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House Cleaning #14: Todd Rokita (R-IN-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 has accomplished in Congress from 2016 until they either resigned or decided not to seek re-election.

Indiana Representative Todd Rokita of the 4th District decided to retire on August 8th, 2017, to run for Indiana Senator against Luke Messer (R-IN) and Mike Braun (R-IN). He will be remembered for the brutal primary battle he engaged in with Luke Messer, and the subsequent losing of that race despite raising $1 million in the second quarter of 2017 alone, and having over $2.3 million on hand.

Luke Messer and Todd Rokita also had very many similarities as well. In fact, the two were often referred to as the “Wabash mafia,” so named because they both graduated from Wabash College and because they were also on the same House committee.  Rokia also pledged to “keep the race focused on Joe Donnelly (D-IN),” the Democratic Senator from Indiana who he would compete against if he won the primary, because “I don’t have the baggage that [Rep.] Luke Messer does.”

In the 2016 Presidential Election, Rep. Rokita endorsed Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio would not make it to the final three Republican Presidential candidates of Donald Trump (R-NY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and John Kasich (R-OH).

When Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R-IN) was nominated for Vice President of the United States, Todd Rokita entered his name into consideration to replace him on the ballot as the gubernatorial candidate in the 2016 race for governor of Indiana. Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb (R-IN) eventually won out as the ballot replacement, especially because Mike Pence endorsed him as his replacement on the ballot.

In 2017, with Rokita unsuccessful in his endeavor to become a gubernatorial candidate, he then turned his attention to becoming Budget Committee chairman when the current chair of the committee, Tom Price (R-GA),, was nominated to become head of Health and Human Services (HHS). At the time, Rokita was the current vice-chair of the Budget Committee.

He would eventually lose that internal House race to Rep. Diane Black (R-TN). She later declared in 2017 that she would run for Governor. Under House Republican conference rules, Ms Black had to resign her seat because she could not run for both Governor and Representatives  With the seat open again, Mr. Rokita elected not to join the internal House race since he would run for Senator, and thus would have to give the seat up just as soon as he acquired it.

On Education, Todd Rokita, along with Luke Messer, were part of the same House education committee. First, he was interested in knowing how the sharing and use of education date can improve outcomes at all levels of education, including in higher education.

Then, he was concerned about President Obama’s (D-IL) last-moment regulatory plans for education. Along with two other Republicans, he sent a letter to President Obama expressing concerns over these plans as well as the possibility of Education Department employees becoming career civil service employees when Obama left office.

He also butted heads with President Obama over the “supplement, not supplant” rule that his administration had proposed as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Rokita held a hearing on this that was meant to find more details how the Education Department’s “unprecedented regulator proposal does not adhere to the letter and intent [of ESSA].” Eventually, much to Rokita’s delight, the new “supplement, not supplant” rule was scrapped by the Obama Administration, largely due to the administration running out of time before President Donald Trump (R-NY) took over.  Along with Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), the two celebrated in a joint statement, which read in part, “This is a significant victory for students, parents, and school leaders across the country….We look forward to working closely with the new administration to ensure recent K-12 education reforms are implemented in a manner that respects the letter and intent of the law.”

President Obama’s educational legacy was also torn apart by resolutions proposed under the Congressional Review Act that would stop the implementation of regulations on teacher preparation as well as the administration’s accountability rule under ESSA. Rep. Rokita was quoted as saying that the halting of these regulations would “make sure the department does what we intended it to do” under ESSA.

Results for ESSA under the Donald Trump administration were also mixed. While Donald Trump’s ESSA guide did not favor reaching out to consult with groups about new educational state plans, which angered many educational advocacy groups as ar, Mr. Rokita was pleased by Trump’s initial ESSA guide. He called the guide “an encouraging step in delivering on our promise to empower states and ensure all children receive an excellent education.”

