Sen. Christopher Coons doesn’t get much sleep. Unlike most senators, the lawmaker from Delaware commutes to the capital via Amtrak, often returning home late at night to his wife, three kids, and two dogs.
On Wednesdays, though, the Democrat gets up extra early, at 5:30 a.m., so he can catch the train from Wilmington to Washington, arriving about 8:20. If he walks straight to the Capitol from the station, he can make the second half of the Senate prayer breakfast, a bipartisan hour of personal reflection and faith-sharing among senators.
“It’s the best hour of the week,” says Senator Coons, who is working on a book about the faith journeys of senators, “Profiles in Spirit,” with Elizabeth McCloskey of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics in St. Louis.
After a simple buffet of eggs, bacon, fruit, and other offerings, anywhere from 15 to 30 senators from both parties break spiritual bread at this nondenominational feast. They sing a hymn, share cares and concerns, pray for each other, and hear an inspirational talk from a current or former senator, often about a deeply personal experience. The speakers alternate weekly by party.
On those days when Coons is tempted to ignore the alarm clock, wondering why he should make the effort to listen to a senator who is his political antithesis, he reminds himself “how energizing and insightful those 30 minutes can be,” no matter the ideology of the speaker. Attending the breakfast is his one big piece of advice to incoming senators.
The prayer breakfast is one of the few venues on the Hill where members of both parties mix socially. In a typical week, about a quarter of the Senate shows up, including members of leadership from both parties, according to Coons. Participants drop politics at the door. They observe strict confidentiality. No staff. No journalists. It’s just the senators and the chamber’s chaplain, who leads the singing.
The Senate breakfast and its companion in the House are invisible to the public. Yet that is exactly what makes them so beneficial, say attendees. The confidentiality of the breakfasts allows lawmakers to get to know each other as human beings. They hear about each other’s personal struggles and joys, about concern for family members, friends, and staff. That builds trust and friendship. It can even lead to bipartisan legislation. One participant says that it’s the only time when a senator is speaking and others are really listening.
The meetings have their share of critics, who see them as too clubby, too secretive, and too much religious talk under the rotunda. But in a world where religion can divide people and nations, faith is helping to bridge the political chasm in Congress. While no one thinks the breakfasts will fundamentally change the tenor of one of the most divisive periods in Washington history, they are acting as a moderating influence – and helping to promote a sense of civility and understanding on the Hill.
As Coons puts it, “If you hold hands with someone in prayer in the morning, it’s tough for [that] someone to throw a punch at you in the afternoon.”
Prayer has always been a presence on Capitol Hill. In the 19th century, religious services were actually held in the House chamber because it was the biggest space in a town still under construction and lacking public buildings.
“The House was used for church services, but it wasn’t a church,” says Donald Ritchie, former Senate historian. “It was used for funerals, but it wasn’t a funeral parlor. It was a space that was available.”
Those practices ended in the 1840s, when enough churches had been built to accommodate lawmakers and their families. What still survives from the First Congress of 1789 to this day – and which many secularists object to – are two chaplains, one for the House and one for the Senate, underwritten by US taxpayers. The chaplains, or a guest, offer a prayer at the opening of each day that Congress is in session, and they minister to the members, their staffs, and their families.
When he was the Senate historian, Mr. Ritchie says he often had to answer queries from outraged citizens and visitors who viewed the chaplaincy and opening prayers as a violation of the separation of church and state. But Article 1 of the Constitution allows the chambers to “chuse” their officers, and the chaplains have always been officers, the historian says. As the current Senate chaplain, Barry Black, notes on his web page, the chamber honors the separation of church and state, “but not the separation of God and State.”
The Supreme Court agrees. In 1983, it held that a chaplaincy and opening prayers in legislatures do not violate the Constitution (Marsh v. Chambers). In 2014, it upheld opening prayers at municipal meetings, so long as the practice is not discriminatory. That ruling could soon get a test. Dan Barker, an atheist who founded the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is suing the House chaplain and speaker for barring him from offering a secular invocation in Congress. The group also objects to the prayer breakfasts, which are organized by the lawmakers.
