the House 257-167, but has not been signed into law by the President. The alleged murderer was later acquitted after the vote, which essentially removes any legal connection it would have had with the illegal immigrant.

He voted against the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill would withhold federal funds from states and localities that are “sanctuary cities/states” for illegal immigrants. The bill passed the House, 228-195. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

Additionally, along with nine other Texan Democrats, Mr. Green sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, inquiring about why a grant that was intended to reduce teen pregnancies was ended. All ten Texas House Democrats believed that the program was wbsuccess.

Not much is known about why Gene Green decided not to seek re-election in 2018. However, is challenger, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, is a Hispanic and was making his race an issue. Green’s district is heavily populated by Hispanics. Green, on the other hand, is a Caucasian male and his district is heavily populated by Hispanics.

 

House Cleaning #4-2018: Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27)

Welcome to House Cleaning, 2018 edition. This series explores House of Representatives members who have either left Congress early or have decided not to seek re-election. This series covers what a Representative has done in Congress from 2016 until they either resigned or decided not to seek re-election.

Blake Farenthold is a Republican Representative from the 27th District of Texas. Representative Farenthold decided not to seek re-election on December 14th, 2017. Unfortunately for Mr. Farenthold, he will most likely not be remembered by any of his flagship accomplishments, but rather by how he decided not to run again.

On Abortion, on October 3rd, 2017, the Representative voted for HR 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would make it a crime for anyone to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the fetus was 20 weeks or older, with exceptions being made to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.  The 20-week mark is when many pro-life Republicans believe that the fetus can feel pain, hence the name of this act. The bill passed the House by a 237-189 vote. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On the Economy, he voted for the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which would provide relief for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. The bill passed the House 316-90, and was later signed into law. He also voted for an earlier version of the bill, which would provide $7.85 billion to Harvey victims, which had no debt ceiling raise. This bill passed the House almost unanimously, 419-3.

Representative Farenthold also voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on November 16th, 2017. This Act reformed the tax code including the tax rate, credits, and deductions for individual and businesses. The President later signed it into law.

On Finance, the Representative from Texas voted for the Financial CHOICE Act, which would change provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. The bill passed the house, 233-186, largely on partisan lines.

On Foreign Policy, he, along with fourteen other Representatives, moved to block federal funding for Syrian refugee resettling programs. The programs would have to be vetted first to make sure any resettling programs could not be exploited by terrorists. Then, Congress would monitor the programs through various reports and hearings.

He also voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This act would allow for Congress to review and counter acts of aggression by the governments of Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The bill passed almost unanimously, 419-3, on July 25th, 2017. It was later signed into law by the President.

On Health Care, Representative Farenthold is against the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. This explains his “yes” vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017, which would essentially turn Obamacare into Trumpcare. The bill passed the House, 217-213, along partisan lines. The law eventually died in the Senate.

In March, he interviewed with NPR. In that interview, he said that repealing Obamacare was a campaign promise he intended to keep. He said, “My message to colleagues, whether they’re to the left of me or to the right me, is you ran on repealing Obamacare. If you can show me a path that’s going to get us there other than this, I want to hear it. And none of them have been able to come up with a path to getting rid of it other than this bill that the President says he’s 1,000 percent behind and that’s going to come up for vote.”

On July 24th, 2017, he stated that he would challenge women GOP Senators to a duel over Obamacare were it not for the fact that they were female. In an interview with Texas Radio station 1440 Keys, he singled out “some female senators from the northeast,” and stated, “if it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.” Even though Farenthold tried to conceal who it was he was talking about, the only Republican Senator from the northeast at the time was Susan Collins (R-ME). She responded with a statement which read, “in twenty years in the Senate, I have had a lot of people make suggestions about how to resolve legislative disputes, but until today nobody had ever suggested a duel.”

Farenthold’s suggestion of a duel carried over into the Senate discussion over Obamacare. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) was caught on live mic telling Susan Collins that she could hold her own in a duel. Senator Susan Collins was also caught after the incident on the same live mic, saying of Farenthold, “huge” and “he’s so unattractive, it’s unbelievable.” Later, she issued a statement in which acknowledged that Farenthold had apologized to her via a handwritten note, and noted, “Neither weapons nor inappropriate words are the right way to resolve legislative disputes.”

On Immigration, on June 29th, 2017, he voted for Kate’s Law. This bill would provide an increase in penalty severity for illegal immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes, are deported, and then re-enter the U.S. illegally. The law’s namesake is Kate Steinle, who was allegedly shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had seven felonies. This law passed the House 257-167, but has not been signed into law by the President. The alleged murderer was later acquitted after the vote, which essentially removes any legal connection it would have had with the illegal immigrant.

He voted for the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill would withhold federal funds from states and localities that are “sanctuary cities/states” for illegal immigrants. The bill passed the House, 228-195. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On Products Liability Litigation, Representative Farenthold sponsored the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency (FACT) Act. This Act would mandate a public record for claims of victims of asbestos exposure. This record would include the name and exposure history. Many advocacy groups claimed that such a public record would lead to identity theft and wrote a letter to the Cybersecurity Caucus with that concern.

Mr. Farenthold, a member of the Cybersecurity Caucus, shot back at the organization. In his typical communication style, he referred to the letter as a “B.S. move by trial lawyers,” and further stated in an email to POLITICO, “My first and only concern is for the victims and making sure that there is enough money in the trust for those who need it. The claim that this bill will threaten victims’ privacy is absolutely false. The FACT Act forbids any disclosure of confidential medical records. Further, federal bankruptcy courts zealously guard asbestos victims’ personal information, and they will ensure that reports filed under the FACT Act are properly protected.” He later added that the amount of information required to be collected was less “than would disclosed during…a state court lawsuit where many asbestos bankruptcy claimants pursue simultaneous claims.”

