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Most Southern U.S. House Democrats keeping their powder dry on Trump impeachment

Just 17 of 50 Southern members have come out for impeachment inquiry, most representing safe Democratic districts

♦ By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — A majority of members of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives have now come out publicly in favor of launching an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, but Southern members are showing more caution about taking that political plunge.

As of August 1, just 17 of the 50 Southern Democrats in the House have called for an impeachment inquiry, all but two of whom represent safe Democratic or majority-minority districts where support for impeachment presents them with little future political peril.

Just two of the 10 Southern Democrats who flipped Republican seats in 2018 — Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida and Jennifer Wexton of Virginia — have come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry. And none of the five Southern Democrats representing districts Trump carried in 2016 — Lucy McBath of Georgia, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia — have taken that step.

Five other Democrats at the top of the Republican target list for 2020 — Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas, and Donna Shalala, Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy of Florida — are also not supporting an impeachment inquiry.

The list of Southern Democrats who have so far not offered public support for an impeachment inquiry includes some of high-profile members, including Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee; civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia; and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 ranking Democrat in the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership have been resisting calls to move forward on impeachment, which is why many of the more veteran members have not offered their support.

Here is a state-by-state breakdown of which Southern Democrats have and have not come out for an impeachment inquiry:

Alabama
Not Yet In Support: Terri Sewell

Florida
Support: Mucarsel-Powell, Val Demings, Ted Deutch
Not Yet In Support: Murphy, Crist, Shalala, Wasserman Schultz, Al Lawson, Darren Soto, Kathy Castor, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, Frederika Wilson

Georgia
Not Yet In Support: Lewis, McBath, Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, David Scott

Kentucky
Support: John Yarmuth

Louisiana
Support: Cedric Richmond

Mississippi
Support:
Bennie Thompson

North Carolina
Support: G.K. Butterfield, Alma Adams
Not Yet In Support: David Price

Oklahoma
Not Yet In Support: Horn

South Carolina
Not Yet In Support: Cunningham, Clyburn

Tennessee
Support: Steve Cohen
Not Yet In Support: Jim Cooper

Texas
Support: Veronica Escobar, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Al Green, Joaquin Castro, Filemon Vela, Lloyd Doggett
Not Yet In Support: Fletcher, Allred, Vicente Gonzalez, Henry Cuellar, Sylvia Garcia, Eddie Bernice-Johnson, Marc Veasey

Virginia
Support: Wexton, Don Beyer
Not Yet In Support: Luria, Spanberger, Bobby Scott, Donald McEacherin, Gerry Connolly

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Texas U.S. Rep. Will Hurd is only Southern Republican to support condemning Trump

5 Southern Democrats from Trump districts voted to condemn his tweets about Democratic congresswomen

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — After a day of high drama and contentious debate, the U.S. House approved a resolution condemning President Donald Trump for “racist” tweets directed at four left-wing congresswomen with only a single Southern Republican — U.S. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas — voting in favor.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas

Ninety-four other Southern House Republicans voted against the resolution, which was supported by all 50 Southern House Democrats in the July 16 vote, including five members who represent districts Trump carried in 2016.

Those five members are Lucy McBath from Georgia, Kendra Horn from Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham from South Carolina, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria from Virginia.

Five Republicans from Texas — Kay Granger, Louie Gohmert, Roger Williams, Kenny Marchant and Michael Burgess — did not vote on the resolution. They also did not participate in other roll call votes held the same day.

The floor fight over the resolution was led on the GOP side by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, who set off two hours of turmoil after objecting to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling Trump’s tweets “racist,” which he said violated House rules against offering personal criticism of the president.

After lengthy discussions between members and the chamber’s parliamentarians, the chair eventually ruled Pelosi’s comments out of order, but members, on a party-line vote, overturned that ruling.

Trump, who denied his criticism of the congresswomen was racist, had urged Republican members not to show “weakness” in supporting the resolution. In the end, only four Republicans broke ranks to support it.

The resolution said the House “strongly condemns” Trump’s “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries.”

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that a group of Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to their home countries if they were dissatisfied with life in America.

While he did not single out anyone by name, the tweets appeared to be a reference to four female members from the party’s left wing who have been among his sharpest critics — Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Of the four, only Omar, who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia as a child, was not born in the United States. All four are U.S. citizens, which is a requirement to sit in Congress.

