Our awful Congress

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On the roster: Our awful Congress – Another one bites the dust: Ross to retire – Cordray brings in Warren ahead of tough Ohio primary – Senate Judiciary preps bill to protect Mueller – Air B&E

OUR AWFUL CONGRESS 
Paul Ryan is like the hound dog who was having intimate relations with a skunk and declared: “I think I have enjoyed about all of this I can stand.” 

Certainly no one could blame Ryan for wanting out of what has become one of the very worst jobs in Washington. If you want to know how bad it is, consider how muted the celebrations of his many enemies in the Republican Party are today. His departure means somebody else will have to step up.

Whatever you think of Ryan’s policies, there’s no doubt that his departure, slated for the end of this term, is part of an ongoing brain drain in Congress. The body has become so ineffective, so factious and so mean that it is a wonderment anyone with a triple digit IQ could bear it at all. 

Congress, in both parties, is increasingly the province of showboats who compensate for their many deficiencies through loud talk, audacious claims and, always, partisan invective. 

Consider that on the day Ryan announced his departure, the president of the United States was threatening significant military action that could draw the nation into a confrontation with our leading foe, and no one even bothered to wonder what Congress would say about it. 

What was Congress up to today? Beclowning itself with a second day of mostly pointless political posturing in hearings with the CEO of Facebook. If you ever wanted evidence that Congress is no longer able to serve as a useful finder of facts, search no farther. 

Congress has already surrendered in its efforts to address the question of Russian interference in the 2016 election. That Congress has become a bystander in this progress is strong evidence that even when the stakes are enormously high, neither party can summon the will to be resolute and dispassionate. 

As we have said many times before, the single greatest failure of imagination of the Founders was their inability to foresee how the legislative branch would come to devolve its own powers. We often think of the rise of the imperial presidency to be about executives snatching authority away from the legislative branch. But in truth, Congress has enthusiastically surrendered its responsibilities out of self-interest. 

It is easier to tell people what they want to hear then to tell the truth. It is easier to allow the president to make war and not take the blame when those wars go awry. It is easier to let executive agencies write laws then it is to hammer out legislation. It is easier to mug for TV cameras than it is to ask witnesses important questions. 

When we write the post-mortem on the 2018 midterm elections, today will certainly stand out as one of many tipping points. The departure of a sitting speaker is as sure a sign of an impending rout as we can think of. Ryan’s departure will ring like a gong with members across the country as they consider what will come next. 

It seems unlikely to us that Ryan will be able to serve out his term as speaker in caretaker mode for several reasons, but chief among them is that coming legislative fights, including another fiscal cliff, will likely stoke animosities in the Republican conference to the point where members demand new leadership. 

That raises the prospect of bitter fights, legislative losses and deepening resentments just at the moment when the party needs to come together. The election calendar forced Ryan’s hand since he needed to give Republicans in his home state a fighting chance to hold on to his seat. 

But 209 days is too long to expect to hold power as a figure head, especially given the simmering resentments among his fellow House Republicans. And those who are looking to suck up to voters in bids to either keep their seats or advance to higher office will see too much opportunity in acting out.

The temptation here is to discuss Ryan in the context of what is wrong within the Republican Party and, of course, in terms of the current president. But that lets us off rather too easily.

Whichever party wins in November and whomever becomes the next speaker and minority leader will not change the underlying problem in our republic: The most important branch of our federal government is badly broken.  

THE RULEBOOK: SHOVEL READY 
“The power of establishing post roads must, in every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious management, become productive of great public conveniency. Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 42