On Privacy, Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Representative Farenthold both introduced legislation meant to block state legislation that would outlaw smartphones unless a backdoor was provided. The idea that every smartphone must require a backdoor was the FBI’s solution to criminals who were “going dark” and encrypting their communications.

Both Lieu and Farenthold objected to the NSA providing data to law-enforcement agencies that was obtained without a warrant. They believed that such a plan was unconstitutional. Farenthold also sponsored a law meant to overturn the changes that the Supreme Court made to Rule 41, the interpretation of which now meant that federal judges could issue warrants for search and seizures of internet-connected computers outside of their districts, or even outside of the country.

On Race Relations, Blake Farenthold called for the re-installation of Confederate monuments that had been removed from the University of Texas at Austin. As was typical by this point, Farenthold’s timing was incredibly controversial as these remarked came on September 16th, 2017, or approximately one week after the riots at Charlottesville, Virginia. “I can tell you as a University of Texas graduate, I’ve never been more embarrassed for my school,” he said on a Corpus Christi radio station interview. He added, “They’re not getting another dime from me until those statues go up, and that includes football tickets or anything.”

Next, he made a facetious comment and took aim at Antifa. “There’s a congresswoman from Houston whose name is Sheila Jackson Lee,” he said to illustrate a situation that he thought was ridiculous. “‘I’m now only referring to her as Shiela because obviously we don’t want to mention Jackson or Lee.” Then, he turned to Antifa, remarking in part, “if you’re not willing to show your face for your cause, that’s probably an indication that there’s something wrong with your cause.”

Blake Farenthold was the subject of an ethics investigation from 2016-2017. The independent Office of Congressional Ethics said that they could not find evidence that he sexually harassed a staffer. However, the investigation remained open because of a pending lawsuit.

The staffer, Lauren Greene, was Farenthold’s former communications director. In December of 2014, she sued the Texan Representative. Among her complaints were that another aide told Greene that Farenthold had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about her, and in February of the same year, told her that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.” Also included in these allegations were that he “regularly drank to excess and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on ‘redhead patrol to keep him out of trouble.’” And in another instance, Farenthold’s top aide complained that Greene’s shirt was too transparent and showed her nipples. The Congressman later remarked to a female staffer that Green “could show her nipples whenever she wanted to.”The case was later dropped when both parties reached a settlement of $84,000

Greene also alleged that she was “blackballed” as a result of raising these allegations. Reduced to babysitting for only $15, she told POLITICO that she was certain she would never work in politics again. According to the interview, she said, “It’s definitely turned my life upside down. It’s been a tough road. Emotionally, it was tough. Professionally, it’s been hard to figure out next steps. And it’s definitely had an impact on my career. I was told right away that I would be ‘blackballed’ if I came forward…that’s exactly what happened…what’s going on right now, I think that it’s a reckoning and we’re talking about…a prevalent problem that has been going on for a really long time.”

On December 1st, 2017, House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS) unmasked Farenthold as the lone Congressman to use an Office of Compliance account when he mentioned the payment amount. The amount paid was $84,000, the amount that Farenthold had paid to settle with Lauren Greene. In response to the new evidence, the Representative responded, “While I 100% support more transparency with respect to claims against member of Congress, I can neither confirm nor deny that that settlement involved my office as the Congressional Accountability Act prohibits me from answering that question.” However, in a later reversal, Farenthold interviewed with a TV station in Corpus Christi and said he would repay the taxpayers’ money from the settlement by taking out a personal loan.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had not yet called on Representative Farenthold to resign despite the new developments, even though he had called on Representative John Conyers (D-MI) to do so already. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who was on a crusade against sexual harassment in Washington DC, had already called on Farenthold to resign. Mia Love (R-UT) later joined Comstock to call on Farenthold to resign.

Meanwhile, on December 7th, the House Ethics Committee reopened its investigation into Farenthold. The panel was seeking an interview with Lauren Greene.

Bech Bruun, the chairman of the Texas Water Development Board was rumored to be looking to challenge Mr. Farenthold. He resigned his post, and the move was widely considered to confirm these rumors. He would be joined by four more candidates, who joined once Farenthold promised to repay the taxpayer money.

More Congressional aides came forward. According to the New York Times, Farenthold “set the tone for off-color jokes and inappropriate banter, which flourished among his underlings.” Many of his aides described him as “volatile.” The Representative would berate his own staff, clear off desks, dumping its contents on the floor, and would threaten to fire his own staffers. The refrigerator was stocked with beer, which the aides drank every day at 4:30 PM – or “beer-thirty” as they. However, despite even these revelations, top Republican Congresspersons still refused to call on Farenthold to resign.

Perhaps the most damning testimony of all was from his former communications director in 2015, Michael Rekola. In an interview with CNN, he described an unsafe work environment, rife with verbal abuse and sexually demeaning language. The workplace got so bad that Rekola became physically and emotionally ill to the point where he was vomiting daily. When Rekola was about to get married, Farenthold remarked, “Better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time,” and then also asked Rekola if his soon-to-be wife could wear white on her wedding day (Rekola took this as an inquiry about whether his wife was sexually active before getting married.” ) Rekola also described how Farenthold scolded his aides and regularly called them “fucktards.” Rekola elaborated, saying, “every time he didn’t like something, he would call me a fucktard or idiot. He would slam his fist down in rage and explode in anger. He was flying off the handle on every little thing. I couldn’t find a way to control it.”  In light of these revelations, Farenthold spoke twice to Speaker Paul Ryan and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers.