Critics attributed what they see as Trump’s racist intent to make-up of the group, dubbed The Squad. Omar and Pressley are black, Ocasio-Cortez is Latino, and Tlaib is of Palestinian descent.

Hurd represents a majority-Latino swing district in West Texas. He is the only Southern Republican in Congress who represents a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 and is among the top targets for House Democrats next year.

In an interview with PBS, Hurd called the president’s tweets “racist and xenophobic” and “also inaccurate.”

“The four women he is referring to are actually citizens of the United States, three of the four were born here. It’s also a behavior that’s unbecoming of the leader of the free world,” Hurd said. “He should be talking about things that unite us, not divide us. And also, I think, politically, it doesn’t help.”

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Florida U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz faces investigation over Michael Cohen tweet

House Ethics Committee will look at whether Gaetz’s February tweet about Cohen’s “girlfriends” was a threat

WASHINGTON (CFP) — The House Ethics Committee will investigate whether U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida violated ethics rules when he posted a tweet directed toward President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, on the eve of his testimony to Congress.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida

In the February 26 tweet, Gaetz asked, “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot…”

An ethics subcommittee will investigate whether Gaetz “sought to threaten, intimidate, harass, or otherwise improperly influence” Cohen, according to a committee statement announcing the investigation.

The committee decided to proceed with an investigation after Gaetz, one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress, refused a request from the committee to sit for an interview, according to the statement.

After a controversy arose over the tweet, Gaetz deleted it, apologized and denied that his intent was to threaten Cohen, who the next day regaled the House Oversight Committee with details of his years working at the president’s side.

Cohen is currently service a three-year federal prison sentence for tax and bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

Gaetz’s office did not immediately respond to the committee’s statement. But Politico quoted a text message from Gaetz: “If members of Congress want to spend their time psychoanalyzing my tweets, it’s certainly their prerogative. I won’t be joining them in the endeavor. Too busy.“

Gaetz has represented Florida’s 1st District, which covers the state’s western panhandle, since 2017.

The House members on the subcommittee that will handle the complaint against Gaetz includes Democrats Anthony Brown of Maryland and Raja Krishnamoorthi and Republicans Michael Guest of Mississippi and John Rose of Tennessee.

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Southern House Democrats in targeted seats vote to turn up pressure on Trump

House Judiciary Committee can now sue to force compliance with requests for documents, testimony

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — In the first major test of how Southern Democrats in vulnerable seats will navigate through ongoing House investigations of President Donald Trump, all of them stuck to the party line in supporting new powers that could escalate those inquiries.

By a vote of 229-191 on June 11, the House authorized the Judiciary Committee to go into federal court and demand that the Justice Department comply with requests for documents and witness testimony.

From top left clockwise: Cunningham, McBath, Allred, Weston

All 10 Southern House Democrats who flipped seats in 2018 and are at the top of the GOP hit list in 2020 agreed to give the committee the power to sue to force compliance, although none of them yet support moving toward impeaching the president.

That list includes Reps. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina; Lucy McBath of Georgia; Kendra Horn of Oklahoma; Elaine Luria, Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia; Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher of Texas; and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala of Florida.

Not a single Southern Republican supported the resolution, including 11 GOP members who are on the Democrats’ target list for 2020.

The resolution is aimed squarely at Attorney General William Barr, who has refused to comply with some document requests, and former White House counsel Don McGahn, who has refused to testify at a committee hearing under instructions fro the White House.

The resolution ratchets up the pressure on the Trump administration, as an increasing number of House Democrats are calling for an impeachment inquiry.

While none of the Southern Democrats in competitive seats have so far come out in favor of an impeachment inquiry, 14 members in safe seats have done so.

That list includes Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Val Demings of Florida; Veronica Escobar, Sheila Jackson Lee, Joaquin Castro, Lloyd Doggett, Al Green, and Filemon Vela of Texas; Cedric Richmond of Louisiana; Alma Adams and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina; Don Beyer of Virginia; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi; and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.

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Former Mississippi U.S. Senator Thad Cochran dies at 81

Cochran, the state’s first Republican senator since Reconstruction, served 45 years in Congress

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

OXFORD, Mississippi (CFP) — Former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, who became one of Mississippi’s most revered statesmen in a political career that spanned nine presidents, has died. He was 81.

