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Louie Gohmert

Progressives in East Texas

Yes, they exist, and they are coming out of the woodwork these days.

“It was remarkable,” says Lee Hancock, a Tyler resident of over 20 years who formerly covered East Texas for the Dallas Morning News. Hancock is now a lead organizer with Indivisible of Smith County, one of several new progressive grassroots groups in the region, including Indivisible chapters in Lufkin, Marshall, and Nagodoches. Her group organized the showdown with Gohmert and a mid-March rally at senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn’s offices against the Republican health care bill. Nearly 400 people follow the group’s public Facebook feed. “There’s so many options to be with people who share your values and concerns and feel like, hey, maybe I’m not the only one,” says Hancock.

The grassroots groups behind such events, some formed since the election, some much earlier, reflect a diversity of causes. There’s the local chapter of Our Revolution, “the next step of the Bernie Sanders movement,” which has a member in Nagodoches running for a county commissioner seat. The Snowflakes, a Longview-based coalition of young folks who lean socialist, galvanized after white supremacist posters popped up in Tyler. Voices of East Texas, a nonpartisan group, has organized informational panels on the local impacts of national policy proposals, including a repeal of Obamacare.

A month before the election, My African-American Mothers’ Alliance co-organized a voter registration drive at the Foundry aimed at black women. The event doubled as a screening of Beyonce’s Lemonade — they called it Slay the Vote. Pineywoods Voice, an LGBTQ advocacy group formed after the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting last summer, has organized against SB6, the anti-transgender “bathroom bill.”

And, of course, there’s the local Democratic Party, which recently held a summit on “turning East Texas blue” that invited leaders of the new groups in town to introduce themselves to the party faithful. A new subgroup, Democratic Women of East Texas, organized a bus to Austin for the Women’s March.

[…]

So what are newly emboldened progressive East Texans fighting for? The bucket list varies widely: the demise of Louie Gohmert’s political career, the stamping out of white supremacy, capturing local school boards and council seats, keeping undocumented loved ones out of detention centers, protecting transgender school kids, desegregating housing in Tyler, safeguarding East Texas mosques and synagogues, defending the Affordable Care Act, bringing back manufacturing jobs, and a dozen other items.

In a way, that progressive-palooza weekend in early March — the multitude of events to choose from, some at the same time and drawing notably different crowds by age and race — points to the biggest challenge: achieving the local unity it’ll take to move the needle on any one of these issues, even by a hair.

The goals are all laudable. I’d focus on the capturing local school boards and council seats myself, but this doesn’t have to be either/or. The important thing is to get everyone on the same page, register as many voters as possible, and remember that this is a process that will take time. Good luck, y’all.

Precinct analysis: Texas Congressional districts

From Daily Kos:

Texas’s GOP-drawn congressional map was designed to create 24 safely red seats and 11 safely Democratic districts, with only the 23rd District in the western part of the state being truly competitive. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the state 57-41 and won those 24 red seats by double digits, while Barack Obama easily carried the 11 Democratic districts; the 23rd backed Romney 51-48.

Things were a lot more interesting in 2016, with Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton by a smaller 52.5-43.5 margin, the closest presidential election in Texas in decades. Clinton won all the Obama districts, as well as the 23rd and two solidly Romney seats, the 7th and 32nd. However, the GOP still holds all the districts that Romney won in 2012, while Democrats have all the Obama/Clinton districts. The map at the top of this post, which shows each district as equally sized, illustrates all this, with the three Romney/Clinton districts standing out in pink.

We’ll start with a look at Texas’s 23rd District, which stretches from El Paso to San Antonio and went from 51-48 Romney to 50-46 Clinton. However, the swing wasn’t quite enough for Democrats downballot. Republican Will Hurd narrowly unseated Democrat Pete Gallego in the 2014 GOP wave, and he won their expensive rematch by a similarly tight 48-47 margin.

Surprisingly, two other Texas Republicans have now found themselves sitting in seats Clinton won. Romney easily carried the 7th, located in the Houston area, by a wide 60-39 spread, but the well-educated seat backed Clinton by a narrow 48.5-47.1. Republican Rep. John Culberson still decisively turned back a challenge from a perennial candidate 56-44, and it remains to be seen if Democrats will be able to field a stronger contender next time—or whether the GOP’s weakness at the top of the ticket was a one-time phenomenon due solely to Trump.

The 32nd in the Dallas area also swung wildly from 57-41 Romney to 49-47 Clinton. However, Democrats didn’t even field an opponent against longtime GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, a former head of the NRCC who’s capable of raising as much money as he needs to in order to win. This is another well-educated seat where we’ll need to see if Democrats will be able to take advantage of Trump’s weaknesses, or if The Donald’s 2016 problems don’t hurt the GOP much downballot in future years.

Seven other Republican-held seats also moved to the left by double digits. The closest result came in Rep. Kenny Marchant’s 24th District in the Dallas-Forth Worth suburbs, which Trump won just 51-45 after Romney cruised to a 60-38 win four years earlier. Marchant beat a penniless opponent 56-39, so this district could also wind up on Democratic watch lists.