TIME OUT: LARGER THAN LIFE
Weekly Standard: “Let’s start with the obvious: Andre the Giant, subject of a new documentary from HBO, was huge. The wrestler seemed almost to have stepped out of legend or myth. Billed at a whopping 7-foot-4 and 477 pounds, he was a veritable Grendel, with deep-set eyes, frizzy hair, and a protruding jaw. Dubbed by promoters the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ he wore size-24 shoes and a size-24 ring, and his wrists were nearly 12 inches in circumference. … In a career spanning 27 years, six continents, and over 5,000 matches, he became a cherished icon of professional wrestling—and was arguably among the most influential athletes of the 20th century. … HBO’s documentary Andre the Giant captures this transformation of wrestling—and André’s role in it, showing footage of the smackdowns he doled out to adversaries in the ring well into the 1980s. And it also focuses on the aspect of his career for which he may be best remembered in the future: his hilarious role in the 1987 movie The Princess Bride.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41 percent 
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent 
Net Score: 
-12.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 52% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; IBD: 38% approve – 56% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve – 53% disapprove; Marist College: 42% approve – 51% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 41.4 percent
Democratic average: 47.2 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 5.8 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 0.6 points  
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 46% Dems – 43% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems – 44% GOP; Marist College: 44% Dems – 39% GOP; Fox News: 46% Dems – 41% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 50% Dems – 40% GOP.]

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: ROSS TO RETIRE 
The Hill: “Republican Rep. Dennis Ross (Fla.) is retiring from Congress at the end of the year. Ross made the announcement that he will not seek reelection on Wednesday morning, shortly after Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) shared his decision not to run again in the fall. ‘After thoughtful prayer and consideration, my wife Cindy and I decided that I will not seek re-election for a fifth-term in office,’ Ross said in a statement. … He added that he will return to practicing law and will pursue ‘opportunities to increase civic education for our youth, and young adults, and with that encourage more engagement and participation of future generations in government.’ Ross was not considered to be in any major electoral jeopardy — the nonpartisan Cook Political Report does not include his seat on its list of the most vulnerable seats in the House.”

McMorris Rodgers in tough race – The Spokesman-Review: “Split by voters’ views of President Donald Trump and gender, Eastern Washington’s electorate is highly polarized and possibly headed for the closest race in the 5th Congressional District in years. The race between U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and former WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown is shaping up to be a bruising race, said H. Stuart Elway of Elway Research Inc. In a recent survey of 403 registered voters in the district, incumbent McMorris Rodgers had a 6-percentage-point lead over Brown, with 44 percent saying they plan to vote for the Republican incumbent and 38 percent saying they plan to vote for the Democratic challenger. … Voters don’t register by party in Washington, so pollsters have to ask them how they would register if they had to. In Eastern Washington, voters who say they are independent seem to tilt Republican in recent years, Elway said.”

Ex-con ex-congressman makes the ballot in return bid – Roll Call: “Former Rep. Michael G. Grimm has qualified for the Republican primary ballot for New York’s 11th District in hopes of wrestling back his old seat from incumbent GOP Rep. Dan Donovan. Grimm, who served two terms in Congress before resigning in 2015, easily hurdled the 1,250-signature mark to file for the ballot Tuesday, the first day of eligibility to file in New York, gathering more than 3,000 signatures from people in the district. The highly-anticipated primary for the Staten Island seat is slated for June 26. The race is already simmering on the Republican side. Last week, Donovan publicly speculated whether Grimm was behind an ethics complaint targeting the incumbent by alleging that he got his partner’s son out of a drug bust. The Office of Congressional Ethics received a complaint that Donovan used his position as a member of Congress to get Timothy O’Connell, his girlfriend’s son, out of a heroin-related arrest.”

Would-be Gowdy successors all disavow U.S. Chamber – [Palmetto] Post and Courier: “All thirteen Republican candidates running to replace Congressman Trey Gowdy said Monday they would refuse to accept money or an endorsement from the pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Several running for the seat, which covers Greenville and Spartanburg counties, proudly declared they don’t expect the chamber would even offer it to them. ‘The chamber generally hasn’t approved of my service in the Senate, so I don’t think that will be a problem,’ said state Sen. William Timmons, R-Greenville, during a Tea Party forum Monday night that featured all of the candidates on stage together for the first time. … The unanimous distancing from the chamber in South Carolina’s conservative 4th Congressional District served as a notable rebuke to a group that has traditionally been considered one of the leading power players in GOP politics.”