Cochran died May 30 at a nursing home in Oxford. His death was announced by the office of his successor, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. His daughter, Kate, told the Washington Post that the cause of death was renal failure.

Former U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran retired in April 2018 because of ongoing health issues that had kept him away from the Senate for several months.

A funeral service will be held Monday at 11 a.m. at the State Capitol in Jackson. A second service will follow Tuesday at the Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson at 11 a.m.

Tributes for the late senator began pouring upon news of his death.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, who sat alongside Cochran representing Mississippi for a decade, said he “was a giant in the United States Senate and one of the greatest champions Mississippi has ever known.”

“When Thad Cochran left the Senate, I was reminded of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote, ‘Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and departing leave behind us footprints on the sands of time,'” Wicker said. “Thad Cochran’s footprints are all around us

“Mississippi and our nation have lost a true statesman in Thad Cochran,” said Governor Phil Bryant. “He was a legend in the United States Senate where he worked tirelessly to move his state and country forward.”

President Donald Trump expressed condolences on Twitter: “Very sad to hear the news on the passing of my friend, Senator Thad Cochran. He was a real Senator with incredible values – even flew back to Senate from Mississippi for important Healthcare Vote when he was desperately ill. Thad never let our Country (or me) down!”

Cochran was born in 1937 in Pontotoc, a small town in the state’s northeast corner. After graduating from Ole Miss in 1959, he served two years in the Navy before returning home to finish law school and begin practicing law in Jackson.

His first foray into politics came in the 1968 presidential race, when he became state chairman for Richard Nixon’s campaign. At the time, the Republican Party was virtually non-existent in Mississippi, and segregationist George Wallace would bury Nixon. But four years later, Cochran would be elected to Congress on Nixon’s coattails as a Republican.

Cochran served three terms in the House before being elected to the Senate in 1978, becoming the first Republican since Reconstruction to represent the Magnolia State in the Senate.

During his time in the Senate, Cochran chaired both the agriculture and appropriations committees, positions that allowed him to funnel billions of dollars in federal money to projects back home, earning him the nickname “King of Pork.”

Cochran routinely won re-election without breaking a sweat until 2014, when he was challenged in the Republican primary by State Senator Chris McDaniel, who tried to rally Tea Party support to dislodge Cochran.

McDaniel forced Cochran into a primary runoff, which is when the good will and political capital the senator had banked during his long career paid off — he narrowly beat McDaniel after encouraging Democratic voters, including African Americans and farmers, to cross over and vote for him in the runoff.

That campaign became extremely contentious, particularly after a McDaniel supporter sneaked into a nursing home to shoot video of Cochran’s late wife, Rose, who was suffering from dementia, which was part of a gambit to accuse the senator of having an improper relationship with an aide.

The hard feelings remained in 2018, when McDaniel ran to succeed Cochran and the Republican establishment pulled out all the stops for Hyde-Smith, who beat McDaniel easily.

Rose Cochran died in 2014. In 2015, the senator married Kay Webber, a longtime aide.

Cochran is survived by his wife, two children and three grandchildren.

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Southern Judiciary Committee members split on party lines in William Barr contempt vote

Committee holds attorney general in contempt for refusing to produce Mueller report

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Southern members of the House Judiciary Committee have voted along party lines to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt for refusing to turn over an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Muller’s final report.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Georgia

Among the 10 Southern Democrats voting for the contempt measure May 8 was freshman U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, a top GOP target in 2020 in a Republican-leaning district in the Atlanta suburbs, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, another top Republican target next year.

Leading the charge against the contempt citation was another Georgian, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who is the ranking Republican member of the Judiciary panel. He accused the Democrats of sour grapes in targeting Barr.

“(They) are angry the special counsel’s report did not produce the material or conclusions they expected to pave their path to impeaching the president,” Collins said.

The committee approved the contempt resolution 24-16. It will now go to the full House, where it is expected to pass.

A contempt citation would express the displeasure of the House but would not result in any official action against Barr. However, it would mark only the second time in U.S. history that an attorney general has been held in contempt by a house of Congress.

Democrats have demanded to see a full, unredacted version of the report. But Barr has insisted that legal restrictions preclude him from turning it over.

President Donald Trump has also invoked executive privilege to avoid disclosing the report, setting off a potentially protracted legal battle with House Democrats.

