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
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 »
BARR PLANS TO SEND CONGRESS A SUMMARY
Mueller Report Almost Done
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“Attorney General Bill Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, with plans for Barr to submit to Congress soon after a summary of Mueller's confidential report. ... The preparations are the clearest indication yet that Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation. The precise timing of the announcement is subject to change. The scope and contours of what Barr will send to Congress remain unclear.”

IN UNANIMOUS DECISION
SCOTUS Limits State and Local Governments' Ability to Levy Fines
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Supreme Court curbed the power of cities and states to levy fines and seize property, siding with a man trying to keep his Land Rover after he pleaded guilty to selling drugs. The unanimous ruling marks the first time the court has said that states and cities are bound by the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines, part of the Eighth Amendment."

Source:
AFTER U.S. WITHDRAWS FROM INF TREATY
Putin Threatens Arms Race
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Moscow will match any U.S. move to deploy new nuclear missiles closer to Russia by stationing its own missiles closer to the United States or by deploying faster missiles or both, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday. Putin said Russia was not seeking confrontation and would not take the first step to deploy missiles in response to Washington’s decision this month to quit a landmark Cold War-era arms control treaty."

Source:
MAY 26-28
Trump to Visit Japan
4 hours ago
THE LATEST
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login