Finally, on December 14th, 2017, Rep. Farenthold stated that he would not seek re-election. Representative Farenthold apologized to his supporters in a Facebook video. He stated that his office had “accommodated destructive gossip, off-hand comments, off-color jokes and behavior, in general, that was less than professional,” adding, “I have never served in public office before. I had no idea how to run a congressional office, and as a result, I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional.” He also denied Greene’s accusations for yet another time.

Paul Ryan was asked the following day whether Farenthold should step down immediately. Ryan finally caved in and admitted that the Representative’s retirement was appropriate. “I think he’s making the right decision to retire,” the Speaker said. “There are new stories that are very disconcerting. Unacceptable behavior has been alleged in those stories, and I think he’s made the right decision that he’s going to be leaving office.”

In 2018, another Congressional Ethics Committee inquiry was reopened. Farenthold resigned from Congress within hours of the reopening of the investigation.

 

House Cleaning #3-2018: Lamar Smith (R-21-TX)

Welcome to House Cleaning, 2018 edition. This series explores House of Representatives members who have either left Congress early or have decided not to seek re-election. This series covers what a Representative has done in Congress from 2016 until they either resigned or decided not to seek re-election.

Lamar Smith is the Republican Representative from the 21st District of Texas. He is the chair of the House Science Committee. Representative Smith decided not to seek re-election on November 2nd, 2017. When someone thinks of Smith, they should think of just two issues: Cyber Security and the 2016 election.

During the 2016 elections, Lamar Smith issued subpoenas to three technology companies that had a connection to the personal email server of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY). He subpoenaed Platte River Networks, Datto Inc., and SECNAP Network Security Corp after they declined to answer questions about Clinton’s server and whether it conformed to government record-keeping and cybersecurity standards. The top Democrats on Smith’s Committee dismissed it as playing politics with the 2016 election.

Lamar Smith was outraged that Paul Combetta was granted immunity during the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) private email server. Combetta had deleted emails off of Hillary’s email server after Congress requested that they be preserved. Lamar Smith and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) wrote to the FBI and requested that Attorney General Loretta Lynch “provide unclassified and unredacted copies of interview notes and any accompanying materials for any interviews of Bryan Pagliano, Justin Cooper, and all employees of Platte River Networks.”

When Representative Smith received the subpoenaed documents, the documents proved that the companies backing up and maintaining the server had been warned multiple times about the security vulnerabilities of Hillary’s server. A triumphant Lamar Smith stated, “it is clear that the server maintained by Platte River contained official government business and even sensitive state secrets.” Platte River and SECNAP still had yet to respond to their subpoenas. SECNAP would later indicate that it was ready to send the documents, while Lamar Smith moved to hold Platte River Networks in contempt of Congress.

He later issued yet another subpoena from the FBI, this time about the IT specialists who were responsible for securing Hillary’s email servers. In the subpoena letter, he stated, “It is important for the American public to have a thorough understanding of how Secretary Clinton’s aides handled sensitive national security information.”

After the 2016 elections, Representative Smith took a page from President Donald Trump’s (R-NY) playbook and attacked the media. After complaining that coverage would be far different and more favorable if Trump was a Democrat, he stated, “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

He later accused the top Democrats on his Committee of “bold hypocrisy” when they requested a hearing on the Trump White House and its cyber practices. In statement provided to POLITICO, he said, “Just months ago, the ranking member [Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson] said that she was ‘outraged that the chairman is recklessly abusing the committee’s investigatory powers’ and that she believed that the committee ‘desperately needs to get back to the work of ensuring continued American leadership in science and innovation and the legitimate oversight of our research and development enterprise.’ Despite the bold hypocrisy evidenced in the ranking member’s letter, the committee intends to ensure strong cybersecurity protocols are implemented across the federal government.” When he was further asked if the committee was going to investigate the White House, Mr. Smith responded, “The committee will continue to monitor cyber issues across the government as they arise.” He later asked the Justice Department to criminally prosecute the company that helped maintain Hillary’s private email server.

When later asked in an interview by POLITICO about any potential investigation of President Donald Trump for the use of his personal phone, he stated, “I haven’t seen any evidence that anybody has taken advantage of that, or that there were any leaks or anything like that.”

His overall perspective on cybersecurity according to a POLITICO interview is that it is a “subject that is growing in importance by the hour. Cybersecurity – or, should I say, cyber insecurity – cyberattacks are a threat to our country, our economy and to the privacy of individuals. And that’s why everybody needs to appreciate that Congress is trying to prevent cyber attacks, trying to come up with ways to make our agencies more secure and come up with ways to help small businesses as far as that goes.”

When an employee accidentally downloaded information on 44,000 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) customers, Lamar Smith led the charge, first by initiating an inquiry, and then subpoenaed documentation. After noting that certain documents had watermarked in them, Smith warned the FDIC that it should not interfere with the FDIC’s inspector general, nor with any whistleblowers. He noted that the watermarks were a cause for concern “about whether the agency is attempting to identify the source of Committee materials.”

Later, he then chastised the FDIC following the release of two inspector general reports that criticized the corporation’s lack of cybersecurity planning and for a bungled response to their breaches. He stated, “Mismanagement and attempts to cover up cybersecurity breaches negatively affecting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ personally identifiable information will not be tolerated.”