They mention a few other districts in which Clinton exceeded Obama’s numbers by a significant amount; I’ll get to that in a minute. I’ve discussed CD07 and CD32 before. We know that while Clinton carried CD07, it was largely due to Republican crossovers, as the average judicial race clocked in at a 56.5% to 43.5%b advantage for Trump. I can now make a similar statement about CD32, as I have been working my way through the canvass data in Dallas County. (CD32 reaches into Collin County as well, but I don’t have canvass data for it. The large majority of the district is in Dallas County, however.) Hillary Clinton won the Dallas County portion of CD32 by ten thousand votes, basically 127K to 117K. No other Democrat in Dallas County carried CD32, however. Looking at the judicial races there, Trump generally led by 20K to 25K votes, so the crossover effect was significant. The closest any Dem came to matching Clinton in CD32 was two-term Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who trailed in the Dallas portion of CD32 by a 125K to 116K margin.

I may go back later and look at CD24, about forty percent of which is in Dallas County, and I will definitely look at CD23 when we have full statewide numbers. If you had told me that Clinton would carry CD23, I’d have been sure that Pete Gallego would reclaim the seat, but that didn’t happen. I’ve got to give credit to Rep. Will Hurd for that, though I doubt he will ever have an easy time of it going forward. As for the other districts, I’ll just say this: Back when we were all getting intoxicated by the alluringly tight poll numbers in Texas, I ran the numbers in every district to see what might happen if you adjusted the 2012 returns to reflect a 50-50 Presidential race. The short answer is that while several Congressional districts become a lot more competitive, none of them swing to majority Dem, even under those much more favorable circumstances. This is a testament to how effective that Republican gerrymander is, and a sobering reminder of how much ground there is to recover before we can make any gains. The 2016 Presidential numbers may tantalize, but they are illusory.

One more thing: The full 2016 Congressional numbers, along with the corresponding 2012 numbers, are here. Let me break them down a bit:


Trump up, Clinton down

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD01     71.6    72.2    27.5     25.3    +0.6    -2.2
CD04     74.0    75.4    24.8     21.8    +1.4    -3.0


Trump down, Clinton down

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD05     64.5    62.7    34.4     34.3    -1.8    -0.1
CD11     79.2    77.8    19.6     19.1    -1.4    -0.5
CD13     80.2    79.9    18.5     16.9    -0.3    -2.6
CD14     59.3    58.2    39.5     38.4    -1.1    -1.1
CD15     41.5    40.0    57.4     56.7    -1.5    -0.7
CD19     73.6    72.5    25.0     23.5    -1.1    -1.5
CD27     60.5    60.1    38.2     36.7    -0.4    -1.5
CD28     38.7    38.5    60.3     58.3    -0.2    -2.0
CD30     19.6    18.3    79.6     79.1    -1.3    -0.5
CD34     38.3    37.7    60.8     59.2    -0.6    -1.6
CD36     73.2    72.0    25.7     25.2    -1.2    -0.5

Trump down, Clinton up

Dist   Romney   Trump   Obama  Clinton  R Diff  D Diff
======================================================
CD02     62.9    52.4    35.6     43.1   -10.5    +7.5
CD03     64.3    54.8    34.2     40.6    -9.5    +6.4
CD06     57.9    54.2    40.8     41.9    -3.7    +1.1
CD07     59.9    48.5    38.6     47.1   -11.4    +8.5
CD08     77.0    72.7    21.7     23.9    -4.3    +2.2
CD09     21.1    18.0    78.0     79.3    -2.9    +1.3
CD10     59.1    52.3    38.8     43.2    -6.8    +4.4
CD12     66.8    62.9    31.7     32.7    -3.9    +1.0
CD16     34.5    27.2    64.2     67.9    -7.3    +3.7
CD17     60.4    56.3    37.7     38.8    -4.1    +1.1
CD18     22.8    20.0    76.1     76.5    -2.8    +0.4
CD20     39.7    34.3    58.9     61.0    -5.4    +2.1
CD21     59.8    52.5    37.9     42.5    -7.3    +4.6
CD22     62.1    52.1    36.7     44.2   -10.0    +7.5
CD23     50.7    46.4    48.1     49.7    -4.3    +1.6
CD24     60.4    50.7    38.0     44.5    -9.7    +6.5
CD25     59.9    55.1    37.8     40.2    -4.8    +2.4
CD26     67.6    60.9    30.7     34.4    -6.7    +3.7
CD29     33.0    25.4    65.9     71.1    -7.6    +5.2
CD31     59.6    53.5    38.3     40.8    -6.1    +2.5
CD32     57.0    46.6    41.5     48.5   -10.4    +7.0
CD33     27.1    23.7    72.0     72.9    -3.4    +0.9
CD35     34.6    30.5    63.0     64.1    -4.1    +1.1

You want to know why we’ll never get rid of Louie Gohmert? He represents CD01, one of two districts where Trump improved on Mitt Romney’s numbers. That’s why we’ll never get rid of Louie Gohmert. In the other districts, the main difference between 2016 and 2012 is the performance of third party candidates, especially Libertarian Gary Johnson. I don’t have vote totals, and the dKos spreadsheet doesn’t include the other candidates, so it’s hard to say exactly what happened at this time. For sure, in some of these districts, there was a shift towards the Democrats. I’ve noted before that the “true” level of Democratic support in CD07 was about 43.5%, but that’s still four or five points better than it was in 2012. When the full statewide numbers come out, probably next month, I’ll be able to do more detailed comparisons. For now, this is what we have. Look over the dKos data and see what you think.