The Senate and House prayer meetings are rooted in the days of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and the first National Prayer Breakfast in 1953. The two congressional prayer groups host that annual breakfast, which is organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a Christian group. The big attraction is the main speaker, the US president, along with a guest speaker.
The forum offers a rare opportunity for Congress, the president, other American leaders, and emissaries from around the world to put politics aside and address the role of faith in public life.
It doesn’t always succeed at that. In 2013, for instance, guest speaker Benjamin Carson, at the time a little-known neurosurgeon, created a stir by criticizing President Obama’s health-care program and progressive tax policies as the president sat just two seats away. Many believe the breakfast launched Mr. Carson’s presidential bid last year.
The House and Senate prayer breakfasts, Bible study groups, and other faith-related meetings on the Hill are far more intimate affairs. But they’ve gained in importance – particularly in the Senate – as socializing across parties has declined, according to Ritchie. With only 100 members, the Senate is a very personal institution, where relationships are important. “Anything that enables them to understand each other better as people is an asset,” he says. “The prayer breakfast has become a greater asset as other events and opportunities have really fallen away.”
To be sure, lawmakers mix now at the Senate and House gyms, at breakfasts for military veterans, and at the annual congressional women’s softball game – to name a few neutral gatherings. But the days of golfing together and attending the recitals of each other’s children have vanished.
Lawmakers don’t live in Washington anymore. That would look bad – making them seem too cozy with the government (even though they are the government). And it would separate them too much from their constituents. Neither do they have much time to socialize during their short workweek in Washington.
“We’re all strangers here. None of us belongs here or lives here,” says Coons, a Presbyterian who holds a master’s degree in ethics from Yale Divinity School and who sometimes guest-preaches on Sundays at various churches in Delaware. The prayer breakfast, he says, “helps humanize this place.”
Both the House and Senate breakfasts strive to include speakers from diverse faiths, and Coons says the Senate breakfast reflects the “wide range of beliefs and backgrounds” of the chamber: liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans, Jews, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and mainline and evangelical Protestants.
People attend for a variety of reasons. The meetings offer a spiritual respite from an otherwise hectic life. They help lawmakers cope with demoralizing gridlock. They reveal something about their colleagues that they otherwise might never see. Then there’s the literal breaking of bread – uninterrupted visiting time over pastries and coffee.
“You’re off the grid,” says Sen. John Boozman (R) of Arkansas, who co-chairs the Senate breakfast along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D) of Virginia, a devout Catholic who is now Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Aside from the faith part of the hour, it’s “almost like a coffee club,” says Senator Boozman, who is a Southern Baptist. “Once a week, you’re sitting around with people who have become your friends.”
Indeed, this soft-spoken former football player for the Arkansas Razorbacks (his framed jersey hangs in his office) says he would never have really gotten to know his harmonica-playing co-chair were it not for the breakfast.
Yet that is one reason some lawmakers are critical of the meetings – they seem too much like a clannish club. “People think, oh it’s kind of secret, it’s kind of a cabal,” says Senator Kaine. “It’s only secretive because you want people to be free to be really candid about who they are.” He’s been on a mission to invite non-Christian senators to share their stories – as long as what’s said inside the meetings, stays inside the meetings.
One of the oddest political couples in Washington is Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) of Texas and Rep. Janice Hahn (D) of California. Choose your antonyms – fire and ice, North and South, oil and water – politically, they are each other’s polar opposite.
“I can’t listen to him on the floor,” says Congresswoman Hahn, seated on a blue leather sofa in her office. Representative Gohmert is famous to C-SPAN viewers for his long end-of-the-day speeches in the House chamber, excoriating the president. The Texan is a favorite among tea party groups. “I can’t watch him,” she reiterates.
Yet there they were in 2014, co-hosting the National Prayer Breakfast. The duo bantered, joked, took little digs at each other, and then turned serious when talking about the teachings of their common Christian faith. He’s a devout member of a Southern Baptist church; she’s Church of Christ.
They also pray together every Thursday morning at 8:00, when their small group of 20 or so Republicans and Democrats meets in a room just off the members’ large dining hall. Along the way, they’ve discovered commonalities: They each have three children – one with the same name; he was a judge and her brother’s a judge; she went to a Christian college in Texas, his home state.
