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Outsiders vs. Insiders: AWOL GOP senators could sink the party’s midterm chances early

It’s a little ironic to wait until the latter part of August to approach the subject of summer vacations but thanks to our never boring elected officials in Washington, there’s an opportunity to discuss the topic afresh. House members adjourned three weeks ago to slither back to their districts to campaign for reelection (or do whatever it is they do when they’re not hobnobbing in DC).

Senators remain on Capitol Hill, however, to work on the “business” of government. Or at least that’s the way it August Recessshould be. It turns out a number of Republicans took the concept of “vacation” too seriously last week when they were supposed to be thinking about moving the party agenda along.

Alexander Bolton reported at The Hill, “Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the second-ranking Democrat, skipped the week altogether, as did seven Republican senators — not counting Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is away from Washington indefinitely while he undergoes treatment for brain cancer.

“The poor attendance on the Republican side of the aisle did not sit well with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has emphasized for weeks that the Senate would work through August to get its business done. McConnell criticized his colleagues for skipping votes during a private meeting Thursday, warning it would be difficult to set up votes next week if so many Republican colleagues continue to miss work.

“With nine Senate GOP absences on Wednesday and eight on Thursday, Senate Democrats held a majority of the votes in the chamber this week.”

There you have it. Again, it’s only August and Democrats received their Christmas gift early last week – they were handed a majority, albeit temporarily. “Chucky” Schumer was probably in his glory going around lobbying for a flash vote on new upper chamber leaders while the minority party held a temporary power play.

All kidding aside it’s no laughing matter to have Republican senators taking their jobs so cavalierly. Granted much of the working world receives some form of paid time off as a condition of their employment, the privilege does not extend to those elected by the people of each state to represent their interests in Congress. Senators absolutely get paid whether they clock-in or not, a perk everyone outside of the marble halls of the Capitol building only wishes they could finagle.

The need for attendance is especially urgent for Republicans considering time is precious before Election Day and there’s still much on the Trump agenda to accomplish prior to November. The confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh are set to commence in a couple weeks (more on this below) and Mitch McConnell and crew could certainly stand to advance some of the good government measures already taken up by the House this term.

Needless to say, there’s more than enough yet to do. By the sound of it (in Bolton’s article) senators are openly speculating this extended August work period won’t even last until its scheduled conclusion (meaning they’ll adjourn early). Committee rooms were apparently half empty last week as those few senators who did attend joked and griped about the absence of bodies for the proceedings.

If they’re not going to take this seriously maybe the perpetrators should be fired.

If you or I pulled this kind of stunt a pink slip might be waiting for us at our work station upon our return. High and mighty senators seemingly could care less.

As indicated above McConnell didn’t take his caucus’s sparse attendance lightly. Again Alexander Bolton reported at The Hill, “One Republican who attended Thursday’s lunch said the senators who were absent, not the ones who heard McConnell’s stern speech, need to be chastised. ‘He was preaching to the choir,’ the lawmaker said.

“Another GOP senator said that most of his colleagues agreed about the importance of showing up for working during a time that is usually reserved for the August recess but some complained about it.

“’He said, ‘You got to show up,’ said the source, who added a couple of colleagues who have had to make long flights back to Washington said the unusual August session is a personal ‘hardship’ for them.”

Bolton’s reporting indicated some lawmakers complained about being in Washington during the typically hot and oppressively humid mid-Atlantic summer, a time when you step outside in the morning and you’re sweaty by the time you reach your car. It’s often said Washington was built on a swamp and that’s exactly how it feels from about June through Labor Day.

But then you hit the road and realize the men working on highway construction projects have to be outside in the heat and cut-with-a-knife humidity all day long and they don’t have the luxury of complaining much less deciding to skip it. The other day in Williamsburg (a vacation for us) we noted a healthy number of people working hard in the intense sunshine (and having to dodge intermittent thunderstorms in addition). It ain’t fun – but it’s a job.

And it’s not like senators don’t go to work everyday in the comfort of wonderfully air-conditioned buildings, temperature-controlled environments designed to keep everyone’s mind off how hot it is outside. It’s a well-known fact former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once remarked you could “smell” the tourists visiting the Capitol each summer, a snide comment made by an elitist snob – but still contained a grain of truth.

It’s safe to say everyone could care less what the weather’s like when there’s work to be done in Congress. Arduous travel schedules and hot weather aren’t sufficient excuses to ditch your responsibilities to the American people. It reveals something about the character of some of these Republicans that they’re not taking their duties seriously. If I were McConnell I’d post prominently each of their names on the Senate home page for every day they miss.

The absent GOP bunch even got Democrats hooting about how the newly instituted August work period is just a “stunt.” The last thing Republicans need now is another reason for voters not to keep their party in the majority next year. This story is much more damaging to the GOP then the umpteen millionth report on a Donald Trump tweet or some #NeverTrump tome about his bad and unpresidential manners.