Cruz may go on Obamacare

Go ahead, laugh it up. You know you want to.

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz, one of the loudest critics of Obamacare, will soon be using it for health insurance coverage.

“We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care and we’re in the process of transitioning over to do that,” Cruz, a Republican candidate for president, told The Des Moines Register Tuesday.

Cruz’s wife, Heidi, is going on an unpaid leave of up absence from her job at Goldman Sachs to join Cruz full time on the campaign trail, Cruz told the Register.

Bloomberg was first to report that Heidi Cruz has taken the leave. CNN noted that Cruz, who has boasted about not needing to receive government health care benefits, would no longer be covered under his wife’s health insurance plan.

[…]

Cruz, as an employee of the government, will use the exchange to choose his employer-provided insurance. Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley pushed through an amendment on the Affordable Care Act that requires members of Congress to obtain their coverage via the exchanges. Congress pays most of the premium. But Cruz won’t be getting any extra benefit under the Affordable Care Act that a member of Congress wouldn’t have gotten before the ACA became law.

Asked if it chafes at all to have to rely on Obamacare, Cruz told the Register: “Well, it is written in the law that members will be on the exchanges without subsidies just like millions of Americans so that’s – I think the same rules should apply to all of us. Members of Congress should not be exempt.”

But, Cruz added, he’d still like to see Obamacare repealed in its entirety.

Wonkblog notes that Cruz will not be taking any of the contribution money that legislators and their staffers are entitled to, so in that sense he’s sticking to his principle. I say if he really wants to be true to his vision, he should make like Louie Gohmert and forgo health insurance altogether. That’s the kind of freedom from tyranny he wants all those newly-insured people (and lots of not-so-newly-insured people, I expect) to have once he becomes President and repeals the Affordable Care Act, right? Well, then now is not the time for half-Measures. Now is the time to show us what you’re really made of and boldly go uninsured, Ted. Hell, just the opportunity to do a little civil disobedience by refusing to pay the tax penalty should have you licking your lips and twirling your mustache, if you had one to twirl. If Louie can do it, Ted, so can you. Anything less would be a sellout.

Louie, Louie

Great news, everyone. Christmas isn’t over yet.

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, announced Sunday morning that he will challenge House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio to be the leader of the House Republicans.

Gohmert is, for now, likely a long-shot threat to Boehner. But two years ago, Boehner won re-election as speaker by one of the narrowest margins in modern history, thanks to a band of rebellious House Republicans.

“We’ve heard from a lot of Republicans that, “Gee I’d vote for somebody besides Speaker Boehner, but nobody will put their name out there as running, so there’s nobody else to vote for,’” Gohmert said in an appearance on “Fox and Friends” on Sunday morning.

“Well, that changed yesterday, when my friend [Florida Republican Rep.] Ted Yoho said, ‘I’m putting my name out there. I’ll be a candidate for speaker,’” Gohmert added.

“And I’m putting my name out there also today to be another candidate for speaker.”

Gohmert’s strategy is to force multiple rounds of voting.

“Eventually the goal is, second, third, fourth round, we have enough people that say, “You know what, it really is time for a change,” he said.

[…]

Gohmert was militant in his television appearance on Sunday, directly slamming Boehner on issues like immigration and funding the government. He went so far as to call his conference’s leader “a dictator.”

This is great news for late night TV show hosts, political writers of all stripes, and all those horny caribou up in Alaska. Oh, and for Democrats, too. I mean, I can’t imagine a scenario that will make the Republicans look more deranged and the Democrats more responsible than Speaker Gohmert. Heck, just the protracted fight for the Speakership might be enough. You go on with your bad self, Louie. You’re better entertainment than “Downtown Abbey”. PDiddie, Juanita, and Trail Blazers have more.

Who will be the next Steve Stockman?

No one can truly replace Steve Stockman, one of the most gifted performance artists that the Congress has ever seen, but many are trying to win his now-vacated seat.

No clown shortage here

In some ways no one can replace Steve Stockman, who chose not to seek re-election to Texas’ 36th Congressional District and instead mounted what many see as a quixotic primary challenge to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

None of the 12 Republicans running in the primary to replace Stockman is likely to match the shenanigans that, analysts say, made Stockman an embarrassment to some in the party.

“In many ways Stockman did the party a big favor,” said Rice University political science professor Mark Jones. “They couldn’t get rid of him. Whoever replaces him will be much less of a distraction and have much less of a negative impact on the image of the Texas Republican Party and the Republican Party more generally.”

No single candidate has emerged with a clear advantage in the 36th District Republican primary, which likely will decide the race. The district is so strongly Republican that the other candidates – one Democrat, one Independent, one from the Green Party and two Libertarians – have only a ghost of a chance, said Brandon Rottinghaus, University of Houston political science professor.

The 36th District gave President Barack Obama 26 percent of its 2012 vote.

Because there are so many candidates, a runoff May 27 is likely, Jones said. He said a candidate could win a runoff spot with as little as 15 percent of the vote.