Mr. Rokita was a proponent of school choice. His first step in expanding school choice option was to propose a federal tax credit scholarship program. This program would allow working class children to attend private schools, something they normally couldn’t do due to income limitations. He was convinced that such a program would pass, noting, “I would be astonished if that bill wouldn’t move. We’re working hard on it.”

Rokita’s plan also found support from Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). Rubio and Rokita had also worked to formulate similar plans in 2011 and 2015. In supporting the bill, Rubio remarked, “I hope my colleagues will be open-minded. This is not an assault on public education. It’s providing parents of a certain economic level an additional option.”

Betsy DeVos (R-MI) , Secretary of Education under Donald Trump, also unveiled her plan. It did not mandate school choice, enabled states to opt out of federal plans, and made states be the ones who designated entities to accept donations and award scholarships to students.

The Trump administration’s final proposals included a $10.6 billion cut to federal programs, add $400 million to expand charter schools as well as expand the voucher program, and to add a final $1 billion to encourage public schools to adopt pro-school-choice policies. Finally, he also wanted to divert $1 billion in Title I money to a grant program called FOCUS, or Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success

Religious organizations found the proposal to be “game changing,” but an obstacle stood in their way. Mr. Rokita and Mr. Rubio’s proposals would prevent state scholarship money from giving funds to schools of faith.

On Finance, the Representative from Indiana 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 Rokita 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, he voted for 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, 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. The bill died in the Senate.

He also 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. The bill died in the Senate.

Todd Rokita finally announced his Senate run in August of 2017, this began the mutual political destruction of both Rokita himself and Rep. Messer. State representative Mike Braun, the third primary opponent, won with 41.2% of the vote and advanced to challenge Joe Donnelly. Perhaps the great irony in the primary race was that Mr. Rokita did, in fact, beat Luke Messer, but lost the larger war for the Senate.

 

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House Cleaning #11-2018: John Delaney (D-MD-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.

Maryland Representative John Delaney (D-MD) of the 6th District decided to retire on July 28th, 2017. Mr. Delaney will be remembered as taking on the establishment and losing. He decided not to seek reelection and to instead run in the 2020 Presidential Election.

In 2016, Rep. Delaney endorsed Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Hillary would go on to lose the general election to President Donald Trump (R-NY). Delaney was also an booster on Capitol Hill for Hillary, meaning that he sought to increase the influence Hillary would have in Congress if she was elected President. Finally, he won his reelection campaign in 2016, 54.2% to 42.3%.

Most of the Republicans in Congress in 2016 who were the most bipartisan were also the most vulnerable to losing election. When asked about this, Delaney commented, “That’s one of the unfortunate things: the most vulnerable members are often the ones that are most constructive.”

In 2017. Mr. Delaney ran for co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, which was the policy wing of the Democratic Party. In his letter defending his candidacy, he wrote, “my district is competitive, comprising parts of progress suburban Maryland as well as Western Maryland – which experienced economic hardship similar to the ‘rust belt’ and is deeply Republican. I have done well in both areas, significantly outperforming the top of the ticket across the last three elections.” Delaney reasoned that if he could win voters from both sides of the aisle, he was uniquely situated to be a co-chair of the committee. However, despite Delaney’s reasoning, the Democratic Caucus passed over him and he lost his bid to become co-chair.
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 has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On Finance, Representative Delaney 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 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 Healthcare, Representative Delaney 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. 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, 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 also 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 July 28th, 2017. he decided not to seek reelection and forego a bid for Governor, opting instead to run for President in 2020.

House Cleaning #10-2018: Luke Messer (R-IN-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.

Indiana Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) of the 6th District decided not to seek reelection on July 68th, 2017. Mr. Messer was a member of the House Education Committee. He decided to resign from his House seat to run for the Senate seat against incumbent Joe Donnelly (D-IN).

In 2018, the Indiana Senate primary will feature an ugly battle between two Indiana Republicans. Todd Rokita (R-IN), also from the same committee and state, also resigned to run in the Republican Senate primary. In addition to being from the same state and members of the same committee, they also graduated one year apart from Wabash College.

Todd Rokita went on the attack early. Before Messer even was in the race, he stated, “I’m going to be able to keep the race focused on Joe Donnelly because I don’t have the baggage that [my opponent] has.” Rokita also raised $2.3 million in the second quarter.

Messer responded in kind, sending an email to supporters with the subject of “I’m tired of Todd Rokita lying about my family.” At this point, it should be noted that neither Rokita nor Messer had yet declared that they would run for Senate.

In 2016, Luke Messer endorsed Jeb Bush (R-FL) for President in the Republican primary. Jeb Bush was one of the earliest candidates to withdraw from the race.

When the for-profit school ITT Technical Institute (ITT Tech) closed down, Mr. Messer led a charge to restore Pell Grant eligibility of the affected students. He sent a letter to then- Education Secretary John. B. King, urging him to restore grant benefits to students. However, the Department of Education did not believe it had the legal authority to do so. Eventually, he prevailed and the Pell Grant benefits were restored.

Mr. Messer was also not in favor of the way that the Obama administration wanted to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The rule in question was the “supplement, not supplant” rule which ensures that at-risk students are receiving the same funding as those not at-risk. Messer, along with 24 other Republicans, wrote to the Department of Education and argued that the rule “draws broad and inaccurate conclusions about what Congress intended when amending the provision [supplement, not supplant] that are not supported by the statutory text and violate clear and unambiguous limitations on the secretary’s authority.”

He also wished to reform the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). This would require the Education Department to disclose a loan’s annual percentage rate (APR) to those wanting to receive a federal student loan. He was joined by one other Republican and two Democrats, making this a bipartisan issue.

This effort later became known as the Transparency in Student Lending Act and was proposed by Messer alongside one other Republican and one Democrat. This bill became popular within the financial community. In fact, the Consumer Bankers Association endorsed this piece of legislation.

As a member of the Education Committee, Luke Messer has been essential in proposing laws and setting up government policy for learning. He has also taken a number of controversial stances, from being against unions to favoring school choice.

Rep. Messer is in favor of school choice. In the past, Mr. Messer has proposed rewriting the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) rule that would have allowed federal money to be used in private schools. A senior adviser for Rep. Messer, Robert Goad, was working on President Donald Trump’s (R-NY) portable funding plan.  Consequently, the Representative from Indiana was also open to being Education Secretary under President Donald Trump. He told Politico, “I don’t know if I’m being considered, but I certainly would be open to the possibility,” and added, “I’m excited by Mr. Trump’s bold education proposals and would love to do whatever we can to make sure those proposals become a reality.”

He also attended a panel that was jointly hosted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Hoover Institution. There, he discussed three options that the government could use when it came to school choice. Finally, he attended a rally for National School Choice week at the Capitol Visitors Center.

Rep. Messer was therefore enthusiastic when President Trump called for a school choice program for disadvantaged youth. Trump said that disadvantaged families should “be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious, or home school that is right for them.” Messer immediately released a statement that said he was “very excited” about Trump’s education proposals.

He also held a “discussion on education priorities and building momentum for school choice policies” through the House Republican Policy Committee, which Messer chaired. Betsy DeVos testified at this hearing. After the meeting Messer began to suggest the idea of a federal tax credit whereby donors to low-income student scholarships would be rewarded. Messer later said that the chances of an proposal ultimately including the tax credits would be “unlikely.”

He was also in favor of ending the practices whereby public unions force non-union employees to submit payments to them. When the Supreme Court case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association was heard, he was against the unions and appeared at rallies in favor of ending the practice.

Finally, he wanted to expand veteran educational benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill. This expansion would restore a portion of the educational benefits that veterans lost when for-profit colleges, such as ITT Tech and Corinthian Colleges, closed down. It would also remove the 15-year time limit in which educational benefits must be used by new enlistees. Rep. Messer also testified to the House Veterans Committee in support of the bill.