“We’ve become friends, and people find this [particular friendship] the most strange,” says Hahn.
Her Democratic colleagues are surprised when she walks through the tunnels beneath the Capitol complex and Republicans greet her cheerily by name or ask about a family member. “They’re like, ‘How do you know these people?’ I’m like, ‘I’m in this weekly prayer breakfast.’ ” She also attends a small bipartisan, bicameral women’s Bible study group on Wednesday mornings.
Her staff fiercely protects these time slots from other scheduling intrusions. Both Hahn and Gohmert say that scheduling creep of various caucus meetings during the time traditionally reserved for the House prayer breakfast has led to a decline in attendance. Even in the more robust days when the group was twice the size it is now, it still represented only a fraction of the 435 House members.
Like the Senate prayer breakfast, the House version relies heavily on testimonials about a faith journey given by a member or guest. Participants ask for prayers, and prayers are given. Praying together over a marriage that’s dissolving, a child’s drug problem, or an ailing parent, or listening to a person’s faith story, “really does begin to break down barriers,” says Hahn. “You realize everyone’s the same.”
She says it’s not easy to worship with people who don’t share your political beliefs, especially if they advance policies that you consider “disgusting.” But that’s also strengthened her faith.
For many of her Democratic friends, however, that challenge holds no allure. “I’ve heard my colleagues say it’s very difficult to pray with [Republicans] in the morning and have them cut food stamps in the afternoon,” Hahn says. “We think taking care of the homeless, feeding the poor, creating jobs for people – that is our faith. They, I’m sure, feel the same way about us. It’s very hard for them to pray with us after we’ve talked about being pro-choice and funding Planned Parenthood.”
In a phone interview, Gohmert laments the rhetoric of the recent gun debate, and cites Democratic characterizations of Republicans as uncaring and indifferent over gun deaths. That gets “a little demoralizing,” the Texan admits.
But coming together in prayer is something else. “Janice and I have very different views ... but we work well with each other. We share Christian love,” he says. “There’s a bond with Janice that transcends political situations.”
She says much the same thing about him. And they both agree on this: The practical upshot of their friendship is to show others that such a relationship is possible.
Since the duo hosted the National Prayer Breakfast, “people have commented how amazing and how enjoyable it was to see two people that clearly liked each other, got along well, and were from different parties,” says Gohmert.
Hahn agrees. “We were Exhibit A.”
The question is whether – or how much – a faith-supported friendship can actually lead to legislative bipartisanship and problem solving. Kaine offers one answer from his time in state politics, as Virginia’s lieutenant governor and then governor.
For eight years, he participated in a Tuesday prayer group when the state legislature was in session. They called themselves the “dog patrol” because they met at 6:30 a.m.
“I really got to know my colleagues,” he said in a May interview, as bluegrass music streamed from a computer in his office. “Then there’d be a vote on something that would be important to me and someone would vote against it. The first couple of times I’m like, ‘Well, that makes me mad. I mean, I thought we were friends.’ ”
But then he thought about it more. Was he putting in that hour a week just to win three more votes on a bill? He realized that wasn’t the right motive. Neither was he going to fundamentally change another person’s politics, nor would someone fundamentally change his.
For him, the effect of the prayer breakfast in the US Senate is more subtle. The 15-minute testimonials from fellow lawmakers – which range from “churchy” and “doctrinal” to accounts of how a senator grew up or overcame a painful experience, or a member’s aspirations in life – reveal what motivates a person. That’s what helps with the bridge building.
“They know what motivates me and I know what motivates them.” As a result, he says, “I do think they’ll give me a fair shake on the merits.”
One of his Democratic colleagues, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, sees an even more direct connection between the relationships forged in the prayer breakfast and work in the halls of Congress. “I’ve gotten to know people through that prayer breakfast. That has led to some positive legislative developments,” Senator Klobuchar says.
She cites her work on international adoptions. It was through the breakfast, which she co-chaired in 2009 and 2010, that she learned Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma has a personal interest in adoption. His daughter, Molly, adopted a baby girl from an orphanage in Ethiopia.