For once I agree with Mark Jones. With Stockman gone – assuming he doesn’t manage to knock of Sen. John Cornyn in that primary, which no one expects – Texas will be down to two nationally known embarrassments in Congress. While there is plenty of B-level talent among the delegation, none of them likely has what it takes to join Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz on the main stage. Ben Streusand, whose nasally voice from millions of TV ads for CD10 in 2004 is still wedged in my brain, may have an edge in the race and is sure to say some stupid things if elected, or even just if he makes the runoff, but it takes a lot more than that to be Stockman quality. Stockman has that certain je ne sais quoi about him that while I can’t say it will be missed, it will be notably absent.

Next steps in the Texas same sex marriage lawsuit

In case you were wondering, Attorney General and candidate for Governor Greg Abbott will appeal Wednesday’s historic ruling striking down Texas’ constitutional amendment barring same sex marriage.

The state of Texas has officially given notice that it is appealing a San Antonio judge’s ruling that completely struck down its ban on same sex marriage.

“Defendants … Rick Perry, Greg Abbott, and David Lakey … hereby appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit from the Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction, signed and entered in this action on February 26, 2014 ,” said the state’s notice, filed in federal court in San Antonio on Thursday.

Abbott’s statement is here. Democratic candidate for AG Sam Houston thinks Abbott shouldn’t have bothered.

I agree with Judge Garcia when he says “state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution.” There is no question that marriage is a right that should be afforded to all consenting adults regardless of race. In my view, the same right should be afforded regardless of sexual orientation, and I am not convinced Texas should commit substantial time and money to appeal a ruling that is likely to remain unchanged when considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Needless to say, none of the Republican candidates agreed with that.

Texas Monthly, writing before Abbott’s promise to appeal, examines the timing of the process.

[Judge Orlando] Garcia’s ruling falls in line with similar district court decisions issued recently in Oklahoma, Virginia, and Utah—making it increasingly likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually have to settle the matter, possibly as soon as the 2014-15 session.

During a conference call [Wednesday] afternoon, Barry Chasnoff, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said that while he hoped Abbott would choose not to appeal the decision and allow it to stand—as attorney generals in states like New Jersey have done—he nonetheless expected that in “a political year” Abbott would issue an appeal.

Garcia’s injunction will place the case on a fast track to the appeals courts, which is also where the Utah and Oklahoma cases are headed. But while Oklahoma’s and Utah’s cases are being appealed to the traditionally moderate Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas appeal will be heard by the traditionally conservative Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans.

According to Kenneth Upton, a Dallas-based senior lawyer for the gay legal advocacy group Lambda Legal, the Texas appeal could be decided around the same time as the Oklahoma, Virginia, and Utah appeals. So although it’s still considered unlikely, there’s a chance that the Texas case could be the one the Supreme Court hears first—and could end up bringing same-sex marriage to all fifty states.

That would make it a bookend to the Lawrence v. Texas case from 2003. We sure have come a long way. I recommend you also read this TM feature story from the February issue, about plaintiffs Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes:

Phariss and Holmes, who filed suit with another same-sex couple in October and whose case will be heard this month by the U.S. District Court in San Antonio, are unlikely catalysts for social change: until recently, Phariss wasn’t entirely out of the closet, and both men were deeply hesitant about being part of the case. Holmes, who is a 43-year-old physician’s assistant in Fort Worth and former Air Force officer, feared that exposing themselves so publicly might make them targets of antigay violence. Phariss, who is 54 and an attorney, worried that the attendant publicity would alienate colleagues and clients, many of whom didn’t know about his sexuality. He even asked the legal team handling the suit if it could withhold a press release from the Dallas Morning News, since that’s the newspaper that everyone he works with reads.

“The day it was filed, I literally got physically sick,” recalled Phariss. “Leading up to that, we definitely had moments where we looked at each other and asked, ‘Have we lost our minds?’ It’s no accident that my name is the last of the plaintiffs listed.”

A decade after Lawrence v. Texas —the landmark 2003 Supreme Court decision that declared state laws forbidding homosexual activity to be unconstitutional—Texas seems to have found two more reluctant gay-equality activists. Like John Geddes Lawrence, who was closeted at the time of his 1998 arrest in Houston for consensual sex with another man in his own house, Phariss and Holmes found themselves drawn into the battle for marriage equality almost by happenstance. At every step of the way, they’ve had to keep convincing themselves this is the right thing to do. “The truth of the matter is I had some reticence about meeting with you,” Phariss told me.

[…]

The lawsuit originated with co-plaintiffs Nicole Dimetman and Cleopatra De Leon, who live in Austin but married in Massachusetts in 2009. In the aftermath of last summer’s Windsor decision, the women decided to sue Texas to recognize their marriage. One of their main motivations, they said, was to cement parental rights regarding their son, whom De Leon gave birth to in 2012 and whom Dimetman has since adopted. “We want to be able to tell our kids that we are married,” De Leon told me.

In August, Dimetman, an attorney who previously worked for the San Antonio office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (which had filed an amicus brief in the Windsor case), asked her former employers if they would be willing to represent the couple. After Akin Gump agreed to take on the case, the firm’s attorneys began reaching out to other gay couples, asking them to join as co-plaintiffs. They believed that a diverse group of plaintiffs—male and female, unmarried and already married in another state—would give the lawsuit its best chance. One of the first people lawyer Frank Stenger-Castro talked to was Phariss, whom he knew through legal circles. Phariss and Holmes eventually agreed to join the suit and went to the Bexar County Clerk’s office, where they requested and were denied a marriage license.

