Committee staffers went behind Goodlatte’s back on immigration order (updated)

Politico reports:

Top aides to Donald Trump quietly worked with senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee to draft the executive order curbing immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, but the Republican committee chairman and party leadership were not informed, according to multiple sources involved in the process.

The work of the aides began during the transition period after the election and before Trump was sworn in.

It’s not clear why the committee aides did not alert the committee chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), or Republican leaders about their work.

Kathryn Rexrode, the House Judiciary Committee’s communications director, declined comment about the aides’ work. A Judiciary Committee aide said Goodlatte was not “consulted by the administration on the executive order.”

Their work on the executive order meant the small group of staffers — conservative immigration hard-liners who, sources say, are close with attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) — were among the only people on Capitol Hill who knew of the looming controversial policy.

So staff members of the committee that Goodlatte chairs worked with Trump’s people on the notorious executive order without getting Goodlatte’s approval or even bothering to inform him?

Will Goodlatte be duly outraged by this insubordination? Will heads roll?

Surprise us for once, congressman.

Update: Apparently Goodlatte has no problem with what his committee staff did, or that they signed non-disclosure agreements barring them from discussing their activities with Goodlatte or Republican leadership. 

Further update: Goodlatte has issued a statement saying he “proudly allowed” his committee staff to assist Trump. Still lots of questions about this.

Goodlatte calls for repeal of Medicaid expansion

Politico reports:

Congressional Republicans during a private meeting Thursday morning agonized over how best to repeal and replace Obamacare, a discussion that highlighted the vast divisions among the GOP rank-in-file, according to an audio recording of the session received by POLITICO.

House and Senate lawmakers during the Republican retreat in Philadelphia debated how best to create an affordable health care alternative that won’t swell the debt but that also protects the more than 20 million people who have benefited from Obama’s health care law.

One of the most pointed debates centered on what to do about the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. During a question and answer session, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) encouraged the room to repeal the entire expansion because the nation cannot afford it.

“Getting ahold of the Medicaid expansion and repealing that is absolutely critical if we’re going to have control of the growth of entitlement spending,” he said.

Goodlatte warned that some states that took advantage of the Medicaid expansion were going to want to keep that pot of money, but “other states like mine that have not expanded … they want to be proven that they were right originally.”

“We can’t afford this when we have $20 trillion in national debt,” said Goodlatte, whose office did not return request for comment.

Several Republicans disagreed with him. A senator who spoke after Goodlatte, but could not be identified on the tape, said, “We want to take care of the needy in our communities.”

Republicans in Virginia’s General Assembly have persistently refused to approve expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Healthcare for All Virginians website:

As a result of this inaction, hundreds of thousands of low-income adults fall into a coverage gap. With income below the poverty line, they are too poor to qualify for subsidized insurance from the federal Marketplace, but they make too much money to qualify for Virginia’s current Medicaid program.

If Virginia lawmakers close this coverage gap, nearly 400,000 Virginians across the Commonwealth could get access to quality, affordable health insurance.

These are not the lazy welfare cheats that Republicans love to rail against. These are working people who are going without health insurance because Republicans in the General Assembly, with Goodlatte’s full approval, are standing in the way.

So it’s not enough for Goodlatte that hundreds of thousands of Virginians are being denied health insurance. He wants to deprive 15 million residents of the 32 states that have adopted Medicaid expansion of the insurance they currently have.

Goodlatte backs Trump on entry ban

While some Republicans in Congress responded with integrity, Congressman Goodlatte issued a statement endorsing President Trump’s disgraceful blanket order banning all citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations (including this guy) from entering the United States for at least 90 days:

“The primary duty of the federal government is to keep Americans safe. Today, President Trump has begun to fulfill this responsibility by taking a number of critical steps within his authority to strengthen national security and the integrity of our nation’s immigration system. As ISIS terrorists have vowed to use the immigration system to inflict harm, it’s imperative that we know who is coming and going from our country. National security officials have repeatedly warned that we dramatically lack the resources and information to fully vet refugees from countries of concern, like Syria.

“Unlike his predecessor, I am pleased that President Trump is using the tools granted to him by Congress and the power granted by the Constitution to help keep America safe and ensure we know who is entering the United States. It’s sensible to hit pause on admitting foreign nationals and refugees from countries where adequate screening cannot occur, and it’s long past time for the completion of the Entry-Exit system in order to crack down on those who overstay their visas. I look forward to continue working with President Trump to ensure the safety and security of our great nation.”

In response Tyler Dickovick of Lexington posted the following comment on Goodlatte’s website:

Citizens of our district should demand an updated statement from Rep. Goodlatte. Among those affected by this order are (1) people who were already en route and had been vetted extensively, (2) many people from these countries who have risked their lives to work with and assist American military personnel over the years, and (3) permanent residents of the US (green card holders) who are visiting their home countries. I will be calling the office tomorrow to register my disgust with this order, and I urge others to do the same. We must make sure that our esteemed chair of the House Judiciary committee reflects on the inevitable constitutional challenge to this order.

Indeed. If you want to join Tyler in letting Goodlatte know what you think, the number is (202) 225-5431.

Goodlatte backs Trump on border wall

During the same CNN interview in which he refused to criticize President Trump on his bizarre voter fraud claims, Congressman Goodlatte backed the president’s plan to build a wall along the Mexican border.

As a “deficit hawk” who regularly introduces a “balanced budget amendment” in Congress, Goodlatte should be wary of spending up to $25 billion on such a project at a time when more Mexicans are leaving the US than entering.