The Representative from Texas also was concerned about how secure the IRS’s information was. He heard testimony from Josh Koskinen, the IRS Commissioner. During his opening statement for the testimony, he remarked, “The IRS has not taken the necessary steps to ensure that individuals are who they claim to be before handing over Americans’ confidential tax information. Slow responses and partial measures at the IRS do not protect innocent Americans from cyber attacks.”

When the Bangladesh Bank was robbed of $81 million because their systems were insecure, Mr. Smith wrote to the Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) and asked about the security of their systems. This was especially relevant because the FRB had been the unwitting conduit for the Bangladesh Bank thieves. In the letter, co-authored by Representative Barry Loudermilk, he wrote, “In light of the recent cyberattacks on our global financial systems, the Committee believes it is imperative to receive information from the NY Fed about its response, its oversight of SWIFT, the status of the investigation and any remedial steps taken to address vulnerabilities.”

He also held a session about election cybersecurity. Calling it a “good bipartisan issue,” he wanted to discuss whether the Department of Homeland Security should classify elections as “critical infrastructure.”

He also wanted the National Institute of Standards and Technology to audit, and prepare metrics for, cyber security practices of other federal agencies. After House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) that such a plan overstepped Science Committee jurisdiction boundaries, Smith added, “We’re comfortable that that is our jurisdiction. We can always massage it as we go forward and throughout the process. We have been in discussions with Oversight and we’re very pleased with the discussions. We expect to be on the same page.” Next, Smith was asked about the cost of such a plan. “Democrats are always in favor of increasing spending. That’s what they say about every bill. I believe we can find offsets if necessary, or we will show the costs are not what have been designated. We may also find ways to reduce the costs.”

When President Trump nominated Walter Copan, president and CEO of IP Engineering Group, Mr. Smith was pleased. He noted, “Because our federal system are prime targets for cyber-attacks, it is crucial that we maintain and heighten cybersecurity.”

Later, Representative Daniel Webster introduced the NIST Small Business Cybersecurity Act of 2017. This would direct NIST  to consider small businesses when updating their cybersecurity framework. It would also direct NIST to offer resources to small business in order to protect their cyber systems and information.  In a statement, Lamar Smith noted that “while many small businesses do not have the expertise to protect their computer systems and confidential information, it is crucial to our economy and our citizens’ security that these businesses secure their data.” The bill passed via voice vote.

Shortly thereafter, Lamar Smith’s own NIST Cybersecurity Framework, Assessment, and Auditing Act was changed because it would otherwise endanger the friendly relationships NIST had towards other agencies, because it required NIST to audit the cybersecurity safeguards of other agencies. This was a huge reversal for Smith, who months earlier told POLITICO that “I think in the end that NIST is going to want to help the American people, want to help agencies do their job better.” It was further explained later that the NIST was going be able to provide only supervisory guidance.

In his crosshairs was also Kaspersky Lab and its connections to the Kremlin. He asked 22 federal agencies to confirm or deny whether they used Kaspersky Lab antivirus programs on their computers. In a statement he said, the committee is concerned that Kaspersky Lab is susceptible to manipulation by the Russian government, and that its products could be used for espionage, sabotage, or other nefarious activities against the United States. He later invited CEO Eugene Kaspersky to give testimony to his committee. Kaspersky said he looked forward to the hearing, but needed an expedited visa to enter the US.

On Abortion, on October 3rd, 2017, the Representative voted for HR 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would make it a crime for anyone to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the fetus was 20 weeks or older, with exceptions being made to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.  The 20-week mark is when many pro-life Republicans believe that the fetus can feel pain, hence the name of this act. The bill passed the House by a 237-189 vote. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On Defense, when there was an explosion at a federal laboratory at Gaithersburg, Maryland, Mr. Smith’s committee looked into the cause. Chemicals found near the scene were chemicals used for making methamphetamines. The former head of campus police for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was being investigated, and he immediately resigned after the explosion. Representative Smith remarked, “it is becoming clear we must better monitor those with access to our nation’s high-tech research facilities.”

On the Economy, he also voted for the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which would provide relief for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Despite his objections, mainly that it would suspend the debt ceiling, the bill pass the House 316-90, and was later signed into law. He did, however, vote for an earlier version of the bill, which would provide $7.85 billion to Harvey victims, which had no debt ceiling raise. This bill passed the House almost unanimously, 419-3.

On Education, he, along with Democratic Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA), introduced the bipartisan Need-Based Educational Aid Act. This would give colleges another seven years to collaborate on the formulas for the amount of money that a student admitted without knowing their needs can pay to attend the college. It also removed a provision about data-sharing with third parties, a provision which was never used.

On Finance, the Representative from Texas wanted to reform the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. However, the debate hit a snag when Republicans could not agree over swipe fees, which is the fee that banks charge retailers who accept their credit cards. This issue eventually was resolved and the Representative eventually introduce the Financial CHOICE Act. Although Hensarling presented the bill as “choosing Main Street over Wall Street,” the fact is that, if passed into law, the bill would severely stem the powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This agency enforces rules for student loans and for-profit colleges.

There was also another controversial part of this bill. It would remove the “too big to fail” label from insurance companies AIG, MetLife, and Prudential, and they would also no longer be labelled as “systemically important” to the United States economy. In fact, all financial institutions that were not banks would have the “significant financial institution label” removed, leaving only big banks with such labels.

On Foreign Policy, the Representative voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This act would allow for Congress to review and counter acts of aggression by the governments of Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The bill passed almost unanimously, 419-3, on July 25th, 2017. It was later signed into law by the President.