When Democrats are in control it’s a good thing when Congress isn’t passing legislation. When Republicans are in charge it’s a wasted chance to do something positive.

Regardless, Democrats complain either way. For their latest stupid publicity trick they’re threatening a lawsuit if those representing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh don’t come through with literally millions of pages of documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the (George W.) Bush White House. How such things are relevant to debate over a judge’s judicial philosophy or qualifications are beyond me but it’s not stopping Democrats from making a grand spectacle of the matter.

Bridget Johnson reported at PJ Media, “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed today that Democrats are poised to sue to get documents on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh requested through the Freedom of Information Act last week.

“Senate Democrats contend that Republicans are trying to conceal documents about Kavanaugh's career, which stretches back into the Ken Starr investigation, his three years as staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House, and his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Dems argue that their request is identical to the dig Republicans did through the records of nominee Elena Kagan, who was a domestic policy advisor in the Clinton White House and solicitor general under Obama.

“Republicans say that the request for millions of documents is a stall tactic intended to derail Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) goal of having a new justice seated by Oct. 1.”

This one’s a no-brainer, which is particularly helpful for Democrats who often require additional assistance to spot the folly in their actions. Judge Kavanaugh assumed his place on the Washington DC Circuit Court of Appeals bench on May 30, 2006, meaning there exists over twelve years’ worth of official judicial records pertaining to his thought processes and personal philosophies that would impact his approach to deciding high court cases and controversies.

Kavanaugh worked in the Bush White House for almost three years before being appointed to the DC Circuit, the period of time Democrats apparently want to focus their attention on during his run before the gauntlet of minority party judiciary committee inquisitors (who would never vote for him anyway). Hundreds of thousands of documents have already been turned over by the executive branch and the Bush presidential library – but still the scandal-greedy Democrats want more.  

Forget the search for a proverbial “smoking gun” – Democrats crave a bombshell document, one where Kavanaugh indicates he loves doing things like torturing prisoners or overturning Roe v. Wade, or he despises minorities, women and gay people and maybe even once confessed that there really was a “grand right wing conspiracy” to bring down Bill Clinton.

Or more likely they’re hoping some embarrassing and damning personal detail will come out to grab the public’s attention and get the media buzzing about how awful it would be for Kavanaugh to take the Court’s ninth seat.

It’s another opportunity for a witch hunt, as though we haven’t had enough of those recently with the never ending Robert Mueller investigation and Neil Gorsuch’s hearings last year. Tabloids don’t even need paparazzi anymore – they can just coordinate with Democrats to fill their pages with smear job “research” on prominent Republican and conservative public figures.

And to use the excuse that “Republicans did the same thing” for Elena Kagan is complete bunkum. Lest we forget, Kagan never served as a judge prior to her appointment by Obama –therefore she had no judicial record to examine. The circumstances of the document requests were completely different. Even worse, not only did she work in the Clinton White House during the peak of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Kagan also served as Dean of Harvard Law School for almost six years from 2003 to 2009 (before she became Obama’s Solicitor General).

It doesn’t take a genius to surmise there wasn’t a whole lot of information on Kagan’s views concerning a variety of topics likely to be brought before the Supreme Court. The two instances (Kagan’s and Kavanaugh’s) are hardly analogous, meaning the Democrats, as usual, are stonewalling.

Delay tactics aren’t a productive use of time…especially on vacation. There are better things to do, like touring the country. Jonah Goldberg of National Review is fond of driving across America on his vacations, and here’s why, “I think it’s a particularly useful thing for people in my line of work to drive around this country. And I don’t mean in a reportorial sense, though that’s good too. I just mean that it’s useful to remind yourself how big and diverse this country is. And when I say ‘diverse,’ I don’t simply mean in the rainbow-flag sense of different kinds of individuals — I mean in the full sense: There are diverse communities, diverse geographies, economies, traditions, climates, you name it.

“Whether you’re on the left or the right, it’s important to be reminded that it is literally impossible to run a country of this scope and breadth from Washington. Or at least it’s impossible without doing incredible damage to this country and its traditions.

“I don’t want to get into a wonky or even partisan discussion here. Right now, both parties are full of people who think this country can be run by a relative handful of people — or even one person – sitting in Washington. They think they’re smarter than the market or the people closest to the problems on the ground. I’m sure you could drive across this country and still be confused about such things. But it’s got to be harder. And that’s a start.”

Goldberg’s right – perspective is earned through discovery, and lots of it. If Washington politicians spent more time soaking up the nation instead of kowtowing to donors and special interests within their states and districts we’d all be better off. Only then might they comprehend how damaging it is to micromanage people through excessive laws and regulations.

But unique outlooks are what each representative and senator is supposed to bring to work in Congress – and can only be accomplished by showing up and fighting for the issues they campaigned on. If Republicans continue to drop the ball through apathy, voters won’t be pleased.

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