Why would Phariss and Holmes take on such a public role, given Phariss’s semi-closetedness and their concerns for their safety? They say that, in good conscience, they couldn’t not do it.

“There’s this phenomenon where someone is in trouble and needs an ambulance, and everybody says, ‘Call 911,’ and everybody assumes someone else is going to do it, and nobody winds up doing it,” said Holmes. “I didn’t see anybody else doing this, so I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll be the one who makes the call.’ ”

They’re happy they did make that call, as expressed by their statement after the ruling.

“We are extremely happy — happy beyond words — with Judge Garcia’s decision,” Phariss and Holmes said Wednesday in a written statement. “Today, Judge Garcia affirmed that the Equal Protection Clause applies to all Texans. We are delighted by that decision, and we expect that, if appealed, it will be upheld.”

In the same joint statement, Dimetman and De Leon described the decision as “a great step towards justice for our family.”

“Ultimately, the repeal of Texas’ ban will mean that our son will never know how this denial of equal protections demeaned our family and belittled his parents’ relationship,” they said in a written statement. “We look forward to the day when, surrounded by friends and family, we can renew our vows in our home state of Texas.”

Not everyone is happy, of course – this Chron story has a couple of quotes from usual suspects expressing their unhappiness.

Gov. Rick Perry said the ruling was yet another attempt by the federal government to tell Texans how to live their lives.

“Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens,” he said. “We will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state.”

[…]

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, who authored the amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage when he was a state senator in 2005 issued a short, but to-the-point Tweet on the ruling:

“Having carried the constitutional amendment defining marriage between 1 man & 1 woman, I will change my definition of marriage when God does.”

Perry and Staples and Dan Patrick and all the rest of them deserve all the unhappiness they get over this. Couldn’t happen to a better bunch of people.

By the way, there’s a second lawsuit that has yet to be heard.

Another gay marriage lawsuit will be heard in Austin, possibly as early as June. Federal Judge Sam Sparks will hear an argument made by a gay couple that the state ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it discriminates against them based on their gender. The argument is slightly different from the one made before Garcia and could trigger another round of appeals.

You may recall that Abbott tried to get these two cases consolidated and moved to Judge Sparks’ court, but both Judges Garcia and Sparks rejected those motions. In preliminary hearings, Judge Sparks had expressed some skepticism about the plaintiffs’ claims in the lawsuit that he will hear, which as noted is based on different claims than the one Judge Garcia just ruled on. It will be interesting to see what happens in that case.

Another lawsuit likely to be affected by this is the one that was filed by Jared Woodfill against the city of Houston over Mayor Parker’s order to make spousal benefits available to legally married same sex couples as well. Lone Star Q discusses that.

Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal who’s representing the gay Houston employees, told Lone Star Q on Thursday that U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia’s ruling striking down the amendment will bolster the argument for same-sex benefits in Houston.

“It should be persuasive that the City and the employees have a substantial likelihood of success on the merits given that another federal judge in a sister district has found the law to violate both the liberty and equality guarantees of the 14th amendment,” Upton said.

You’d sure think so, wouldn’t you? That case is now in federal court, being heard by Judge Lee Rosenthal. There should be another hearing for it soon, unless the plaintiffs decide to drop it. Take the hint, Jared.

Last and least, Louie Gohmert is still an idiot. Just thought you’d want to know that.

Cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face isn’t a matter of principle

It’s just stupid and self-destructive.

Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert

Lots of conservative lawmakers hate Obamacare. Rep. Louie Gohmert is putting his money where his mouth is.

The Tyler Republican gave up his health insurance for 2014, asserting that the president’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act, has made coverage too expensive.

“Other people are going to see what I did when I looked into health insurance for my wife and me: that the deductible rate, it doubled, about $3,000 to $6,000, and our policy was going to go from about $300 to about $1,500 a month,” he said during a recent radio interview with Trey Graham, a pastor at First Melissa Baptist Church in Collin County. “I actually don’t have insurance right now, so thank you very much, Obamacare.”

Gohmert’s salary as a member of Congress is $174,000 a year. And his calculations ignore the hefty employer subsidy for which he is eligible — almost $950 per month. He says he will pay the tax that takes effect this year for those without insurance — 1 percent of his annual income.

Health care experts say Gohmert is taking a big risk. He’s 60. His wife, Kathy Gohmert, is 59. At that stage of life, medical expenses are common and unpredictable.

“By not obtaining insurance, you are just rolling the dice, gambling that you are not going to get sick or going to get hit by a car,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. “Most financial advisers and most independent experts would say it’s a wise move to obtain insurance and basically a no-brainer if you have an employer who is willing to kick in about 70 percent of the cost of your premium.”

That’s the case for Gohmert.

But for months, he’s said he would rather give up his government-supplied insurance than accept any government subsidy. If he did take the subsidy available to federal lawmakers and their aides, he would probably pay a monthly premium of about $600 — far less than the figure he cited on Graham’s show, which aired Sunday.

In a brief interview at the Capitol, Gohmert said that he’s a victim of Obamacare.

“I lost my health care. I liked it OK, but I didn’t get to keep it,” he said, referring to his previous insurance plan. “I couldn’t afford to go up four or five times what I was paying and double my deductible, and so I’m better off with just setting money aside for health care and paying the penalty.