Or does Goodlatte buy Trump’s ridiculous promise that Mexico somehow will be made to pay for the wall?

Perhaps Goodlatte should have a chat with a fellow Republican congressman.

“Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border,” Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.) said in a statement late Wednesday.

“Each section of the border faces unique geographical, cultural, and technological challenges that would be best addressed with a flexible, sector-by-sector approach that empowers the agents on the ground with the resources they need.”

Goodlatte won’t challenge Trump on voter fraud

In an interview on CNN this morning, Congressman Goodlatte refused to call out President Trump for his absurd claim that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the November election because millions of Americans in Virginia and other states voted illegally.

Not exactly a profile in courage. Consider the contrast with Goodlatte’s fellow Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham:

“I wasn’t there, but if the President of the United States is claiming that 3.5 million people voted illegally, that shakes confidence in our democracy — he needs to disclose why he believes that,” Graham told CNN on Tuesday.


“I would urge the President to knock this off; this is the greatest democracy on Earth, we’re the leader of the free world, and people are going to start doubting you as a person if you keep making accusations against our electoral system without justification,” Graham said. “This is going to erode his ability to govern this country if he does not stop it.”

Certainly Goodlatte is as capable as Graham of understanding the falsity of Trump’s claims. What prevents him from speaking as honestly about Trump?

When will he finally put principle above party?

Will Goodlatte hold town hall meetings in his district?

Last week I posted about Republican members of Congress who are avoiding face-to-face town hall meetings with their constituents since the election of Donald Trump as president.

I wondered if Congressman Goodlatte was among them.

Based on a recent “open door” meeting in Lexington between a staffer for Goodlatte and several residents of the Sixth District, it appears he indeed is one of those dodging any meetings where he might encounter disagreement or opposition.

According to several of those at the Lexington meeting, the staffer, Debbie Garrett, was asked if Goodlatte intended to hold any open town hall meetings in his district. She responded negatively, instead raising concerns about “security” in the 21st Century.

In terms of “security”: what does Goodlatte have to fear from facing the people he is supposed to represent in Congress? As for the 21st Century: Goodlatte held open town hall meetings as recently as the summer of 2013– well into this particular century and with no threats to safety or public order.

Was Ms. Garrett speaking for Goodlatte? It would be good to know. If you want to contact the congressman and ask, you can call his office in Washington at (202) 225-5431 or get in touch via his website.

(Hat tip: 50 Ways-Rockbridge)



Does Goodlatte even care about Trump’s conflicts of interest?

It would appear not.

Responding to a recent post at Goodlatte Watch, reader Paul Kosmas writes:

I called Goodlatte in mid-December asking him to support Rep Katherine Clark’s Presidential Accountability Act (HR 6340), which would require the President and VP to put assets in a blind trust. His response letter shows a clear disdain for the Emoluments clause as it says, “As you may know, federal office holders are prohibited from engaging government business when they stand to gain a profit. The President and Vice President of the United States are exempt from this law.

This is Goodlatte’s egregious and willful ignorance of the Constitutional prohibition of the President profiting from the office.

Goodlatte should be made to reconcile his position on this with the Constitution.

Goodlatte picks Iowa’s Steve King to head subcommittee

In 2013, Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa declared in ugly and offensive terms his opposition to a law that would have allowed some undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children to remain in the country conditionally:

“We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back and if those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people.
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.”

King’s ignorant and bigoted remarks (for which he never apologized) were repudiated by both Democrats and Republicans– including Congressman Goodlatte, who declared them “not helpful” and “inappropriate.”

This is not a one-off for King, who has a long history of speaking and acting with ignorance and bigotry.

Most recently King lent credence to President Donald Trump’s bizarre lie that he lost the popular vote in the 2016 election because millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.

So what does it tell us about Goodlatte that he has appointed Steve King as chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice?

“His expertise on many of the issues facing our nation and the committee make him well-suited to serve as chairman of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee,” Goodlatte said in a written statement. “I look forward to working with him as we seek to safeguard Americans’ liberties and promote an efficient and just legal system.”

Perhaps Goodlatte should be reminded that someone like King has no business being in Congress, let alone chairing an important subcommittee of Congress.

Congressman Goodlatte: What about the Emoluments Clause?

Congressman Goodlatte recently delivered a handsome tribute to the United States Constitution. Most significantly at a time like this, he recited the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press, and the right of people to assemble peacefully for the redress of grievances.

I hope Goodlatte’s commitment to the Constitution extends to Article I, Section 9, Clause 8, known as the Emoluments Clause. It provides:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States; And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatsoever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

President Donald Trump has extensive foreign business connections, including with state-owned companies in countries like China. So far he has refused to divest ownership of his companies, simply turning over management to his older sons. If any one of those state-owned companies provides any sort of financial advantage to the president or one of his businesses,  a case could be made that he has violated the Emoluments Clause. It’s also possible that foreign diplomats staying at Trump-owned hotels could violate the clause.

Trump currently faces a lawsuit on the matter.

Given Goodlatte’s clear devotion to the Constitution, I hope he takes these concerns seriously. Fortunately, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he is in a position to call hearings and give these matters the scrutiny the deserve.

He should be encouraged to do so– the sooner the better. Perhaps it could be part of a larger inquiry into the potential conflicts between Trump’s business interests and his position as president of the United States. I’m still waiting to hear whether he plans to pursue that, as requested by the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee.