Pete Sessions Hands Dems the Perfect Attack

This House leader just gave Democrats all the hyperbole they need to go after Republicans — the script writes itself.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
Nov. 6, 2013, 6:28 a.m.

It’s no Mitch Mc­Con­nell mo­ment, but House Rules Com­mit­tee Chair­man Pete Ses­sions just gave Demo­crats some cause for cel­eb­ra­tion. In an in­ter­view pub­lished Tues­day, the Texas Re­pub­lic­an, who plays an im­port­ant role in how le­gis­lat­ively pro­duct­ive Con­gress can be, drove home what Demo­crats have long said about the GOP: The party has no in­terest in gov­ern­ing.

“Everything we do in this body should be about mes­saging to win back the Sen­ate,” Ses­sions said in an un­for­tu­nate in­ter­view with Roll Call.

“That’s it. If you don’t want Benghazis to hap­pen or you want an in­vest­ig­a­tion for Benghazi, if you want an in­vest­ig­a­tion on the IRS as op­posed to the ex­cuses that [Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er] Harry Re­id is all about, if you do not like what’s hap­pen­ing at the [Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency], then you gain the Sen­ate,” he ad­ded.

Pre­pare to see those re­marks quoted and re­quoted in scores of press re­leases and Demo­crat­ic at­tack ads between now and the end of the year. Per­haps they’ll start with a stark por­trait of Ses­sions’s face, which creepily fades creepily to black, fol­lowed by bright-red block let­ters, “The GOP has no in­terest in gov­ern­ing … just ask House Rules Com­mit­tee Chair­man Pete Ses­sions. “

The re­mark is re­min­is­cent of Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mc­Con­nell’s fam­ous line about how the GOP’s “top polit­ic­al pri­or­ity” should be deny­ing Pres­id­ent Obama a second term. Mc­Con­nell’s com­ment was fod­der for scores of polit­ic­al at­tack ads and Demo­crat­ic press re­leases at the time. And with good reas­on.

The gaffes fall in­to a par­tic­u­lar sub­cat­egory known as a Kins­ley gaffe. “A gaffe is when a politi­cian tells the truth — some ob­vi­ous truth he isn’t sup­posed to say,” polit­ic­al com­ment­at­or Mi­chael Kins­ley once ob­served. That is what gives it its power.

Yet to some con­ser­vat­ives, Ses­sions’s line is not a gaffe at all. There is a le­git­im­ate con­ser­vat­ive base that would like to see Re­pub­lic­ans ne­go­ti­ate on noth­ing. Dur­ing the shut­down fight, for in­stance, the cofounder of Tea Party Pat­ri­ots trum­peted the “glor­i­ous battle” fought by “com­mit­ted war­ri­or[s]” that put Re­pub­lic­ans “poised for massive gains in 2014.”

If that’s Re­pub­lic­an think­ing, it has Dems rub­bing their hands to­geth­er. Asked Wed­nes­day morn­ing wheth­er Ses­sions’s re­marks would make for at­tack-ad fod­der, a Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee spokes­wo­man wrote back hap­pily. “House Re­pub­lic­ans’ agenda has nev­er been about gov­ern­ing—they’re more in­ter­est­ing in play­ing polit­ic­al games, while Demo­crats are fo­cused on solv­ing prob­lems and cre­at­ing a strong middle class,” said Emily Bittner. A Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee spokes­man wrote back with­in minutes. “In short, yes — Ses­sions ar­tic­u­lated what their strategy is — it’s not about the is­sues, it’s about try­ing to score polit­ic­al points, and folks aren’t buy­ing it as we saw in VA last night,” said Mi­chael Czin.

In fact, the DNC blas­ted out a press re­leases Tues­day night, say­ing Ses­sions’s com­ments lay out what House Re­pub­lic­ans’ No. 1 goal is: to use their House ma­jor­ity to play polit­ics in the hopes of win­ning the Sen­ate. “Ses­sions’s com­ments are noth­ing short of cyn­ic­al, but un­for­tu­nately this is a view that has be­come dom­in­ant in today’s GOP. Re­pub­lic­ans are sin­gu­larly fo­cused on play­ing polit­ics, and they have little or no re­gard for the mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans who are hurt by their ac­tions,” the DNC wrote in its re­lease.

There’s some truth to the claim. Last month, Czin noted, the GOP-led shut­down cost the eco­nomy $24 bil­lion. The party has voted 43 times to try to re­peal Obama­care, and some law­makers are act­ively set­ting up road­b­locks to pre­vent their con­stitu­ents from sign­ing up for care. Next week Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, who is be­ing pil­lor­ied by con­ser­vat­ive press for not tak­ing a more tea-party-like op­pos­i­tion­ist role in the debt-ceil­ing show­down, will in­tro­duce a 20-week abor­tion ban that’s purely for show. As Aman­da Mar­cotte notes over at Slate, Pres­id­ent Obama has zero reas­on not to veto it with haste if it ac­tu­ally gets to him. Not that it will, as Re­id has every in­cent­ive to kill it be­fore it even gets to the Sen­ate floor.

What We're Following See More »
FOLLOWED CLOSED DOOR MEETING
Peña Nieto, Trump Trade Subtle Jabs in Statements
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Following their meeting, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, briefly addressed the media, with Peña Nieto subtly rebuking Trump's rhetoric. While he spoke respectfully about Trump, Peña Nieto did not back down, saying that free trade has proved effective and that illegal immigration into America from the south has decreased over the last ten years while the flow of people and drugs into Mexico has increased. Additionally, he stressed that Mexicans in America are "honest" and "deserve respect." Trump responded, calling some Mexicans "tremendous people" while saying others are "beyond reproach." Trump laid out five important issues, including the end of illegal immigration and the ability for either country to build a wall or border. However, Trump said he did not discuss who would pay for the wall.

LOWER COURT RULING STANDS
SCOTUS Won’t Restore NC Voter ID Law
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

A divided Supreme Court "refused Wednesday to reinstate North Carolina’s voter identification requirement and keep just 10 days of early in-person voting. The court rejected a request by Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials to delay a lower court ruling that found the state law was tainted by racial discrimination."

Source:
SMOKIN’ AND SHOOTIN’
Court: 2nd Amendment Doesn’t Protect Pot Users’ Gun Rights
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS
CHICAGO DISTRICT
Woman Self-Immolates in Congressman’s Office
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Police say a woman walked into U.S. Rep. Danny Davis' office on Chicago's West Side, drank out of a bottle of hand sanitizer, poured the sanitizer over herself and set herself on fire with a lighter." The Democrat wasn't in the office at the time.

Source:
ASKS CONGRESS FOR $1.1 BILLION MORE
White House Grants $53 Million for Opioids
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday awarded 44 states, four tribes and the District of Columbia a combined $53 million in grants to expand access to treatment for opioid use disorders and ultimately aimed at reducing the number of opioid-related deaths." But HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and drug czar Michael Botticelli both called on Congress to approve the $1.1 billion Obama has requested to fight the opioid crisis.

Source:
×