[…]

Members of Congress and their aides represent an unusual category of insurance customers. Before the Affordable Care Act, they were eligible for the same insurance options offered to civilian employees across the federal government.

Under the new law, they get insurance through the Washington, D.C., insurance exchange, which created an unintended problem. Workers at big companies get employee-subsidized insurance through their jobs. Exchanges were meant for people who lacked insurance and didn’t get such subsidies.

To make sure that members of Congress and their aides weren’t penalized, the Obama administration announced that subsidies would carry over for them to the local exchange.

To be clear, the reason why members of Congress and their staffers are required to buy insurance through the exchange is because of a political stunt pulled by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa) during the debate over the Affordable Care Act when it was still a bill. Had it not been for Grassley’s failed effort to embarrass Democrats during the debate, Gohmert would still have the same insurance he’d had since he was first elected. Go blame Chuck Grassley if you don’t like your choices, Louie. Or, you know, blame yourself.

Honestly, I don’t even know what principle Gohmert thinks he’s defending here. The right to be sick? The right to be bankrupted by medical misfortune? The right to be stuck in a crappy job because you have a pre-existing condition and need the insurance it provides? I don’t wish for bad things to happen to people, but if the Gohmerts were to suffer adverse consequences as a result of this foolish decision, it would at least serve as a shining example for why people need to have insurance, and why the Affordable Care Act was so vitally necessary for so many Americans. So thanks for that, Louie. Only you could have done this. Hair Balls has more.

Grownups

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn preached the gospel of a big-tent GOP at a Friday rally for his re-election, saying Republicans must prove to voters they can govern like “responsible adults.”

Cornyn has been bedeviled by some tea party activists who say he suffers in comparison to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who played a key role in the government shutdown as he urged an end to funding for the federal health care law known as Obamacare. The tactics championed by Cruz have divided Republicans, with some GOP leaders fearing a voter backlash.

Cornyn, joined by Gov. Rick Perry at a rally at Scholz Garten before filing his re-election paperwork, said the GOP must be the party of the late former president Ronald Reagan, who considered people allies if they agreed with him 80 percent of the time.

“When we’re divided, we capitulate. We basically hand the victory to our political opponents,” Cornyn told reporters after the rally, adding “that leads us in disastrous directions like we’re seeing now.”

“We need to demonstrate that if the American people are willing to give us the opportunity in this next election to win that election, then we will be the responsible adults in the room. We will actually govern,” he said.

Asked about Cruz, Cornyn said, “I think he’s been a great new addition to the United States Senate.

Dude. Forget about Ted Cruz, who was not elected to govern, for a minute. You’re the party of Louie Gohmert and Steve Stockman. There’s a long list of B level talent in the Texas GOP Congressional delegation, but these are the headline grabbers and the public face of the party. All snark aside – and Lord knows, there’s plenty of it – you want to be seen as grownups, you need to do something about these guys. Just some free advice from someone who admittedly wants to see you lose, but who also wants to have a functioning federal government again.

Of course, Cornyn is a big part of the problem, too, but at least in terms of optics he’s Estes Kefauver next to those guys. Needless to say, we can do better. I’ve already mentioned Maxey Scherr, and I look forward to hearing more from her camapaign. Scherr now has some company in the primary, as former Republican and two-time challenger to Tom DeLay in CD22 Michael Fjetland has jumped in. Either one would serve as an excellent role model for actual adult behavior for Cornyn and his buddies.

Louie, Louie

The head, it explodes.

Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert

A number of Texas-based Tea Party organizers are clamoring for Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in a primary, according to the National Review.

Gohmert is scheduled to speak at a town-hall meeting organized by Grassroots America We The People, a Tea Party-linked group in East Texas whose head says many of the organization’s members want Gohmert to run.

Gohmert has ruled out a bid against Cornyn, however.

Cornyn is not popular with some members of the GOP base, who have criticized his work while heading the National Republican Senatorial Committee and are unhappy that he’s not backing an effort by Tea Party-affiliated Republican senators to use the looming debt-ceiling battle to try to force defunding ObamaCare. That effort has the support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Honestly, what can one say? This is one of those times where sarcasm is totally wasted. If he ran, he could win. That might also inspire a Democrat to file for this race, too, and who knows what could happen from there. But seriously, there is no rational way to react to this. It’s facepalms or high fives, and people on both sides of the partisan aisle could do either. Train Blazers, Burka, Juanita, and Eileen Smith have more.

Some things can’t be rebranded

Louie Gohmert, ladies and gentlemen.

implied-facepalm

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) warned Wednesday that “radical Islamists” are being “trained to act like Hispanic[s]” and cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We know Al Qaeda has camps over with the drug cartels on the other side of the Mexican border,” he said Wednesday on C-Span. “We know that people that are now being trained to come in and act like Hispanic [sic] when they are radical Islamists. We know these things are happening. It is just insane not to protect ourselves, to make sure that people come in as most people do … They want the freedoms we have.”

He compared the United States to Israel, and said that the nation might need a border fence in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. “Finally the Israeli people said, ‘You know what? Enough.’ They built a fence, and the rest is a wall to prevent snipers from knocking off their kids. They finally stopped the domestic violence from people that wanted to destroy them. I am concerned we might need to do that as well,” he said, adding he didn’t know whether the attack in Boston was domestic or foreign in origin.