Senator Inhofe ended up being one of two Republican cosponsors on a 2009 adoption bill by Klobuchar. It allows US parents who have already completed international adoptions to bring in older siblings who are above the legal adoption age. The bill became law in 2010.
Klobuchar also notes that “it tends to be the prayer-breakfast people” who prevent reductions in the US foreign aid budget – which is a favorite target for cutbacks. She describes a group of Republicans who attend the breakfast as “very faith-focused, and who like to go to Africa, and believe in helping people in other countries.... [They] have been key to continuing funding foreign aid.”
The Senate and House prayer breakfasts are hardly the only faith-based gatherings on the Hill, though they’re the best known. Lawmakers – and staff – also gather in other groups, often quite small and intimate.
Some people aren’t comfortable with the testimonial aspect of prayer breakfasts. Some aren’t used to the free-form Protestant way of praying – as opposed to set prayers, such as in the Catholic faith. Still others prefer more readings and study of Scripture.
But it’s not the form of worship, it’s the togetherness that helps bridge the divide in Congress, say lawmakers. Take the Bible study led by Inhofe on Thursday afternoons at noon. It includes three more Republicans and three Democrats, according to Sen. Tim Scott (R) of South Carolina.
He calls his study group a “classic example” of a faith-based way to establish trust between members of the two parties. “Once you establish trust, you typically work toward a friendship, and that friendship will lead toward legislative solutions that are bipartisan,” says Senator Scott, who does not attend the Senate prayer breakfast.
One example of that trust is Scott’s legislative effort to make body cameras more widely available to police. It grew out of last year’s fatal shooting of Walter Scott, an African-American who ran from a white police officer after being pulled over for a broken brake light in North Charleston, S.C. – the senator’s hometown. The black man was shot from behind while fleeing, as shown on a private video that surfaced.
The South Carolina senator, the only Republican African-American in the Senate, reached out to Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, the only black Democrat in the Senate, to work on the police camera legislation. Senator Booker is also in Inhofe’s Bible study group.
“The fact that we’re both attending the Bible study helps a lot,” Scott says, “and once I pushed the legislation forward I called his office and asked him to participate in it, and he said ‘yes.’ ” The legislation, however, is stalled for now.
Scott was recently at the nexus of another faith-based bipartisan push to improve race relations. In March, he and Rep. James Clyburn, a Democrat also from the Palmetto State, cohosted a congressional civil rights “pilgrimage” to South Carolina, organized by the Faith & Politics Institute. The institute is a nonprofit that brings members of Congress together in interfaith reflection and travel. It focuses on racial, religious, and political reconciliation.
The spring pilgrimage, which included senior congressional leadership from both parties and chambers, toured historical sites in Columbia, Orangeburg, and Charleston, and culminated in a Palm Sunday service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston. Last year, a young white man, Dylann Roof, killed nine black worshipers at the church who had welcomed him as a stranger. Much of the country was amazed at the unconditional forgiveness expressed by the church community toward the shooter after the massacre.
Judging from a documentary film made about the trip, the pilgrimage appeared to move the members of Congress. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) of Rhode Island said he had never heard of the 1968 “Orangeburg massacre,” in which state highway patrol officers shot at protesters on the South Carolina State University campus, a historically black college in Orangeburg. Three black men were killed and nearly 30 people were injured in the protests over a whites-only bowling alley. “It’s been moving, and also a little bit stunning” to learn about the massacre, the senator says in the film.
A younger member of the touring congressional group, Rep. Will Hurd (R) of Texas, expressed amazement at his close encounter with civil rights history. Congressman Hurd, a Republican, was born in San Antonio in 1977, nearly a decade after the crucible year of 1968. He’s the son of a mixed-race couple – his father is African-American. “It’s hard for me to understand what you all went through,” he says in the film. “That’s one of the things about these trips. [It] helps me understand that.”
Commenting at a panel discussion about the documentary after a screening at the Capitol in July, Scott said that the response at Emanuel church after the shooting has “significantly” affected his leadership style. “We all seem to be knuckleheads at times,” he said about Congress. “We need to get our act together ... and one of the ways that we do that is by paying attention to a family, a church family, who’s done so.”
