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Congressional Watch: A lesson on Wikipedia

Posted: June 17th, 2016 | Columns, Congressional Watch, Featured | No Comments

By Andy Cohen

Much like Duncan Hunter in last month’s column, it was a rough May for Darrell Issa (R-49).

First, there was the serious matter of the Congressional investigation of the IRS, with Republicans seeking to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen for singling out conservative organizations that claimed tax exempt status; accusations that have been proven again and again to be baseless after numerous Issa investigations as Chair of the House Oversight Committee.

Just how serious is this impeachment proceeding against Koskinen? Serious enough for Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to use it as a fundraising ploy. Nothing like a good ol’ partisan witch-hunt to fill the campaign coffers.

But there was a hitch in the plan proffered by the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee: None of them seem sure what qualifies as an impeachable offense. As the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote, “Everything Darrell Issa knows about impeachment he learned from Wikipedia.”

congressional_watch“You and I are not lawyers,” Issa told committee chair Jason Chaffetz during a Judiciary Committee hearing. “According to Wikipedia, at least, the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors constitutionally says it covers allegations of misconduct …” Issa then went on to cite the examples presented by Wikipedia contributors.

Wikipedia, for those who are unaware, is an open source website to which just about anyone can contribute. It is not acceptable as a source for academic or investigative purposes.

But that was not the end of the Issa follies for the month. House Republicans had added a provision into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have opened the door for contractors to openly discriminate against LGBT individuals.

The amendment states that every branch of the federal government “shall provide protections and exemptions” to any religious corporation, educational institution, or society that receives a federal government contract, purchase order, grant or cooperative agreement that is consistent with the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

What the provision does is open the door for any entity doing business with the government to claim that their religious conscience requires them to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

Encouragingly, it was also Republicans who led the charge to strip the provision out of the bill. As an amendment to remove the language from the NDAA went to the floor for a vote, members believed they had the 217 voted needed to strip the offensive language and move on. However, at the last moment, seven Republicans switched their votes from “yes” to “no.” Among the seven who switched their vote was Darrell Issa.

No one will say why Issa and the six others switched their vote, but Rep. Charlie Dent (R-FL), who sponsored the amendment to remove the discriminatory provision, believes they were pressured by Republicans who did not want to be on record voting for the NDAA with LGBT protections in place.

Susan Davis (D-53) took a stand against a bill that, according reports, promotes fossil fuel generation and consumption and creates new subsidies for coal, and seeks to resurrect the now defunct Keystone XL pipeline.

“We need an energy policy suited for the 21st century that invests in the future,” Davis said in a press release. “This bill is tone deaf to our energy needs and the crisis we face from climate change. If you wanted to hasten the effects of climate change, this would be the bill to do it.”

The House bill would also seriously dismantle the Endangered Species Act in an effort to effect water distribution in California, and take steps to hamper enforcement efforts on the illegal ivory trade.

“I reject the notion that the only way to provide drought relief is to put endangered species at risk,” the Davis release said. “Sadly, the bill before the House simply continues a fight that opponents of the Endangered Species Act have been waging for decades and framing it as drought relief.”

In a related note, Donald Trump informed supporters at a rally in Fresno that there was, in fact, no drought. The evidence backing his claim remains a mystery.

Scott Peters (D-52) returned a campaign donation from the father of Democratic Rep. Ami Bera of Sacramento. Babulal Bera pleaded guilty to two felony counts of election fraud involving the finances of his son’s campaign. The senior Bera had contributed the maximum $5,400 to Peters’ campaign last year, campaign donations that were perfectly legal. However, according to Peters’ spokesperson, the decision was made to return the money in order to avoid the appearance of association with the corruption charges, despite the fact that the charges stem from the 2010 and 2012 campaigns and had nothing to do with the current cycle.

Duncan Hunter (R-50) is feeling a little slighted, having been “snubbed” by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump was in Washington, D.C. for his much-publicized meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with other Republican Congressional leaders, but chose not to meet with the rank-and-file, such as Hunter.

Hunter, who was among the very first members of Congress to endorse the reality TV star, noted that Trump had received multiple requests to meet with some of his supporters in Congress, but Trump refused.

“I think it would have been good of him to meet with the first endorsers,” Hunter told Politico.

“If they endorse him, then go back to their districts to say that they’ve met him and he’s not crazy, it goes a long way,” Hunter said.

Both Hunter and Issa have endorsed Trump for president and each had the opportunity to introduce Trump at his rally at the San Diego Convention Center in late May.

—Andy Cohen is a local freelance writer. Reach him at ac76@sbcglobal.net.

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