Gohmert has previously asserted that pregnant women were coming to the U.S. to have babies to take advantage of birthright citizenship, where their infants would grow up to be terrorists.

Far be it from me to give advice to the GOP, which would have every right to be suspicious of any help I’d be willing to give them. I don’t really believe they’re sincere about “rebranding” themselves, since most of what they’re saying is that they just need to do a better job of communicating the same old ideas they’ve always held and that will be that. But to whatever extent they are sincere about giving themselves a makeover – and even I will admit that they are to some extent on immigration and gay rights – I don’t see how you can truly claim to have changed while people like Louie Gohmert remain in good standing. If the powers that be in the GOP don’t see the likes of Gohmert as a problem, or are unwilling/unable to to anything about it if they do, then no change is possible. Juanita, our state’s foremost expert on all things Louie, and Campos have more.

The mouth that roared

I have two things to say about Ted Cruz.

Not Ted Cruz

Cruz’s fans, and there are many, compare him to Ronald Reagan, who happens to be the 42-year-old senator’s boyhood hero. Cruz’s detractors, and there are many, compare him to Joe McCarthy, the controversial Wisconsin senator known for smearing his foes by innuendo and questioning their patriotism.

There are not many in between.

To Cruz, the swirling controversies of the past two months stem from his credo to “speak the truth,” whatever the consequences.

The Houston Republican’s first legislative proposal, as promised during his campaign, was a complete repeal of the 2010 health care law widely known as Obamacare. He was the only senator on the losing side of every key vote in his first month in office. He was one of only three senators to oppose the confirmation of John Kerry as secretary of state, and one of just 22 to vote against the Violence Against Women Act.

[…]

While assessments of Cruz’s job performance vary widely, there’s one thing all can agree on: The former Texas solicitor general is willfully ignoring the age-old adage that in the Senate, freshmen are seen but not heard.

1. Of all the criticisms one can make of Ted Cruz – and Lord knows, there are many – the one in which I am not interested is the criticism that “freshmen are seen but not heard”. For one thing, all that does is reinforce the Senate’s dysfunctional power dynamics. For another, if a freshman has something to contribute, who cares if they don’t know “how things are done around here”? I don’t want anyone telling Sen. Elizabeth Warren to sit down and shut up until she becomes conversant in Senate minutiae. Cruz is doing what he said he’d do. Anyone who’s surprised by it wasn’t paying attention last year.

The relevant question is whether Cruz wants to do more than what he said he wanted to do, which is basically lob spitballs and vote against stuff. If he wants to have a legacy beyond being flavor of the week for the teabagger crowd, at some point he will need to have some kind of positive accomplishments. If that does interest him – it’s not clear to me that it does, but I could be wrong about that – then I would suggest he study the legislative career of State Sen. Dan Patrick, who was Ted Cruz before Ted Cruz was Ted Cruz. Patrick entered Austin in more or less the same way that Cruz entered DC, as a brash loudmouth who disdained the traditions of the chamber he was about to join, didn’t know his “place”, and vowed to shake things up to be more to his liking. He spent his first session mostly making a fool of himself – remember his stunt where he had a press conference with a million dollars in cash as a prop? – and talk, both by and about him, far exceeded any action on his part. But then a funny thing happened – Patrick started taking the job seriously. He worked hard to learn about issues, he gained a reputation as someone who would listen with an open mind to the concerns of all stakeholders, he demonstrated an ability to work with others – see the CenterPoint right of way bill for an example – and six years later he’s the Chair of the Public Education committee, pushing major reforms. He’s far more dangerous now from my perspective than when he first got elected because now he’s actually effective and is in a strong position to get stuff done, and most (though not all) of that is stuff I don’t like. Depending on what he wants to do in DC, or subsequently back in Texas, Ted Cruz could choose to be Dan Patrick, or he could keep doing what he’s doing now, which would be a choice to be Louie Gohmert, or possibly something even worse.

2. The Express News puts this all another way.

True, there was no doubt who or what Texans were voting for at that time. Cruz, in fact, says he is doing only what Texans elected him to do.

But at some point, Texans are going to want Cruz to be for something rather than just against everything. Deal-making for the public good, after all, is a proud tradition among Texas leaders.

Texans might give Cruz the benefit of the doubt. Being new to a job is always tough. Wanting to prove your worth is always understandable. But there are ways of doing a good job — and standing on principle — without pushing the boundaries of civility.

The senator’s style certainly will endear him to some. Cruz will be the closing speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, a coveted spot at what is said to be the largest gathering of conservatives in the country.

Previous speakers? Last year, Sarah Palin. Before that Allen West, who lost his House seat in Florida after one term in November, and, the year before, Glenn Beck, who redefined far-out politics.

That’s some telling company.

In the long run, Cruz’s current style will make him a fringe player in his own party. And Texas needs more than that from its senators.

There was a time when bringing federal funds to Texas for various things was considered worthwhile. Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison were both well known for it. Even today at least some of that persists – witness Rep. Kevin Brady promising to work with Houston to ensure that Hobby Airport has sufficient Customs staff, even though he opposed the Hobby expansion project. KBH was a champion of transportation funds, and was considered a good friend of Metro here. What will Ted Cruz do? More to the point, what will the business interests that got used to getting stuff from KBH do if Cruz decides that teabagger posturing is more important than anything else? Maybe they’ll spend some time regretting their choice not to oppose Cruz. Barring anything strange, we’re stuck with him for the next six years. Isn’t that going to be fun? EoW has more.