Many Americans might come to the same conclusion about members of Congress – that they need to sit down and talk with each other more civilly. Prayer groups are one way they’re doing that.
Sept. 16 always brings special meaning to Marine veteran Michael Bishop. Bishop is a Vietnam War veteran, and many of his friends did not make it home.
After the Paris Peace Accords, the U.S. listed 1,350 Americans that were classified as either prisoners of war or missing in Action.
Since then, over 500 Texas service members have been reported as MIA in various conflicts.
"I moved up here from Houston 30 years ago, and there was no ceremonies to commemorate these people from combat," Bishop said. "Their remains have not been returned, and it went unnoticed in the community. So I made a commitment with another veteran that we would have a ceremony for POW-MIA day."
So Bishop and others began the annual tradition as Nacogdoches joined cities around America in remembering the missing in action and prisoners of war.
They remember the POWs by setting the empty table with one chair and a cup upside down with a rose, a yellow ribbon, and a hat from each service branch.
"Several of my friends who were held as POWs, some of who returned and others are still missing, said Gaylon Fletcher, a retired Navy officer. "Many of our air crews and ground troops who served in Vietnam are still missing."
It was a simple ceremony to remind us of the men and women that gave all.
"I pray we would all rise up and honor them and thank them for their selfless acts," said Rabbi Tim Stewart.
“It’s important to me because I’ve served in the military for 36 years, and I’ve had friends who had been missing in action,” Retired Veteran, Maj General Michael H. Taylor said.
“If you’re going to maintain a strong country, you can never forget those who’ve given their lives, and paid the ultimate price to protect you,” U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert said.
Bishop said he is hopeful one day these ceremonies are not needed.
"I can't wait for that day when Captain John Clark Hearst from Lufkin has his remains returned. That will be great," Bishop said. "Texas has lost several in the program. We have several hundred still missing."
Today everyone took a moment of silence for those who never made it back home.
One message that was clear, was to respect not only the missing servicemen and women, but their loved ones as well.
“Their families are put through the ringer,” Gohmert said.
“The toughest part about this is what’s on the families,” Taylor said. “The families are the main ones we need to remember at this time, and what they’ve had to endure.”Read More
Today, Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) received the Guardian of Small Business Award from The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation’s leading advocate for small businesses, for his outstanding support of America’s small business owners in the 114th Congress.
“It is an honor to be recognized as one of the most reliable advocates for small business in Washington. Small businesses are truly the backbone of this nation’s economy, and The NFIB works tirelessly to ensure they are protected," said Rep. Gohmert
“Many elected officials claim that they are champions of small business, but NFIB’s Guardian Award shows small business owners who is really fighting for them,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan.
The Guardian of Small Business is NFIB’s most prestigious award reserved for lawmakers who vote consistently with NFIB on the key issues identified by small business owners. NFIB tracks the votes of every member of Congress. House members and Senators who vote with NFIB members at least 70 percent of the time are eligible for the Guardian Award. Rep. Gohmert received a 100 voting record during the 114th Congress.
Congressman Gohmert is the Chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Prior to being elected to serve in Congress, he was elected to three terms as State District Judge in Smith County, Texas and was appointed by then Texas Governor Rick Perry to complete a term as Chief Justice of the 12th Court of Appeals of Texas.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) released the following statement today in remembrance of the thousands of Americans who were killed in the horrific terror attack on September 11, 2001:
“Today marks the 15th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack, the most heinous attack our homeland has ever suffered, in which completely innocent people living, working and enjoying America were murdered in a cold-blooded, pre-meditated act of war by evil, sadistic, radical Islamists who want to destroy us, our freedoms, and our way of life. All of America was devastated and mourned the loss of wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, children, and friends.
Yet on September 12th, and out of the wanton and despicable evil that brought about 9-11, came a unity, a caring, a oneness as a nation that we have not had to that extent since the end of 2001. We came together, not as individuals, but as one nation under God. We came together with such unity on 9-12 that there were no Euro-Americans, no African-Americans, no Chinese-Americans, no Hispanic-Americans, no Asian-Americans, nor any other hyphenated Americans. On 9-12-2001, we were all AMERICANS, and should be again, That kind of unity, in fact, would be the greatest memorial we could create for our fallen brothers and sisters from that day of horror and evil.
