Conservative columnist calls out Goodlatte for “toadyism”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin is one of a handful of conservatives who have tracked the first weeks of the Trump administration in undisguised horror.

Her displeasure extends to the hypocrisy of Trump-supporting Republicans in Congress– including the representative from the Sixth District of Virginia.

One can only marvel at the toadyism of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — who previously recommended gutting the ethics office — in demanding a full-scale investigation by the Justice Department inspector general into leaks but resolutely resisting any investigation into President Trump’s breached hotel lease, his conflicts of interest, his ties with Russia and his recent receipt of a trademark from China — just after reaffirming the One China policy — which is indisputably an “emolument” from a foreign government.

Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee have asked twice for Goodlatte to schedule hearings on Trump’s conflicts of interest– to no avail. If he ever shows his face in public to his Sixth District constituents (not just a selected group), maybe we could ask him about it.

Watch for Goodlatte (updated)

wheres-bobSince the House of Representatives is off next week for “district work,” Congressman Goodlatte may actually be out and about in the Sixth District. Not that he is likely to make his presence anywhere widely known in advance.

If you spot Goodlatte, or learn of his whereabouts, please report it in the comments below.

(Hat tip: Chris Gavaler)

Update: Unless you’ll be in India next week, never mind. Indian media report that Goodlatte will lead a bipartisan Congressional delegation of eight lawmakers visiting New Delhi and Bangalore from February 20 to 23. No mention of the visit on his website, and it’s about as far from the Sixth District as you can get.

There’s nothing wrong in principle with members of Congress visiting foreign countries. But maybe an Indian reader of Goodlatte Watch (there is at least one) can ask him when he will hold an in-person town hall meeting in Roanoke, Staunton or Front Royal.

Goodlatte and Ryan barred Hispanics in Congress from meeting with ICE director

Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois on Thursday issued a statement after he, fellow members of the Hispanic Caucus and other members of Congress were excluded from a meeting with Acting Director Thomas Homan of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the request of Congressman Goodlatte and Speaker Ryan:

In 20-plus years, I have never heard of the Republicans controlling what meetings Democrats can have with officials of the Executive Branch and never had a staffer ask me to leave a meeting to which I am entitled to attend.  My constituents have questions about who is being targeted by ICE, which DREAMers with DACA they are targeting for deportation, which victims of domestic violence ICE is deporting, which immigrants at church shelters are being targeted.  We know the statements by Trump about targeting criminals is a lie, but we were hoping someone could give us the truth or any information at all.  

The new mass deportation executive orders are unprecedented, but so are the lengths to which the Speaker and Chairman Goodlatte are going to control the information being disseminated to Members of Congress.  I expect such dictatorial shenanigans from the Trump Administration, but not from competent, compassionate legislators like Speaker Ryan or from legislators like Bob Goodlatte.  Do they have ear pieces feeding them orders from President Bannon or the others making decisions in the White House?  

Speaker Ryan is not an emperor and does not control who I meet with.  My colleagues and I asked for this meeting and we still have not been given details by ICE about who they are deporting, why, and how.  We simply have hit a stone wall and now Republicans in the House are cooperating in limiting the information that we can provide to our constituents.

 

“Town hall” update

With no advance warning, Congressman Goodlatte Thursday evening notified people who had signed up online that he was holding a “telephone town hall.”

If anyone wanted to participate, they had to drop whatever they were doing or had planned for the evening.

Ellen Mayock of Lexington posted on her blog:

People all over the United States, including those of us in Virginia’s 6th District (for the U.S. Congress), are usually quite busy at 6:49pm.  There are dinners to make, the elderly to look in on, children to get to activities and to feed, bathe, and get to bed.   Some of us are still at work or headed out to work.  That’s why many of us did not receive Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s automated invitation to his “telephone town hall meeting” until well into the call, which began at 7:00pm, eleven minutes after the message was left.  Here’s the message Goodlatte left:

“Hi.  This is Congressman Bob Goodlatte.  It’s Thursday evening and I was calling to invite you to participate in a live, telephone town meeting to hear from you about issues before Congress.  I regret that I missed you.  If the call is still in progress, you can join by calling {#}.  Otherwise, if I may be of assistance to you, please contact my Roanoke office at {#} or my Lynchburg office at {#}.  Also, if you’d like to receive important updates from my office, I encourage you to sign up to receive. {message cuts off}.”

…..