Nobody cares more about caribou nookie than Louie Gohmert

If that headline doesn’t make sense to you, go read this. Once you’ve regained your senses, go read what Harold Cook has to say about it. The standard beverage warning is in effect. You’re welcome.

“Laugh at me, will they? Well, they laughed at Bozo the Clown, too!”

I still can’t believe that this whole “terrorist babies” thing wasn’t originally a story in The Onion. All I can say is that Debbie Riddle and Louie Gohmert, bless their hearts, are doing their very best to make The Onion’s job harder. Juanita, Eileen, The Trib, Harold Cook, and Hair Balls have more.

UPDATE: Here’s a transcript. Be careful, you may actually lose IQ points by reading it. I recommend taking it in small doses.

FBI smacks down Riddle and Gohmert

The whole “terrorist babies” delusion is so mind-bendingly stupid that it doesn’t even belong on late night public access TV, but such is the nature of our discourse that it was featured on Anderson Cooper 360 Tuesday. Thankfully, Cooper took the time to try to clean up the mess that was left in his studio as a result.

So on Wednesday night, Cooper hosted Tom Fuentes, who served as the FBI’s assistant director in the office of international operations from 2004 to 2008.

“The FBI has 75 offices overseas, including offices in Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan,” explained Fuentes. “There was never a credible report — or any report, for that matter — coming across through all the various mechanisms of communication to indicate that there was such a plan for these terror babies to be born.

“Also, I’d like to add, there seems to be a lot of former FBI agents lurking in the halls of Congress and in the legislature in the state of Texas, so I’m kind of curious about that issue as well.”

“I think — in this case, I think the FBI has knocked this story down completely, officially or unofficially,” Fuentes also added. “I think at first they didn’t want to comment on it just because they didn’t want to lend any credence to the people spreading it, but realized that there has to be some comment or else the no comment, you know, means there might be some secret classified information out there, but — but there is no credible information about this particular aspect.

“And something else I caught in your interview of Debbie Riddle where she says a former FBI agent informed her office. What does that mean? They talked to a receptionist? They talked to the janitor? You don’t talk to an office. If an FBI agent was going to brief someone that’s a public official about a sensitive matter of potential terrorism, they’re not going to talk to anybody but the elected official himself or herself.”

This all vaguely reminds me of the ritual abuse panic of the 80s, which at least had something sort of resembling “evidence” to back it up. Except that in this case, the kids are part of the imagined evil plot, too. I’m going to go have a stiff drink now. The Trib has more.

A modest theory

I have become convinced that fifty or sixty years ago, a number of terror cells infiltrated the US and impregnated a bunch of women with babies who were groomed from birth to become utter morons who would destroy the country from within by their sheer, unbounded stupidity. That’s about the only sensible explanation I can think of for the likes of Louie Gohmert.

Perry walks back secession talk

As the sun rises in the east, so do politicians who say stupid things revise and extend those remarks afterward when people start asking them questions about what they really meant. And so it was the case with Rick Perry, who insisted to reporters that he didn’t actually mean it when he said that Texas might look to secede if we got fed up enough with Washington, whatever that means. It might have been nice if the reporters had pressed him a bit more about the crowd to whom he made his initial statements, who were chanting “Secede! Secede!” in agreement with what they sure as heck thought he was saying, but I suppose you can’t have everything. Regardless, Democratic leaders such as Jim Dunnam and Rodney Ellis and gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer have rightly jumped on Perry for his idiocy, and I hope more will join in. (Anyone heard from Kinky Friedman on this?) It’d be nice if a few Republicans expressed some concern about making such intemperate statements, at least the ones who haven’t been busy making their own. Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath.

Of the many things that bother me about this, I think it’s the fact that once again a Texas Republican has made national news in a way that disgraces the state and makes us look like a bunch of rubes and fools. It’s been a nonstop parade of idiocy this year – Sharon Keller, the SBOE clown show, Louie Gohmert, Betty Brown, and now Rick Perry. I realize that there’s a lot of people who don’t care what others think about us, indeed who consider it a badge of honor to be looked down upon by the rest of the country and the world, but nothing good can come out of this. We can be as business-friendly a state as we want to be, but if people don’t want to relocate here because they’ve had such a negative impression of the place because of stunts like these it won’t do us any good. Exceptionalism isn’t necessarily an asset.

Most of all, I can’t believe I have to say any of this. Secession, for Christ’s sake. Because some people are unhappy that they lost an election. Remember how a bunch of celebrities whined to the press in 2000 and again in 2004 that they’d leave the country if Bush won? Remember how we all thought they were jackasses for saying that? Remember how Republicans in particular piled on them for their knavery? Boy, those sure were the days.

It’s the end of the world as Louie Gohmert knows it

I suppose it was to be expected that the recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state’s law banning gay marriage would drive certain people to even greater heights of absurdity. I still confess to being taken aback at idiots like Rep. Louie Gohmert, whose worldview is so bizarre to me that I’m not sure I can see a path to a starting point of comprehension of it. I don’t know that there’s anything that really can be said to this, so just click over and see for yourself.