On Global Warming, the Texas Representative subpoenaed Attorneys General Eric Schneiderman of New York and Maura Healey of Massachusetts in regards to their probe of Exxon Mobil and their climate change research. This unprecedented step was rebuffed by the New York Attorney General, as Schneiderman stated that such a request “transgresses the limits on Federal power.”

He also subpoenaed scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for their internal emails related to their research on climate change. The research in question had contradict their earlier work that showed that global warming had paused, and Representative Smith believed that their data had been altered to expedite its publishing in the June issue of the journal Science.

He also made a trip to the Arctic. The goal of the trip, according to BuzzFeed, was that it was an “oversight visit” meant to have politicians inspect facilities and learn about research at hot spots in the Arctic Circle. One day after he returned from the Arctic, he wrote an op-ed in the Heritage Foundation’s “The Daily Signal,” in which he instructed readers, “Don’t Believe the Hysteria Over Carbon Dioxide.” In the op-ed, he argues that, while carbon dioxide is increasing in the air, the consequences of such a phenomenon has been misunderstood, arguing instead for the benefits of global warming. Among the reasons he gave was that the increase in carbon dioxide would increase photosynthesis, which would increase vegetation and, thus, there would be more food, and that more commercial shipping routes would open up as the result of sea ice melting.

The Representative from Texas also moved to reduce federal funding for research on the social sciences, on climate, and on energy. He also called for oversight of the National Science Foundation (NSF), noting that “NSF has funded too many projects that at best marginal or at worst frivolous and wasteful.”

On Health Care, Representative Smith is against the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. This explains his “yes” vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017, which would essentially turn Obamacare into Trumpcare. The bill passed the House, 217-213, along partisan lines. The law eventually died in the Senate.

On Immigration, on June 29th, 2017, he voted for Kate’s Law. This bill would provide an increase in penalty severity for illegal immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes, are deported, and then re-enter the U.S. illegally. The law’s namesake is Kate Steinle, who was allegedly shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had seven felonies. This law passed the House 257-167, but has not been signed into law by the President. The alleged murderer was later acquitted after the vote, which essentially removes any legal connection it would have had with the illegal immigrant.

He voted for the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill would withhold federal funds from states and localities that are “sanctuary cities/states” for illegal immigrants. The bill passed the House, 228-195. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

When he decided not to run, Smith said that he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren and that he hoped “to find other ways to stay involved in politics.”

 

House Cleaning #2-2018: Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-5)

Welcome to House Cleaning, 2018 edition. This series explores House of Representatives members who have either left Congress early or have decided not to seek re-election. This series covers what a Representative has done in Congress from 2016 until they either resigned or decided not to seek re-election.

Jeb Hensarling is the Republican Representative from the 5th District of Texas. He is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee. Representative Hensarling decided not to seek re-election on October 31, 2017. When someone thinks of Hensarling, they should think of just one issue: financial reform.

In the 2016 Republican Primary, Jeb Hensarling endorsed Ted Cruz (R-TX), who would ultimately lose to current President Donald Trump (R-NY). He attacked Trump during the election, stating, “Based on Donald Trump’s track record, I have serious questions about his commitment to the conservative cause.”

Once Donald Trump won the nomination, Hensarling was courted by current Vice President Mike Pence (R-IN). The Vice President even gave him seats in Trump’s VIP box for th Republican nominating convention. One can imagine the look of horror on the Representative’s face as he saw Senator Cruz snub President Trump at the convention, with Hensarling onlooking.

Hensarling was also considered for Treasury Secretary, but he was not interested. He told POLITICO’s Zachary Warmbrodt, “It’s nice to be mentioned, and I certainly want to help our new president make America strong and more prosperous, but serving in his cabinet is not something I’ve indicated an interest in and it’s not something I am pursuing.”  He also later turned down an offer to be head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the primary governmental organization that designs the President’s budget .

His tenure as the House Financial Services Committee chair was controversial. He angered various news organizations by asking federal agencies not to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests regarding the information that his Committee was seeking from those federal agencies.

On Abortion, on October 3rd, 2017, the Representative voted for HR 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would make it a crime for anyone to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the fetus was 20 weeks or older, with exceptions being made to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.  The 20-week mark is when many pro-life Republicans believe that the fetus can feel pain, hence the name of this act. The bill passed the House by a 237-189 vote. This bill died in the Senate.

On Cyber Security, Jeb Hensarling led the charge to toughen data security standards at financial institutions. When Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) proposed legislation that would update breach notification standards, the president and CEO of the National Association of Federal Credit Union praised the committee, in particular Hensarling, for trying to make sure that all other “financial entities holding consumers’ personal financial data are held to the same standards credit unions are already accountable to.”

When the SEC was hacked, Hensarling urged the agency to halt the implementation of a stock market surveillance too out of fear that the tool itself could be hacked.

On the Economy, Hensarling voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on November 11th, 2017. This bill reduced tax rates and modified other aspects of the tax code. The bill passed the House by a 227-205 vote on partisan lines. In December 2017, President Trump would sign the bill into law.

He also voted against the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, which would provide relief for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Despite his objections, mainly that it would suspend the debt ceiling, the bill passed the House 316-90, and was later signed into law. He did, however, vote for an earlier version of the bill, which would provide $7.85 billion to Harvey victims, which had no debt ceiling raise. This bill passed the House almost unanimously, 419-3.

On Financial Reform, the Representative from Texas wanted to change the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. However, the debate hit a snag when Republicans could not agree over swipe fees, which is the fee that banks charge retailers who accept their credit cards. This issue eventually was resolved and the Representative eventually introduce the Financial CHOICE Act. Although Hensarling presented the bill as “choosing Main Street over Wall Street,” the fact is that, if passed into law, the bill would severely stem the powers of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This agency enforces rules for student loans and for-profit colleges.