By the time I called in, I had missed about the first 17 minutes of the conversation.  It turns out, though, that 43 minutes of insensitive responses to individuals genuinely concerned about social security benefits, Medicare cuts, the proposed decimation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the executive branch’s dangerous cover-up of its multiple links to Russia and cybersecurity threats was plenty of time.  In fact, Congressman Goodlatte uses the telephone to good advantage.  He tightly controls the medium by accepting a limited number of calls, reading from pre-packaged GOP scripts, and channeling all potentially troublesome questions into reassurances about how he is taking care of the safety and security of good United States citizens.  It becomes rather easy for listeners on the call to guess who are the bad U.S. citizens.

Katie Webb Cyphert of Lynchburg provided the following summary of what she heard during the so-called town hall:

1. A woman was asking about Obamacare and how a repeal would be terrible for low-income folks. Goodlatte talked about Medical Savings Accounts and how all the Obamacare stuff (keep your plan, keep your doctor) had been proven false.

2. A caller said she prays for the elected officials and wonders why folks won’t give Trump a chance. Goodlatte agreed and thanked her for the prayers.

3. A man said he’s known Bob Goodlatte since his first election, but that the last several years Goodlatte has become a lapdog and is backing policies that are contrary to our American values.

4. A poll was conducted on whether sanctuary cities should still get federal dollars. I didn’t catch the results for Yes and No, but 46% said not sure.

5. A man asked when they’re going to raise the minimum wage. Goodlatte said that the state can do so and to call state representatives.

6. A man said he got a Social Security increase of 31 cents per month but his electric bill is $610. How are people supposed to make ends meet? Goodlatte said that the new health plan would lower costs for Medicare participants.

6. A woman asked about the ACA Repeal and how it would affect those currently on Social Security and Medicare, for which they’ve paid. Goodlatte said a consumer-driven plan with medical savings accounts would help.

7. A woman called and read her email (to which she hadn’t received a response) about Flynn, Conway, and investigations. Goodlatte said he’s in favor of investigating the Russian discussions and leaks.

8. Another poll question on whether countries like Iran and North Korea pose a threat to the US. Results were 80% yes, to which Goodlatte said that’s why we need the temporary stricter travel vetting.

9. A man invited Goodlatte to the Town Hall on Wednesday at 4:30 in Vinton and then said not to mess up Social Security and Medicare. Goodlatte said he can’t attend Wednesday.

Meanwhile The Roanoke Times reported Thursday:

Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte has declined an invitation to appear at a town hall meeting organized by a local grass-roots organization demanding a meeting with him next week.

Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, was holding a scheduled telephone town hall with constituents Thursday evening, his spokeswoman, Beth Breeding, said. “Congressman Goodlatte’s staff notified the group earlier today that he is unable to attend,” Breeding said in an email Thursday.

Roanoke Indivisible, a local chapter of the national progressive organization Indivisible that has sprung to life in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency, announced via Facebook a “People’s Town Hall for Bob Goodlatte” at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Charles R. Hill Senior Center in Vinton.

Under pressure, Goodlatte promises “telephone town halls”

After demonstrations across the Sixth District and a flood of constituent email and phone requests for Congressman Goodlatte to hold face-to-face town hall meetings, he has responded by… promising to hold more “telephone town halls.”

He even added a page to his Congressional website for people who want to sign up for them.

But Goodlatte has carefully avoided promising any actual face-time at meetings open to everyone in the district. (In fact he has not held such a meeting since 2013.)  And “telephone town halls” are a poor means for communication between a legislator and the people he is supposed to represent. Phil Stump, a retired Lynchburg College professor and Indivisible Lynchburg organizer, explained the problem in an article in the Lynchburg News & Advance:

“I tried to participate in one of the call-in town halls in the past that [Goodlatte] had, and it was hopelessly frustrating. I just gave up after a while,” Stump said. The format allowed aides to screen callers and did not allow for the “possibility for interchange” with Goodlatte or other constituents, Stump said.

Goodlatte greeted by protesters in Edinburg

Congressman Goodlatte came to Edinburg in Shenandoah County on February 13. The Northern Virginia Daily reports:

[Goodlatte] invited area businesspeople, elected officials and other community leaders to a luncheon Monday to discuss, among other topics, President Donald Trump’s executive orders, the Affordable Care Act and Goodlatte’s role in what some perceived to be an attempt at weakening the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Edinburg’s Carmella’s Restaurant was the location selected for the talk, which was on an invitation-only basis. Goodlatte said that talks of this nature have been common throughout his time in Congress.

