Capitol Letters

To Serve and Protect

The Senate’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is political theater at its best (and worst).

Despite strong Republican opposition, the U.S. Senate approved the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday, just in time for senators’ well-deserved vacation. The renewal of an act that has always enjoyed bipartisan support would seem straightforward enough. The law, passed in 1994 under the Clinton administration, provides funding and grants to local law enforcement to combat domestic and sexual violence, as well as a myriad of programs and services. Why, then, did every Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, including Texas’ own John Cornyn, vote against the legislation in February? Because this time the Democrats sought to extend those protections to same-sex couples, illegal immigrants and Native Americans. Will the liberals stop at nothing to promote their radical agenda?

With last week’s announcement by the Romney campaign that the presumptive nominee—finally endorsed this week by Rick Perry!—supports the reauthorization of VAWA, Republican senators felt compelled to drop their opposition, punting instead to their more cunning counterparts in the U.S. House. But they still introduced their own version of the act, crafted by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (one of the few Republican women left in the Senate) and Chuck Grassley. The substitute would effectively strip the new provisions sought by Democrats.

In the Senate debate on Thursday, Hutchison claimed that VAWA already protects same-sex partners because of its gender-neutral language—it applies to male victims of abuse as well. The current law also provides visas for some illegal immigrants. What the Democrats want to do is expand and enhance these existing protections. Hutchison’s effort failed and she ended up voting for the Democrats’ version of the bill.

The Democratic version of VAWA ensures that a victim of abuse cannot be denied services based on sexual orientation and increases the number of visas for undocumented female immigrants. A new provision would expand the ability of Native American officials to prosecute domestic abuse occurring on their reservations. Apparently this attempt to help curb domestic abuse by making the law more inclusive is just an underhanded ploy to help President Obama win the election.

In an op-ed last week in the Houston Chronicle, Cornyn accused Democrats of shamelessly trying to use the law as a “partisan football to score cheap political points and raise campaign funds.” Meanwhile Cornyn introduced the Justice for Victims Amendment, which, among other things, would increase funding for rape kits and strengthen existing penalties for domestic violence and sexual abuse. Whether this is just another “partisan football” is hard to say. In the Senate debate Sen. Patrick Leahy, the sponsor of the bill, warned that Cornyn’s amendment would undermine existing measures. (The amendment failed.)

Earlier this week Cornyn told The Hill that he had “every confidence” that VAWA would pass the Senate and that he didn’t expect any problems. Maybe not from any other senators. The junior senator from Texas ended up voting no.

Now the bill goes to the House, where Republicans are planning to introduce their own version (try to keep up), modeled after the Hutchison-Grassley alternative, when the bill is brought to the House floor sometime in mid-May.

Get ready for the War on Women to get much more interesting.

Romney: Likable Enough?

Mitt Romney, the all-but-certain Republican nominee (barring an Act of God) receives endorsements from key members of the Texas congressional delegation. Just in time for it not to matter anymore.

Now that Rick Santorum—who hadn’t been endorsed by any member in the Texas congressional delegation—has suspended his long-suffering campaign, Republican leaders are pleading with the final hold-outs to get behind Romney in a rare display of party unity before the general election really starts heating up. Meaning now.

Last week Mitt Romney secured the endorsements of Texas congressmen Pete Sessions, current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, John Carter and Mac Thornberry in anticipation of the May 29th primary. The trio joins four other Texans who were already backing the former Massachusetts governor: Reps. Kay Granger, Mike Conaway, Pete Olson and Lamar Smith. A founding member of the Tea Party Caucus, Smith was an early adapter, being the first to endorse Romney. His Longhorn PAC contributed to the Romney campaign last May before Rick Perry even had a chance to announce his candidacy. Smith later said that his endorsement did not “lessen his regard” for Perry. Except for the fact that he didn’t think Perry could hack it as president. No offense.

Sessions, who had originally endorsed Perry, was expressing concern as early as last October when he appeared on C-SPAN: “It has been an interesting ride. [Perry’s]…having to get his footing, he’s having to enunciate himself in a group of 5, 6, or 8 people.” He had a tough time “enunciating himself”? That should have been your first clue.

For his part, Perry, who congratulated Santorum for his “tireless and hard-fought campaign,” is sticking with his first choice, Newt Gingrich, and has no plans to switch to Romney (unless, perhaps, he gets $10,000 for it). When asked by the Dallas Morning News last week whether it was time for him to support Romney, Perry played it coy, saying he was going to “pass on that one.” And on Wednesday Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said in a statement, “As a former U.S. military officer and a proud Aggie, Rick Perry puts a premium on loyalty and therefore today remains a Newt Gingrich backer.” This is probably a good thing for Romney considering that an endorsement from Perry is not so much an endorsement as it is the kiss of death. (See: Rudy Giuliani, 2008.)

Rep. Michael Burgess, who supported Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the last gubernatorial election, and Rep. Joe Barton are also staying with Gingrich. In an interview with the Texas Tribune last year, Barton described Gingrich as “the brightest and most creative thinker of all of our candidates.” Are you kidding? Not even Gingrich is sticking with Gingrich anymore. On Fox News Sunday the former speaker admitted that Romney is the “likely nominee” and that he is at peace with it. In fact, Gingrich is so at peace with his arch-nemesis that he will be taking his candidacy and handful of delegates all the way to the convention. As is Ron Paul, who considers himself (still!) the last real conservative alternative to Romney.

Not that everyone’s giving up on Rick Perry. Reps. Michael McCaul, Jeb Hensarling, John Culberson, Kenny Marchant, Sam Johnson and Ralph Hall—who proudly backed Perry “from day one”—have not endorsed Romney, perhaps to maintain their tea party cred. Announcing his support for Perry, Hall said that he’d “vote for any Texan.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. And apparently Louie Goehmert continues to hope that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann will unsuspend her campaign.

You’d think that Culberson, Marchant, Neugebauer and somewhat tepid Perry supporter Ted Poe would be rushing to Romney’s side since they still question whether Obama is an American citizen. Even if they don’t want Romney in the White House, they should at least want an American in the White House. Especially Poe, who compares illegal immigrants to “illegal grasshoppers.”

If Romney is hoping that his new allies will help him with women and Hispanic voters, he’s out of luck. Sessions enlisted in the “War on Women” years ago while throwing fundraisers at strip clubs in Vegas, and Smith never met an anti-sanctuary city bill he didn’t like. A few weeks ago he suggested that detention centers for illegal immigrants are more like cushy resorts than facilities. Because access to basic health care for immigrants is just like a hot stone massage.

Just last week Texas was seen as a critical state in the Republican primary, but now we’re little more than another notch in Romney’s belt. It was fun while it lasted.

Handle Without Care

As the Supreme Court took up the Affordable Care Act this week, the Texas congressional delegation did its best to save us from a lifetime of tyranny.

The Texas Republican congressional delegation has always put the health of Texans first, as evidenced by its consistent opposition to expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, funding Medicaid and protecting women’s health. Let’s face it, the Texas Legislature can do only so much at the state level—although the sonogram bill was last session’s crowning conservative achievement—and now that Rick Perry will not be our next president, we won’t be able to see him gleefully repeal what he called that “abomination” known as Obamacare.

It’s no big surprise then that Texans in Congress are outspoken about their disdain for the two-year-old Affordable Care Act, forced upon the American people by those jack- booted thugs of the federal government and its omniscient death panels. (Admit it. You’ve noticed a lot fewer old people around.) So just what makes this law so egregious, not just to Congress but to the majority of Americans? The primary goal of extending health care coverage to 30 million uninsured people? The protection of people with preexisting conditions? Or the individual mandate to buy health insurance? I do believe we’ve found a winner!

This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over the constitutionality of the law, specifically the requirement for all Americans to obtain health insurance or face penalties. The individual mandate has become the default rallying cry for opponents of the law who view this as the ultimate government overreach, an outrageous intrusion of privacy that we haven’t seen since…well, since conservatives decided they should dictate a woman’s use of contraceptives. In an op-ed in last week’s Austin American-Statesman, Sen. John Cornyn accused President Obama of embracing an “unprecedented federal power grab,” a characterization echoed throughout the Republican delegation.

Never mind that, as Politico notes, the mandate won’t affect most Americans, who already have coverage that satisfies the requirement. It’s also interesting to note that the phrase “individual mandate” never actually appears in the statute. If the mandate is found unconstitutional (all eyes on Supreme Court swinger Justice Anthony Kennedy), the question becomes whether the entire law must be struck down or only certain provisions that relate to the mandate.

In an op-ed in Roll Call, Congressman Louie Gohmert, never afraid to say whatever’s on his mind at any given moment, accuses the Obama administration of “supreme hypocrisy and vulnerability.”

Obamacare’s threat to our liberties cannot be overstated. If the federal government can mandate health insurance of a specific type alleging the greatest good for the greatest number of people, then previously protected activities must yield to the new Obamacare trump over constitutional rights. Religious and personal beliefs of all…will have to yield to the tyranny of the majority as its whims ebb and flow under the guise of health care if this law is upheld.

And, even more ominously: The slope created by a federal right to dictate health insurance is not slippery, it is a cliff. The overriding of liberties, once begun, will know no obvious bounds.

Good God. Looks like we can count on a life of indentured servitude to the federal government and preventive health screenings. That is, if we’re lucky enough to survive the devastating cliff fall. And then what? On Monday Gohmert said that if the law is upheld, liberals should be afraid of what a future “redneck president” could impose on them. Is he talking about Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum?

Also writing in Roll Call, Congressman Lamar Smith warns against tyranny as well and, channeling our forefathers, calls Obamacare their worst fear come true. But Smith’s most powerful argument is when he points out that the individual mandate could just be the beginning of the federal government forcing Americans to buy anything. For example, “if falling citrus prices drove farmers into bankruptcy, Congress could force consumers to purchase oranges.” That’s not fair. Why should I be forced to buy oranges when I can just go to the emergency room and drive up everyone else’s premiums?

Gohmert and Smith are in good company with fellow Texan Randy Neugebauer, the guy who shouted “baby killer” a couple years ago at Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak as the (pro-life) Democrat spoke in favor of the health care bill during a floor speech. Because apparently—along with grandma and grandpa—the death panels are also coming after the babies.

Speaking of the endangered elderly, in an interview with Houston’s KTRH talk radio, Congressman Kevin Brady spoke of the “rationing of health care” for seniors, alleging that this will take the form of denying reimbursements to physicians and hospitals treating these patients and that bureaucrats (otherwise known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board) will be making life and death decisions for them.

But it was Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison who pulled out all the stops, creating and starring in her own video, where she holds up— homemade signs with percentages on them to best illustrate her opposition to Obamacare. This, from the one Texas Republican who actually votes to expand health insurance for poor children.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in June. Just in time for the conventions! In the meantime, be grateful that your Texas representatives in Congress are fighting for you by fighting against the tyranny and oppression inherent in the Affordable Health Care Act. You can thank them when your insurance company drops you.