May God grant us the oneness and unity we had on 9-12 as, once again, “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Congressman Gohmert is the Chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Vice Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. Prior to being elected to serve in Congress, he was elected to three terms as District Judge in Smith County, Texas and was appointed by then Texas Governor Rick Perry to complete a term as Chief Justice of the 12th Court of Appeals.
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Gohmert on The Life & Legacy of Conservative Icon Phyllis Schlafly
Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) released the following statement honoring the life and legacy of conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly:
“Phyllis Schlafly led in efforts to return America to being a shining light on a hill, a citadel for freedom and morality. She saw us losing our way, yet remained relentless in her efforts for her entire life. She was a leader, a warrior, a mentor, and a friend, even when we had a disagreement. Phyllis will continue to be an inspiration to me the rest of my life. She has fought the good fight, she has finished the course, she has kept the faith. And now, may the God Phyllis knew well grant her family the peace that passes all understanding during these difficult days ahead.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service refused to attend a hearing Thursday to discuss penalties for a huge federally backed solar power plant that has incinerated dozens of protected birds with the "death rays" it produces.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, chaiman of the House Natural Resources Committee's oversight and investigations panel, criticized the Ivanpah power plant's harm to wildlife while failing to meet power production goals.
"The killing of the migratory birds, what are called 'streamers' at Ivanpah, carry stiff federal penalties for most citizens," Gohmert said in opening remarks. "But in yet another example of a federal double standard, it is unclear what the Department of Interior has done to protect these animals and hold these companies accountable."
"From the time of its construction onward, countless desert tortoises have been killed and dislocated," he said. "Its giant mirrors attract great numbers of birds that are often incinerated in midflight by the mirror directed sunbeams," which a committee memo refers to as "death rays."
"We invited the Fish and Wildlife Service to help answer these questions, but they also refused to send a witness today," Gohmert said.
The Energy Department also declined to send anyone to testify at the hearing, although an official at the Bureau of Land Management was scheduled to attend.
The $2.2 billion concentrated solar power plant in Nevada received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee and more than $500 million in federal grants to build the facility, even though the owners are some of the wealthiest companies in the country, including tech giant Google and investor-owned utility NRG.
The plant uses thousands of mirrors on 3,500 acres in the Mojave desert to direct concentrated sunlight at three towers. The sunlight boils water to generate steam that turns a turbine to produce electricity.
Gohmert said the plant has faced several setbacks this year when it failed to meet its contractual obligations to supply electricity to California. In addition, the power plant takes enormous amounts of water to cool and keep its hundreds of thousands of mirrors clean.
"To make the situation even more dire," he said, "the very sun rays that are supposed to power the facility recently set one of the three [towers] on fire, knocking the unit out of commission."
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the oversight panel, criticized Gohmert for picking on the Obama administration's loan guarantee program, when the program was created by Republican President George W. Bush as a bridge to new technologies.
She called the hearing part of the GOP's "grand finale" on "how we embarrass the administration" as the president's term comes to an end.
"It seems to be in vogue these days to beat up on the Obama administration," but "we need to stop playing the blame game and focus on the facts."
The loan guarantee program is designed to "build a bridge over the valley of death" to develop more advanced technologies when the private sector won't take the risk.
She said the Ivanpah plant, despite its performance hiccups, has met its debt obligations.
"We must invest in the future and not the past," she said.Read More
Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee blasted Attorney General Loretta Lynch Tuesday for her refusal to answer questions about her decision to clear Hillary Clinton and all her aides of criminal wrongdoing for their mishandling of sensitive material.
"Your refusal to answer questions...is an abdication of your responsibility," Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told the attorney general after she had dodged a series of questions about her role in the conclusion of the Clinton email probe.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, noted Lynch's answers suggested she had not personally surveyed the evidence compiled by the FBI during its year-long investigation.
"You've given no indication whatsoever that you did any independent reading" of the facts of the case, Gohmert told the attorney general.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, slammed Lynch for announcing publicly that she would accept the FBI's indictment recommendations before she even knew what those would be, essentially shifting responsibility for the probe off of herself.