Messer was pleased when the Chairman of the Veterans Affair Committee decided to change the text of the bill to restore full benefits to the veterans affected by school closures. It previously included restoration of only one semester’s benefits. The Indiana Representative told Politico, “We were able to get halfway there,” he said of veterans wanting their benefits to be restored the same was a non-veterans who were affected by school closures, “which is taking care of the people who have currently been hurt. In this bill, that’s probably as far as we are going to go,” but also added that he wanted to legislate another bill that dealt with future school closings.

On the Economy, the Representative from Indiana would later vote for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill passed the House, 227-205, and was signed into law by the President.

Luke Messer 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 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.

On Finance, the Representative from Indiana voted for the Financial CHOICE Act, which would change provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, the keystone finance bill passed by Democrats during the 2008 financial crisis. 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. This was also the last vote on a major piece of legislation he cast before announcing that he would run for the Senate.

On Health Care, Representative Messer 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, he voted for 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, 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.

In the primary for the 2018 Senate race against Joe Donnelly, both Rokita and Messer were defeated, allowing the third participant in the primary to win.

The Unopposed #1-2018: Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28)

Welcome to The Unopposed, 2018 edition. This series explores House of Representatives members who are unopposed for the 2018 midterm election. This series covers what a Representative has accomplished in Congress from 2016 until they they became unopposed, which usually happens after the candidate filing deadline.

Henry Cuellar is the Democratic Representative from the 28th Congressional District of Texas. He became unopposed on December 11th, 2018, the deadline for candidate filing in Texas.

Henry Cuellar appeals to both parties. Democrats like him because he is a Mexican-American, while Republicans like him because he is a “Blue Dog Democrat,” or a politically conservative Democrat.

According to Henry Cuellar, Blue Dog (conservative) Democrats are the key to taking the Democratic majority in the House in 2018. He stated, “People want to purify, [but] without Blue Dogs, we don’t have a majority. That’s the bottom line.” Cuellar, one of 18 Blue Dog Democrats, are working closely with the Democratic Party’s recruitment department. Together, the 18 Blue Dog Democrats are part of the Blue Dog Coalition.

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, Mr. Cuellar is part of the Blue Dog Coalition along with six other Democratic colleagues. Together, they formed a Task Force on National Defense that “will proactively promote a strong national defense, improve the lives our service members and veterans and ensure American global leadership.”

On the Economy, He participated in a briefing about corporate tax reform with Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL), as well as held a conference with three other Republicans on joint-employer legislation, which was backed by the National Restaurant Association.

He voted for an aid package for Hurricane Harvey victims even though would also mean increasing the debt ceiling and a three-month continuing resolution whereby funding for the government was kept at the same levels. This bill passed the House, 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.

He later partnered with Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) to coordinate the dispersal of a $15.25 billion relief package to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. He later held two press conference on tax relief for Hurricane Harvey victims.

Mr. Cuellar joined two other Blue Dogs Democrats as they unveiled their tax reform plan. The Representative from Texas would later vote against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill passed the House, 227-205, and was signed into law by the President.

On Education, both he and Pete Sessions (R-TX) have appeared at an event hosted by the Career Education Colleges and Universities, which is the association of for-profit colleges. The goal of the event was to have for-profit colleges gain popularity through their “Campaign to Create 5 Million Career Professionals” that endeavors to close the skills gap.

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, he voted against 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 not yet been signed into law by the President.

On Women’s Rights, he along with nine other Democratic colleagues, signed a letter address to President Trump, asking him why he cut off funding when $100 million had been allocated to grants dedicated to prevention of teen pregnancy. Together, the Democratic Representatives believed that the program is a success, both at a state and national level.

Overall, while Rep. Cuellar will vote frequently with Democrats, he is conservative on immigration and on finance. This blend of political philosophy, and his votes on immigration and financial policy, popular views in his state, have made him unopposed.

 

House Cleaning #9-2018: Ted Poe (R-TX-2)

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.