Among the Democrats voting yes in addition to McBath and Mucarsel-Powell were Shelia Jackson Lee, Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar of Texas; Ted Deutch and Val Demings of Florida; Hank Johnson of Georgia; Steve Cohen of Tennessee; and Cedric Richmond of Louisiana.

Republicans voting no in addition to Collins were Louie Gohmert and John Ratcliffe of Texas; Martha Roby of Alabama;  Mike Johnson of Louisiana; Ben Cline of Virginia; and Greg Steube of Florida.

Matt Gaetz of Florida did not vote, although he did speak against the resolution during the debate preceding the vote.

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4 Southern GOP senators defy Trump on border emergency; North Carolina’s Thom Tillis makes about face to support president

Rubio, Paul, Wicker and Alexander break with Trump in voting to overturn emergency declaration

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — With the support of four Southern Republicans and all four Southern Democrats, the U.S. Senate has voted to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to find money for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis

But one GOP senator who had come out publicly in favor of overturning the declaration — Thom Tillis of North Carolina — reversed course and voted no, after intense lobbying from the White House and an avalanche of criticism from Trump partisans back home.

Trump has vowed to veto the resolution overturning the declaration, which passed by a 59-41 margin in the Republican-controlled Senate on March 14. The House passed it in late February by a vote of 254-182.

However, opponents of the declaration do not have enough support in either House to override Trump’s veto, which will be the first of his presidency.

The four Southern Republicans who broke the with president were Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

All four Southern Democrats in the Senate also voted yes — Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Doug Jones of Alabama.

Frustrated by the unwillingness of the Democrat-controlled House to vote money for the border wall, Trump declared a national emergency on February 15, which will allow him to shift $8 billion from other federal programs and use it for wall construction. Most of the money will come from appropriations for military construction and drug interdiction.

Alexander

In a floor speech before the vote, Alexander said he objected to Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to provide border wall funding after Congress failed to appropriate the money.

“The problem with this is that after a Revolutionary War against a king, our nation’s founders gave to Congress the power to approve all spending so that the president would not have too much power. This check on the executive is a crucial source of our freedom,” Alexander said.

Rubio

Rubio said he agreed with Trump that an emergency exists at the border but said he objected to shifting money out of the military construction budget to finance the border barrier.

“This would create a precedent a future president may abuse to jumpstart programs like the Green New Deal, especially given the embrace of socialism we are seeing on the political left,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

Paul and Wicker also cited constitutional considerations as the reason for their vote to overturn the declaration.

Wicker

Paul

“I stand with President Trump on the need for a border wall and stronger border security, but the Constitution clearly states that money cannot be spent unless Congress has passed a law to do so,” Paul said in a statement.

Wicker said he regretted “that we were not able to find a solution that would have averted a challenge to the balance of power as defined by the Constitution.”

“The system of checks and balances established by the Founders has preserved our democracy. It is essential that we protect this balance even when it is frustrating or inconvenient,” he said in a statement.

Tillis made a splash when he published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on February 25 saying he would vote to overturn the emergency declaration because it would set a precedent that “future left-wing presidents will exploit to advance radical policies that will erode economic and individual freedoms.”

Tillis faced an avalanche of criticism from the president’s supporters in the Tar Heel State and was facing the likelihood of a primary challenge in his 2020 re-election race.

“A lot has changed over the last three weeks — a discussion with the vice president, a number of senior administration officials … a serious discussion about changing the National Emergencies Act in a way that will have Congress speak on emergency actions in the future,” Tillis said.

Republican senators had considered changing the National Emergencies Act to make it more difficult to declare emergencies in the future, but the plan faltered when House Democrats came out against it.

Tillis said he concluded that the crisis at the border was sufficiently serious to warrant the emergency declaration.

“We have narcotics flooding our country, poisoning our children and adults of all ages, and a lot of it has to do with the porous border and the seemingly out of control crossings,” Tillis said.

But Democrats back home pounced on Tillis for his change of heart.

“Tillis again reminded the entire state who he is — a spineless politician who won’t keep his promises and looks out for himself instead of North Carolina,” said Democratic Party spokesman Robert Howard in a statement.

Rubio and Paul do not face re-election until 2022; Wicker’s current term lasts through 2024.

Among the Democrats who voted against Trump, Jones is the only one who is running for re-election in 2020. Warner isn’t up for re-election until 2022, and Manchin and Kaine’s current terms last through 2024.

Jones is considered among the most vulnerable Democrats up for election in 2020, in a state where Trump remains popular.

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