“This is really an opportunity for local elected officials, community leaders, leaders of nonprofit organizations (and) business leaders to talk about issues,” Goodlatte said. “This is something I’ve been doing the entire time that I’ve been in Congress and I do it all across my district. … We do these on a regular basis and it’s an opportunity for folks to hear what’s going on in Washington, but also, importantly to me, to tell me the things about issues that are going on here that may be of importance to them.”

Goodlatte said he supported President Trump’s now-suspended travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries but he criticized its implementation. He again defended his failed effort to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics and affirmed his support for repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a “better plan,” although he apparently offered no details.

Goodlatte and his guests were not the only people present, as 25 protesters outside the restaurant expressed their concerns about the way they feel Goodlatte has been representing them. Chief among them was what they feel is inadequate accessibility to their elected official. Among the signs present, one read “Town Hall Now” and another, “Bob, we need to talk.”

One protester was Kay Ely-Pierce, with Shenandoah Indivisibles.

“He has not had a town hall meeting where he allows his constituents to actually dialogue with him since 2013,” she said. “It needs to be a meeting where all his constituents can be. That’s what a town hall is and that’s what we’re here for. We just want to talk to him. … That face-to-face dialogue is really the key to human understanding.”

…..

The protesters stood just outside the restaurant as the congressman delivered his remarks inside.  Goodlatte explained why the event was closed to the public and offered ways for those seeking to communicate with him on how to do so.

“We have a large list and we invite people from that list and we encourage people to sign up for the list, but that’s how that works,” he said. “I am very, very accessible to them (protesters). I stopped and said hello to them on my way in here, but we have a multitude of different ways to communicate with our constituents, including telephone town hall meetings, including open-door meetings where they can speak to my staff – and everything that my staff receives from any constituent comes to me – and we always respond to them, too. We’re interested in hearing their concerns as well.”

…..

When asked about the demonstrators’ desire for an in-person town hall meeting, Goodlatte said that he and his office are “considering what all of our options are,” and again referred to the telephone town halls, which Ely-Pierce likened to a child being raised by its parents via Skype.

Goodlatte described the protest as part of a larger, wider-reaching demonstration.

“This is a nationwide thing,” he said. “This is not something that’s unique to the 6th District. This is going on in every single congressional district in the country. It’s organized by a national organization that is not happy with the outcome of the election. These are my constituents so they’re welcome to be here and express their opinions as well.”

Goodlatte should know that the protest in Edinburg, and other protests across the Sixth District, are not organized by a “national organization.” They are organized and attended by the constituents he is supposed to be representing in Congress. It’s good that he believes these constituents are welcome to express their opinions. It would be even better if he would take the time to meet with them face-to-face and listen to them.

Your move, Congressman Goodlatte

In my first post at Goodlatte Watch in December, I reported:

Sixteen Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have written to chairman Bob Goodlatte asking him to schedule hearings on the potential conflicts between Donald Trump’s business interests and his future position as president of the United States.

I can find no evidence that Goodlatte even bothered to reply to the letter, let alone schedule hearings.

Now The Washington Post reports:

In an escalation of Democratic efforts to highlight questions about President Trump’s potential conflicts of interest and alleged ties to Russia, a senior House Democrat is dusting off a little-used legislative tool to force a committee debate or floor vote on the issue.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) filed a “resolution of inquiry” Thursday, a relatively obscure parliamentary tactic used to force presidents and executive-branch agencies to share records with Congress. Under House practice, such a resolution must be debated and acted upon in committee or else it can be discharged to the House floor for consideration.

…..

Nadler, the No. 2-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said that his move came after Democrats sent two letters to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and another letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) asking for investigations into Trump’s financial entanglements.

“All of this demands investigation, and of course they’ve refused,” Nadler said Thursday at the House Democrats’ annual policy retreat [in Baltimore]. “This resolution will force them to confront the issue.”

…..

Under House rules, a resolution of inquiry is referred to a committee, which has 14 legislative days to debate and vote on whether how it should be reported to the floor. If the committee does not take action in that 14-day span, the measure can be called up on the House floor for a debate and vote.

A spokeswoman for Goodlatte declined to comment Thursday on whether he plans to take up Nadler’s resolution.

Of course she did.

Unfortunately for Goodlatte’s efforts to evade his responsibilities as head of the Judiciary Committee, things just got real.

Update: You can read the letters that the House Judiciary Committee Democrats sent to Goodlatte here and here.