Ted Poe is the Republican Representative from Texas’s 2nd Congressional District. He is a former member of the House Freedom Caucus, from which he resigned during his last Congressional term. He was the Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, which shows his concern about defense and national security.

Ted Poe can also be thought of as a Rand Paul (R-KY) equivalent in the House. Both are from religious states. Both have Libertarian-leaning views. Finally, both have strong concerns about privacy.

On Abortion, the Representative voted for 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 has yet to be signed into law by the President.

On the Economy, Ted Poe was grateful that President Donald Trump (R-NY) came to visit the city of Houston after Hurricane Harvey ripped through Texas. It showed that Washington was taking action. He, along with five other Representatives, would subsequently hold a meeting on disaster aid.

He 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 as they believe it is a sign of lack of fiscal responsibility. The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of debt that the government can have at any one time. The bill was thus problematic for Poe because it meant that there would be more debt without any spending cuts. This bill passed the House, 316-90, and was signed into law.

He also voted for an earlier version of the same 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 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 did not believe that Russia would comply with the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty. This is because Russia had already violated the pact once by covertly developing a new cruise missile. “We are living in fantasy land if we think the Russians are ever going to come in compliance with this treaty,” he stated at a hearing. “Russia violated the INF treaty by testing the new missile in 2014 and deploying it this year.”

Rep. Poe also offered an amendment to security aid to Pakistan. He believed that the aid should be withdrawn from Pakistan for operations and maintenance funding.

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, Mr. Poe resigned from the powerful House Freedom Caucus over its opposition to the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. When he stepped down, he stated, “I have resigned from the House Freedom Caucus. In order to deliver on the conservative agenda we have promised the American people for eight years, we must come together to find solutions to move this country forward.” He further noted, “Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that is what we were elected to do. Leaving this caucus will allow me to be a more effective Member of Congress and advocate for the people of Texas. It is time to lead.”  He later voted for 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, where it remains tabled.

On Immigration, he voted for 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, 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 not yet been signed into law by the President.

On Privacy, at an event at Rice University in Houston, he questioned whether phone manufacturers were forced to unlock their phones. Further, he mused that, if these manufacturers were, did it constitute slavery? If so, he asked, would that be unconstitutional per the 13th Amendment of the Constitution? Specifically, he asked the Amendment’s involuntary servitude clause has “any play…[with] the government forcing a business at their expense to do something proactive?”

He also allied with John Conyers (D-MI) to overturn the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Rule 41. The judgment allowed courts to issue warrants for computers connected to the Internet that were not located in the court’s jurisdiction and, in some cases, not in the United States of America. When proposed, this bill was called the Stopping Mass Hacking Act, and the Senate effort, led by Senator Rand Paul and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The measure eventually stalled in the House.

Ted Poe was on the front lines in the fight to block the government from mandating encryption back doors. At issue was the search of information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) without first securing a warrant. The concept behind the law was that, in order to search a suspect’s phone, a warrant must be secured first, regardless of the crime. When House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte argued against the measure by stating, “Sunday’s deadly attack [on the nightclub in Orlando] proves once again that the terror threat has no dissipated,” Ted Poe’s response was quick and short. “Fear tactics,” he said, “I’m sorry, on the other side, don’t change the facts.”

As the deadline to reauthorize Section 702 of FISA neared, Senators like Marco Rubio (R-FL) believed that the opposition to 702 had the momentum. Ted Poe also remarked, “I think more and more people on both sides, Republicans and Democrats[,]  are taking a closer look at 702 and some of the abuses by the NSA.” While President Donald Trump (R-NY) may have wanted a clean reauthorization, both opponents and proponents of the section kew that was not going to happen.

When the new FISA reauthorization bill came out of the Judiciary committee, the Texas Representative was “encouraged” because the bill was a step towards safeguarding “our privacy and constitutional rights.” He added, “There is still more that needs to be done to protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment Rights…Americans should not be forced to sacrifice individual liberty and constitutional rights for false security.”