"You can't say, 'I'm the attorney general and I decide,' and yet, 'I'm going to take their recommendation even before they make their recommendation,'" Jordan said.
Lynch noted her announcement ahead of the end of the investigation that she would accept the FBI's recommendations was a first for her.
"I have not had occasion to do that before," she said, acknowledging she felt compelled to make the announcement because her private meeting with Clinton's husband was "seen by some as having an influence" on the investigation.
Republicans became increasingly frustrated as the hearing wore on Tuesday afternoon with Lynch's repeated attempts to avoid providing answers about the Clinton email probe.
Also from the Washington Examiner
"These questions are pretty simple," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, lamented after Lynch refused to say whether it is illegal for an individual with a security clearance to share classified information with an individual without one.
"The lack of clarity is pretty stunning," Chaffetz added.Read More
“The corruptive influence of foreign money on our elected officials is evident, and we need to close this loophole,” Gohmert told Roll Call of the bill.
While Hillary Clinton’s name is not mentioned in the Texas Congressman’s legislation, an acronym derived from the bill’s official name — Contributions Legally Interdicted from Noncitizens to Our Nonprofits — clearly spells out CLINTON.
Gohmert’s bill currently boasts one cosponsor, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas).
The bill would terminate the tax-exempt status of a former public official’s non-profit as a penalty if the organization “knowingly or willingly accepts or solicits any contribution from any person connected to a foreign government.”
The “Clinton Act of 2016” was introduced to Congress on June 24, nearly two weeks before FBI Director James Comey announced his decision not to recommend an indictment against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information during her tenure as secretary of state.
Gohmert’s concern for “the corruptive influence of foreign money on our elected officials” was never more crucial than when applied to the disturbing pattern of record-high speaking fees to Bill Clinton and donations to the Clinton Foundation from foreign contributors, coinciding with favors for Clinton cronies and foundation donors while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
“These donations are problematic, not only because they raise a question of whether foreign governments and nationals essentially bought access, but also because it creates the potential for a massive conflict of interest in the conduct of our nation’s foreign policy,” Gohmert said.Read More
FBI Director James Comey has "adequately rationalized" his decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton "beyond anything that is worthy of him or his office," Rep. Louie Gohmert said Thursday, as evidence was destroyed that could have led to a criminal complaint.
"If evidence is in the possession of one party, and that party destroys the evidence, the jury can be instructed by the judge that that is direct evidence of guilt of the defendant," the Texas Republican told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" program. "So there's all kinds of evidence here and there have been a lot of people that have been treated much more harshly."
And the investigation wasn't only about Clinton's emails, but about her "selling of the office," said Gohmert.
"I don't know anybody but corrupt dictators that have profited from their office the way that Hillary Clinton has," the lawmaker said. "And that was supposed to be under investigation. What happened to that? Just talking about the emails, she didn't profit off the way she did off her position by selling access. That needs to be thoroughly investigated because that stinks to high heaven. If she would profit as a secretary of state to that extent think of how she'd profit about being president of the United States."
Meanwhile, Gohmert said that Clinton should not be allowed access to classified material unless she's elected president.
"We have had people that have been impeached before from federal office and then you get elected and then they get classified material or at least secret material," said Gohmert. "She'd have to be elected and the people would have to say, 'look, we know that you can't be trusted but we want to trust you anyway. We'll give you the presidency.' But not as a candidate. Not with all of these questions looming, not with gross negligence and extreme carelessness. She shouldn't be near anything classified."
Meanwhile, he said there should be no doubt about who to vote for this November.
"Just wake up and smell the coffee," said Gohmert. "It's burnt coffee and it stinks. It's emanating from the Clinton campaign. You know, Donald Trump has made plenty of mistakes, but, you know, I can't see him selling his office the way she has. And intentional disregard, despite what Comey said the evidence is there. Plenty of direct evidence anyway."Read More
Resigned to the strong possibility that the House will need to fund the government through a continuing resolution after this fiscal year, conservatives are warning party leaders of what it would take for them to support such a stopgap measure.