There was also another controversial part of this bill. It would remove the “too big to fail” label from insurance companies AIG, MetLife, and Prudential, and they would also no longer be labelled as “systemically important” to the United States economy. The removal of that designation meant that regulations would be loosened on those companies and, in fact, all large financial institutions that were not banks would have the “significant financial institution label” removed, leaving only big banks with such labels.

The issue of flood insurance put Hensarling at odds with his own party in the House. Twenty-six House Republicans wrote a letter to House GOP leaders, stating that they would not vote for a bill to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was approved by Hensarling’s committee. The NFIP provides government-administered flood insurance to homeowners in designated areas. These 26 Republicans said they would not vote for the bill because it would “make flood insurance unaffordable to our constituents, will stall development and construction and increase exposure to the federal Treasury.” In response, Jeb Hensarling was expected to drop a controversial construction provision and revise grandfathering, whereby homeowners are able to pay lower flood insurance under NFIP even if the flood maps had changed during their residency.

However, instead of relenting, Hensarling stuck with his reform proposal. Hensarling said he was “pressing on the accelerator,” adding that it was “more urgent than ever we get this bill done.” As Hurricane Harvey pounded Texas, the bill was stuck in the House. One House leadership aide was quoted by POLITICO as stating, “Hurricane Harvey makes a rapid reauthorization of the NFIP – in its current form – more likely. Considering the ongoing disaster in Texas and the fact we are not even halfway through hurricane season, I think there will be immense public and political pressure to get this finished.”

On Foreign Policy, Representative Hensarling voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This act would allow for Congress to review and counter acts of aggression by the governments of Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The bill passed almost unanimously, 419-3, on July 25th, 2017. It was later signed into law by the President.

On Health Care, Representative Hensarling is against the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. This explains his “yes” vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017, which would essentially turn Obamacare into Trumpcare. The bill passed the House, 217-213, along partisan lines. The law eventually died in the Senate.

On Immigration, on June 29th, 2017, he voted for Kate’s Law. This bill would provide an increase in penalty severity for illegal immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes, are deported, and then re-enter the U.S. illegally. The law’s namesake is Kate Steinle, who was allegedly shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had seven felonies. The alleged murderer was later acquitted after the vote, which essentially removes any legal connection it would have had with the illegal immigrant. his law passed the House 257-167, but has not yet passed the Senate.

He voted for the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill would withhold federal funds from states and localities that are “sanctuary cities/states” for illegal immigrants. The bill passed the House, 228-195. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

Jeb Hensarling decided not to run for reelection on October 31st, 2017.  There was no speculation around his leaving: those close to the chairman believed he wanted to spend time with his family, most notably, his daughter, who was now sixteen years old. This was not a surprise as those in his inner circle, including his staff, were only expecting him to serve three or four terms, not the six terms that he ultimately stayed.

His released statement confirmed this, reading in part, “Although service in Congress remains the greatest privilege of my life, I never intended to make it a lifetime commitment, and I have already stayed far longer than I had originally planned.”

Mr. Hensarling leaves behind a mixed legacy. Most of the legislation that he got passed through the House, such as the Financial CHOICE Act, landmark though they were, were dead on arrival almost as soon as they arrived in the Senate for debate. The unfinished reform of the NFIP was something that he had struggled to complete since he first became the Financial Services Chairman, and still remains unfinished.

House Cleaning #1-2018: Luis Gutierrez (D-IL-4)

Welcome to House Cleaning, 2018 edition. This series explores House of Representatives members who have either left Congress early or have decided not to seek re-election. This series covers what a Representative accomplished in Congress from 2016 until they either resigned or decided not to seek re-election.

When someone thinks of Luis Gutierrez, they should think of just one issue: immigration. Luis Gutierrez is a Democratic Representative from the 4th District of Illinois. He is of Puerto Rican descent. He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). Luis Gutierrez decided not to seek re-election on November 27, 2017.

During the 2016 election, Representative Gutierrez aligned himself with Hillary Clinton (D-NY) over Bernie Sanders (D-VT). On a conference call coordinated with Hillary’s campaign, he criticized Bernie Sanders for not being strong on immigration.

He also spoke at the Democratic National Convention. The goal of his speech was to “highlight the clear distinction between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump on immigration policy,” according to a press release. It went on to say that “Rep. Gutierrez will point to Trump’s anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, and his threats to deport millions of immigrants and ban Muslim refugees as dangerous.” He also was an appointee to the DNC Platform Committee, which is the committee of the Democratic Party that designs the campaign platform for the President.

Gutierrez spent most of the last part of 2016 and all of 2017 on a crusade against President Donald Trump. He told Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader that “If you believe in anarchy and a clash of American values, you’re going to get a great experiment. Personally, I feel sadness and fear. This is a scary time for our country.”

As part of his crusade against President Trump, he got into a verbal battle with Chief of Staff John Kelly and called him a “disgrace to the uniform” because he was in favor of ending President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order, often referred to as the “illegal amnesty order” by Republicans. Kelly shot back, stating that the Democrats did “nothing” to help the situation. “As far as the congressman and other irresponsible members of Congress are concerned, they have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility,” Kelly said to Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “They can call people liars but it would be inappropriate for me to say the same thing back at them. As my blessed mother used to say, ‘empty barrels make the most noise.’”

One of his protests against President Trump led to his arrest. Gutierrez and two other Congressmen – with the speaker of the New York City Council – were arrested for an act of “civil disobedience,” according to Gutierrez’s spokesperson. They were outside of Trump Tower protesting Trump’s decision to end DACA.