The reauthorization bill eventually became the USA Liberty Act, and Ted Poe was not happy. He believed that the warrant requirement in the law was not stringent enough, especially because it did not require the FBI to obtain a warrant to access data collected by the National Security Administration (NSA). He released a joint statement along with Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), which stated, “Although the USA Liberty Act makes some necessary reforms, as currently drafted, we believe the bill does not adequately protect the constitutional rights of Americans. We will offer an amendment that provides the level of constitutional protections that the American people deserve, while affording intelligence agencies the authority necessary to target foreign terrorist, criminals and other overseas intelligence targets.”

He allied in the fight for privacy with California Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren. As a result of their collaborations on FISA and the Stopping Mass Hacking Act, the two formed the Fourth Amendment Caucus. The Fourth Amendment, as everyone familiar with the Constitution, protects United States citizens from illegal searches and seizures by the government. The caucus thus serves to extend these constitutional rights and preserve the already-existing rights.

On Women’s Rights, Ted Poe, along with colleagues on both the left and right, were outraged that convicted rapist Brock Turner was only sentenced to six months in jail. In response, Ted Poe along with about thirty members from both parties, read the letter that Turner’s victim wrote to her rapist. The goal was to get the letter into the congressional record.

Representative Poe announced his retirement from Congress on November 7th, 2017. Unlike Blake Farenthold (R-TX) and Joe Barton (R-TX), his reason was not for sexual impropriety, but because of illness. He was diagnosed with leukemia, and we here at Poli Sci Pulse believe that that is the reason he is retiring. Once Ted Poe was diagnosed, he immediately underwent treatment. He was also given special treatment by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who led him preside over the House from the speaker’s chair. In his fight against cancer, he has an ally in his fellow Representative Pete Olson (R-TX), who wears an orange wristband with #TeamPoe embossed on it.

 

House Cleaning #8-2018: Sam Johnson (R-TX-3)

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 Sam Johnson of the 3rd District decided to retire on January 6th, 2017, on virtually the first day of the 2017-2018 Congressional session. As such, Sam Johnson did not vote on many bills starting in 2017.

Sam Johnson was elected in a special election to replace Steve Bartlett (R-TX), who resigned to become Mayor of Dallas. He was also a founder of the Republican Study Committee, which is currently the largest Republican voting bloc in the US House of Representatives. He proudly championed this Committee as promoting “A strong military, fiscal responsibility, traditional values, and limited government.”

He also served on the House Ways and Means Committee. The Ways and Means Committee focuses primarily on writing taxes. He currently chairs the Social Security subcommittee, where he works on securing a Social Security that he says will be “there not just for today’s seniors, but tomorrow’s workers.”

He held a press conference before he announced his retirement. It was on the subject of the Wrongful Convictions Tax Relief Act. He was concerned about the criminal justice system and how many mistaken convictions had been made in past several years.

On January 6th, 2017, in an email to supporters, he said, “After much prayer, I have decided I will not seek re-election to serve the Third District of Texas in the US House of Representatives in 2018. This will be my final term in the appropriately named’ People’s House.’” He thanked his supporters for allowing him to serve as their “commonsense [sic], conservative voice in Congress.”

On the Economy, he’s fought for a water reservoir in his district, as well as repealed the Wright Amendment, which governed air traffic in Texas.

On Veterans, he has secured funds for the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in his district. The Representative was a war hero, much like Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Shot down during the Vietnam War, he spent seven years as a prisoner of war the “Hanoi Hilton” in Vietnam during which he and John McCain were tortured. He was also a pilot in the Korean War and was instructor for the Air Force’s “Top Gun” Weapons School.

In the end to his letter to supporters, he concludes in part, “giving back to our country I love so much truly feels like America gave me the gift – the gift and honor of serving each one of you [emphasis not added].”

In a remarkable twist, 31-year-old Sam Johnson (D-TX) is running to replace the Republican Sam Johnson. The general election will decide if the namesake is enough to win in a solid Republican district.

 

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.”