With the much-hyped regular order appropriations process looking stalled—if not finished—before it really started, conservatives say that a funding bill that extends current government spending, as a continuing resolution does, should stretch until next year.
Government funding expires Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
The length of the continuing resolution is important to conservatives because they don’t want to have to revisit government funding during the lame duck session of Congress, which is the time after the next president is elected and before he or she takes office.
“I will only vote for a continuing resolution that stretches into next year,” said Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, speaking Thursday before reporters on Capitol Hill.
“Because everything bad happens during the lame duck session, and I just don’t believe that the lame duck session should be where we’re making big decisions about the future of the country,” added Labrador, who is a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. “If we can’t do the appropriations as we should, if we can’t get those done, then we need to wait until about March to then start the process again.”
A continuing resolution is a funding method widely loathed, but has proven to be a regular feature of an era of divided Congress.
“Everything bad happens during the lame duck session,” says @Raul_Labrador.
This year appears to be following the same path, even after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had called for the process of funding the government to be different—or normal.
Ryan, when he became speaker in October, said he wanted to open up the legislative process, returning to so-called regular order, where lawmakers could offer up policy riders to attach to spending bills that would be debated and voted on individually.
But things haven’t worked that way.
Republicans first failed to vote on a budget resolution—an aspirational document that would have been a blueprint for the spending bills to follow—due to a disagreement over the spending levels it would have set.
Then, Ryan was forced to go back on his open process promise when the House failed to advance the energy and water spending bill due to a controversial LGBT amendment offered by Democrats.
Fearing that Democrats would continue to offer contentious amendments in an effort to defeat appropriations bills they don’t like, Ryan, with the support of the Freedom Caucus, changed the House rules so that only GOP leaders choose the amendments that get votes.
Yet this strategy hasn’t helped the process go any smoother, and House conservatives are already accusing Republican leaders of blocking their amendments.
“Everything we are doing now with closed rules, and all the disruption on the House floor and bills that come up that haven’t been properly vetted out of committee, is the result of losing regular order,” Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., told reporters Thursday. “We bargained those away. We are no longer in regular order [and] that’s hugely important.”
While the House and the Senate have each passed three bills, Congress has yet to send any of them to the president’s desk for his signature.
Lawmakers are also facing a short calendar, as the House and Senate are out of session after next week for more than seven weeks due to the national conventions and their normal summer recess.
With that reality, House conservatives argue that the next best thing is to fund the government at current levels—all at once—until a new president assumes office.
“I think we should avoid a lame duck session,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, in the briefing for reporters Thursday. “You’ve got Harry Reid leaving, you’ve got President Obama leaving, and this is a chance to just line up the Christmas tree for all the wants for the future. We need to really to avoid that happening. There’s too many people that would love to make deals to just overwhelm the American public and we do not need that to happen if we are going to salvage this little experiment in democracy.”Read More
2243 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Serving his fifth term in the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Louie Gohmert was first sworn in January 4, 2005. He proudly represents the First District of Texas which encompasses over 12 counties stretching nearly 120 miles down the state’s eastern border.
During these trying economic times, Rep. Gohmert is developing innovative solutions to jumpstart our economy and offering practical alternatives to the government’s bailout frenzy. His “Federal Income Tax Holiday” gained widespread national support from the grassroots level to national leaders, allowing taxpayers to decide how best to spend their hard-earned money. Louie has repeatedly called for an end to the socialization of our economy and decried the notion that Washington Bureaucrats know better than American taxpayers.
Louie serves on numerous House committees and subcommittees. He was recently named Vice Chair of the Judiciary subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security due to his extensive knowledge stemming from years in the court room.
Prior to being elected to serve in Congress, Louie was elected to three terms as District Judge in Smith County, Texas. During his tenure on the bench, he gained national and international attention for some of his innovative rulings. He was later appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry to complete a term as Chief Justice of the 12th Court of Appeals.
Louie received his undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University and later graduated from Baylor School of Law. He is also a veteran having served his country as Captain in the U.S. Army.
Today, he and his wife Kathy are the proud parents of three daughters. Their family attends Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, where Louie has served as a deacon and still teaches Sunday school.