Luis Gutierrez led the charge to impeach President Donald Trump. At a speech to the City Club of Chicago, he claimed that he, along with other members of the House Judiciary Committee, were preparing articles of impeachment to be filed before Thanksgiving 2017. He eventually did file articles of impeachment and used the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The filing added accusations of over-using the Presidency to make a personal profit, colluding with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, and interfering with not only the judiciary branch but also with freedom of the press.

On Abortion, in October of 2017, the Representative voted the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would make it a crime for anyone to perform or attempt to perform an abortion if the fetus was 20 weeks or older, with exceptions being made to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest.  The 20-week mark is when many pro-life Republicans believe that the fetus can feel pain, hence the name of this act. Even though Gutierrez voted against it, the bill still passed the House by a 237-189 vote. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On the Economy, Gutierrez voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on November 11th, 2017. This bill reduced tax rates and modified other aspects of the tax code. The bill passed the House by a 227-205 vote, again largely on partisan lines. In December 2017, President Trump signed the bill into law.

He voted against the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017 on June 8th, 2017, which would amend multiple economic laws, including the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and the Consumer Protection Act. The bill passed the House, 233-186, and has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On Foreign Policy, the Representative voted for the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This act would allow for Congress to review and counter acts of aggression by the governments of Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The bill passed almost unanimously, 419-3, on July 25th, 2017. It was later signed into law by the President.

On Health Care, Representative Gutierrez is for the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. This explains his “no” vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of 2017, which would essentially turn Obamacare into Trumpcare. The bill nonetheless passed the House, 217-213, along partisan lines. The law eventually died in the Senate.

On Immigration, when the constitutionality of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), called the “illegal amnesty executive order” by Republicans, was considered by the Supreme Court, Gutierrez declared that any potential outcome was a “win-win.” He was quoted by POLITICO as stating, “Politically, it’s a win-win,” since either way, immigrants would be energized to vote against Republicans.

When an effort to reform the immigration system went awry, Luis Gutierrez blamed Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Both pressured Gutierrez to not give too much away to the Republicans. He was quoted in a New York Times article as stating, “I just found it extraordinary that every time we reached an agreement on something, then we had to go back to House Democratic leadership to explain it all over again.” Despite this perceived problems of interference, Gutierrez nonetheless endorsed Nancy Pelosi for House Minority Leader after the 2016 elections.

Along with Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO), he sponsored the BRIDGE Act. This Act would extend the DACA order for undocumented students. The American Medical Association was in favor of this Act, writing in a letter to Gutierrez and Coffman that “these individuals help contribute to a diverse and culturally responsive physician workforce, which in turn helps benefit not only traditionally underserved patients, but all patients as well. DACA recipients should continue to study and work without fear of being deported.”

Later, Gutierrez gave a speech about the need for Democrats to stand up for DACA at the Democrats’ weekly caucus meeting. He said there needed to be an equivalent of a red line for Republicans when it came to negotiating aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey, and that DACA needed to be included in the deal.

Likewise, when Trump struck a deal with Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to raise the debt ceiling and provided Hurricane Harvey aid, Gutierrez was disappointed that it did not include anything resembling DACA or protection for Dreamers. “Right now there are many Democrats who feel we gave up, not just me,” he was quoted as saying. “Democrats just don’t seem to want to use their leverage to protect the Dreamers.” It should be noted that this was after the 2016 elections, which gave Republican majorities to the House and Senate, Gutierrez eventually voted in favor of the deal.

The deal passed the House by a vote of 316-90 and was later signed into law by the President. Rep. Gutierrez later remarked that he had felt completely unprepared for it. “I remember when issues of immigration were first filtered through, checked in with us [the CHC]. And I don’t see that.” Gutierrez felt that he and other CHC members had been left out in the cold.

When the debt ceiling debate came up in December, the Representative from Illinois had had enough. He took a stand, urging Democrats to vote against any debt ceiling deal that did not include funding for the DREAMers, and was determined to have the Democrats stage a shutdown. “We will shut it down,” ee said in a speech on Capitol Hill in front of activists, “or let Republicans keep it open with their own votes.”

As the vote for a spending bill came closer, Luis Gutierrez was joined by other Democrats, all of whom were asking for the DREAM Act or similar law to be included in the final legislation package. This group of Democrats were going to vote against the spending bill, which could have resulted in government shutdown. He told POLITICO, “It’s not like we want to close the government, actually we want to keep it open…[Democrats] shouldn’t throw the DREAMers under the bus a second time when it is clear that the only way to pass that budget is with Democrats.” More than 24 Democrats pledged to vote against the spending bill. He later stated, “We want a clean Dream Act. That is what it’s going to take for me and others to sign on.”

The Representative from Illinois was upset over Donald Trump’s immigration plan. The President’s plan, which called for “many more arrests and removals” of illegal, undocumented immigrants, was the subject of a meeting with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which was scheduled by Republicans. Democrats were held out of the meeting at the President’s request. Irritated with the situation, Gutierrez remarked, “I’m pretty shaken. I’ve been here 25 years and I’ve never been told by the Speaker of the House that I can’t attend a meeting I’ve requested.”

This antagonism with ICE continued when Gutierrez met with officials in Chicago. Then, he led a sit-in with 22 other interested parties, and was handcuffed after refusing to leave the meeting. He had planned to stay from 10 AM until whenever his demands had been met.

