Fortenberry and Smith’s House of Horrors

During the 2014 election cycle, the GOP told the voters that if they were given control of both Houses of Congress, they would get things done for the American people.  For example, Deb Fischer told voters to vote Republican to “end the gridlock.”  Shortly after the Republicans won the 2014 elections, Mitch McConnell said: “I don’t want the American people to think that if they add a Republican president to a Republican Congress, that’s going to be a scary outcome. I want the American people to be comfortable with the fact that the Republican House and Senate is a responsible, right-of-center, governing majority.”

Anybody who was paying careful attention to the long time GOP dysfunction in the Congress would have found Fischer and McConnell’s promises to be laughable.  As things have turned out, the dysfunction in the GOP led Congress – and especially in the House – has been worse than ever since the GOP gained control of the Senate in 2014.

The GOP led Congress got off to a very bad start in early 2015, when they nearly shutdown the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over a dispute regarding an unrelated immigration issue.  At the time, the GOP made this threat to hurt U.S. national security, terrorists were threatening to attack the Mall of America in Minneapolis.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and a shutdown was averted.  Unfortunately, all of the Republicans in the Nebraska delegation joined in this reckless shutdown threat.

The only real “success” the GOP led Congress had in 2015 was passing a budget and raising the debt ceiling until after the 2016 elections.  In order to get this done,  John Boehner had to resign as House Speaker and get the support of Congressional Democrats to pass the budget.  If Boehner had tried to maintain his post as Speaker after passing the budget, he would have been ousted as Speaker by the so-called radical House “Freedom Caucus.”

An interesting aspect of this 2015 budget was that it slightly raised the deficit after several years of declining budget deficits.  What that means then is that the only real “accomplishment” of this new GOP Congress increased the deficit.  It wasn’t too long ago where every Republicans’ hair was on fire over the deficit and spending.  Once again, this proves that the Republicans are deficit frauds.

Things in the Congress haven’t improved in 2016 – in fact they have gotten worse.  Thus far, the GOP has blown it’s April 15 statutory deadline to pass another budget.  It wasn’t all that long ago when the right used to berate the then Democratic led Senate for not passing a budget.  This talking point was repeated ad nauseam by GOP elected officials and the right wing media. It’s been crickets from the GOP over Paul Ryan’s failure to pass a budget.

The House Republicans haven’t only failed to pass a budget, they have also neglected to act on a series of emergencies that are pending.  Ryan and his fellow Republicans have failed to deal with the Zika virus, the impending default of Puerto Rico, the Flint water crisis, and the heroin and opioid painkiller problem.

Several prominent House Republicans have all but admitted that they are a failure.  As the Huffington Post recently reported: “If you ask Republicans what’s the most significant piece of legislation they’ve passed this year, you’re unlikely to get a quick, definitive response. “I’d have to give it some thought,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said Friday. “I’d have to go back and look,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said earlier this week. “We’re changing America,” Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said with a laugh, in response to a question about Congress filling its days by renaming post offices and designating the bison as the national mammal.”

The source of the failure and dysfunction in the House are the 40 members of the so-called “Freedom Caucus.”  Nothing is good enough for these radicals – they steadfastly refuse to compromise on any legislation.  Ryan has empowered these extremists because – unlike Boehner – he refuses to reach across the aisle to Democrats to pass necessary legislation to even keep the lights on.  Apparently, Ryan prioritizes keeping his job as Speaker over the good of the country.

It isn’t only Paul Ryan who tacitly supports these nihilistic radicals, they are also empowered by Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith.  These two Nebraska House Republicans supported Paul Ryan’s election to the Speakership and are his steadfast allies.  Moreover, Fortenberry and Smith have never spoken out against the “Freedom Caucus” and the gridlock their extremism has caused.

The only member of the Nebraska Congressional delegation who has worked to end the gridlock is Representative Brad Ashford.  The Second District Congressman has worked on a bi-partisan basis to try to change Washington.  Approximately 89% of Ashford’s bills have bi-partisan support – including his legislation to build a new Omaha V.A. Center.  Congressional Quarterly has named Ashford the sixth most bi-partisan member of the House.

The only solution to the failure of the GOP House majority is to re-elect Congressman Ashford and to support Dr. Dan Wik in his challenge to Jeff Fortenberry in CD01.  Like Ashford, Wik has promised to work on a bi-partisan basis to end the gridlock in Washington and get things done.  If you want different results out of Washington, you have to vote for different people.

We Democrats have the rare opportunity to elect a Democratic President and Congress this fall.  Both of our Presidential candidates hold a wide lead over Donald Trump.  Moreover, the Democrats are heavily favored to take back the Senate. Twenty four of the thirty four Senate seats up this fall are held by Republicans.  In addition, many of those Republicans are running for re-election in blue or purple states.

The Democrats may even have an outside change of regaining control of the House this year due to the damage inflicted on it’s ticket by Trump.  Some of the leading political experts have said the House is in play this year.  In addition, a well connected insider told me that national polling indicates that if the election were today, the Democrats would pick up twenty seats.

Progressive majorities in D.C. are rare in American history.  The last Progressive majority was during the first two years of President Obama’s first term.  In 2009-10, Democratic majorities passed the Recovery Act, the Ledbetter bill, the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank.  We may have an opportunity for similar achievements in 2017-18.  Now let’s get to work and make it happen!  I know we can do it!