He also teamed up with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) to help make Chicago a more welcoming place for both legal and illegal immigrants. “What is criminality?”  asked Chicago Business’s Greg Hinz. “Even someone who was deported and sneaks back into the country to see their wife and children technically is a felon.” He, along with Rahm Emanuel and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), teamed up to run the “Chicago Is With You” task force as part was the Mayor’s “One Chicago” campaign. The first item on their agenda was to set up a website that would be one-stop shop for immigration resources.

He wrote an editorial in the US News on September 5th, 2017, claiming that ending DACA was “Trump’s most dangerous and damaging act yet.” In the editorial of the same name, he called the ending of the DACA program a “serious mistake that will harm the United States and will spark a national political crisis.” He argued instead that those in US residence were an “integral part of our economic and civic life.” He further called the decision a “self-inflicted wound our economy doesn’t need,” and that therefore, “President Trump shouldn’t curb legal immigration if he wants America to grow and prosper.”

His editorial then takes a darker turn, noting that “punishing individual immigrants who are deeply embedded in American communities is not the mandate Trump was given when he was elected.” He called the decision the “latest evidence” that the Republican Party is based in white supremacism.

His final points of the editorial are centered around Trump and his supposed endorsement of white supremacy through the ending of this program. Other evidence of this supposed endorsement comes from his pardon of “convicted racist Joe Arpaio,” and the launch of Trump’s campaign, which centered around the idea that “Mexican immigrants are rapists and murderers.” He concludes the piece by saying that the ending of DACA is “further evidence that his [President Trump’s] administration is now on a very dangerous trajectory towards the full-throated endorsement of white supremacy — the likes of which we haven’t seen in the open from a sitting president for a century…[ending DACA] is the ugliest act of appeasement so far for the far-right’s white-supremacist goals. It has not gone unnoticed.”

On June 29th, 2017, he voted against Kate’s Law. This bill would provide an increase in penalty severity for illegal immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes, are deported, and then re-enter the U.S. illegally. The law’s namesake is Kate Steinle, who was allegedly shot and killed by an illegal immigrant who had seven felonies. This law passed the House 257-167, but has not been signed into law by the President. The alleged murderer was later acquitted after the vote, which essentially removes any legal connection it would have had with the illegal immigrant.

He voted against the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. This bill would withhold federal funds from states and localities that are “sanctuary cities/states” for illegal immigrants. The bill passed the House, 228-195. It has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On Puerto Rico, Congressman Gutierrez wanted to help relieve the United States’ territory’s $70 billion debt crisis. However, the Illinoisan Representative wanted changes to the bill. This is because, as Senator Bernie Sanders stated, the bill was treating Puerto Rico “like a colony.” As a result, the Representative teamed up with Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to fix the bill.

He also called on President Trump and members of Congress to declare Puerto Rico a major disaster area. If given this designation, then Puerto Rico would be eligible for FEMA disaster relief. He urged FEMA to “aggressively marshal and coordinate all federal resources available to the island as quickly as humanly possible.” He later teamed up with the Mayor of Chicago to send 23 fire department personnel, plus “defibrillators, stretchers, communications equipment and other supplies,” according to a Chicago City Hall press release.

As the situation developed, he was not pleased with the hurricane relief effort. He told CNN’s Jim Sciutto about the effort, “I think it isn’t a good job; it’s a disgraceful job. The United States of America is the most powerful, wealthiest country in the world, and this is not a response that’s demonstrative of our power and wealth.” He later called for a sizable military intervention in a phone interview, noting that “FEMA cannot do it alone.” Finally, he saw Chicago as a new migrant city, with those displaced in Puerto Rico going to live in Chicago.

On Women’s Rights, Representative Gutierrez was thrilled that Harriet Tubman would appear on the $20 bill. He sponsored legislation in the House to get her face on the $20 bill. He was quoted a saying, “All’s well that ends well and I can’t wait to spend a twenty with a woman’s picture on it. To celebrate, I’ll go with my wife my daughters, or my mom as they spend a $20 bill with a woman’s face [on it] for the first time.”

Finally, he also boycotted President Trump’s inauguration, and instead attended the Women’s March on Washington, one of 18 Representatives to do so. The Women’s March was a response to misogynistic comments that President Trump made during the 2016 election. The goal was a general march meant to convey solidarity with women. When the Representative from Illinois was asked why he was boycotting, he told CNN, “I can’t go to this inauguration because he continues to spew hatred, bigotry and prejudice — even after he said he was going to bring us all together, he was going to unify us, but he’s not.”
Endorsements. He endorsed Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) for Congress, believing that Espaillat would be a strong voice for immigration. Espaillat was running for Charles Rangel’s (D-NY) old seat.

He also endorsed J.B. Pritzker for Illinois governor ahead of the 2018 Democratic primaries. He gave a speech to support  Pritzker’s candidacy, which linked sitting governor Bruce Rauner (R-IL) to sitting President Donald Trump. Pritzker would later return the favor when he ran an ad against Rauner. The ad urged Rauner to “defend DREAMERs and stand up to Trump,” and the ad also mentioned Representative Gutierrez and Senator Durbin in a favorable light.

He endorsed Jesse Ruiz (D-IL) for Illinois Attorney General. At a news conference held in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago  the Representative stated, “For decades, Jesse has been a leader in the fight to improve public education, to protect immigrants, and to promote civil rights. As Illinois Attorney General, I know that Jesse will stand tough when Donald Trump attacks our fundamental rights.”

When Gutierrez withdrew his nominating petitions he filed the day before, he endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for taking over his seat. This appears to have been a political deal, as Mr. Garcia forced Rahm Emanuel into a runoff for Mayor of Chicago, and was planning to run again.