Super PAC plays for California Dem. after her grandad pays – The San Diego Union-Tribune: “An influential political committee launched a campaign blitz for Encinitas congressional candidate Sara Jacobs after her grandfather gave it one of the largest contributions it has received this election cycle. The Women Vote! super-PAC launched a television campaign, digital ads, a website and a series of mailers this week following a $250,000 contribution by Jacobs’ grandfather, Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs. Jacobs, 29, is running for the seat held by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, who is not seeking re-election. Her candidacy has made national news, including a profile in the magazine Cosmopolitan. Federal Election Commission records show the Feb. 7 contribution was Irwin Jacobs’ first to the super-PAC, connected with the EMILY’S List organization, which derives its name from the phrase Early Money Is Like Yeast.”

Pete Sessions’ challenger raking in the dough – Dallas Morning News: “Colin Allred‘s first-place finish in the March 6 primary is netting lucrative results. Since the Democratic primary election, he’s raised $220,000 for his campaign, and he raised over $400,000 for the first three months of the year. ‘People are ready to take on Republicans in the fall, and they are looking for a candidate to get behind,’ Allred told The Dallas Morning News. ‘When they saw our first place finish, they knew I was the best choice to take on Pete Sessions.’ Allred, the former NFL player turned civil rights lawyer, is in a May 22 runoff against former Department of Agriculture Secretary Lillian Salerno. On Tuesday Salerno’s campaign announced that she had raised $284,000 for the quarter and $100,000 since March 6. U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, the longtime Republican incumbent and chairman of the House Rules Committee, hauled in nearly $600,000 for the period and has $1.5 million on hand for the general election, according to his aides.”

CORDRAY BRINGS IN WARREN AHEAD OF TOUGH OHIO PRIMARY
AP: “Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is ready to hit the campaign trail with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray. Warren will encourage early voting for Cordray at stops in Cincinnati and Columbus on Friday, his campaign told The Associated Press on Tuesday. A darling of the left and a favorite punching bag of Republican President Donald Trump and the right, Warren created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau where Cordray served as a director until jumping into the governor’s race late last year. Her appearances come as Cordray faces a tightening primary race against former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich.”

Colorado GOP gubernatorial frontrunner stumbles – Colorado Politics: “In a startling turn in Colorado’s race for governor, Republican candidate Walker Stapleton said Tuesday he is withdrawing petitions that won him a spot on the June 26 primary ballot, accusing the firm that gathered signatures on his behalf of engaging in ‘fraudulent conduct’ and lying about it to Stapleton’s campaign and state officials. The Colorado secretary of state’s office certified April 6 that Stapleton’s campaign had gathered more than the 10,500 valid signatures needed to make the ballot. But Tuesday, in a hastily called press conference, Stapleton told reporters he was backing away from the petitions submitted on his behalf and instead would try to qualify for the ballot by seeking support from GOP delegates at Saturday’s state party assembly in Boulder. Stapleton, the state treasurer and presumed GOP front-runner in the governor’s race, will likely face seven other Republicans at the assembly, where it will take support from at least 30 percent of delegates to get on the ballot.”

Trump booster in S.C. makes hidden income a key campaign issue – AP: “South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is accusing his top GOP rival of ‘hiding’ behind her tax returns and calling on her to reveal the full sources of her income. McMaster launched a new website Wednesday, WhatIsTempletonHiding.com , accusing former state agency head Catherine Templeton of not being transparent about sources of her income. ‘Given Templeton’s campaign for governor has been largely centered on the idea, however fantastical, that she is a champion of government ethics, transparency, and accountability, the decision to keep the public in the dark about how she has made a living as a ‘consultant’ over the last few years is surprising,’ the site reads. Media have reported that Templeton’s campaign made available joint tax filings for 2014 through 2016 for Templeton and her husband but only produced summaries of income, deductions and taxes owed. McMaster’s campaign allowed reporters to review 16 years of returns shortly after he became governor last year and recently released more.”

SENATE JUDICIARY PREPS BILL TO PROTECT MUELLER 
Politico: “A bipartisan Senate bill designed to protect special counsel Robert Mueller‘s job is on track for a vote in the Judiciary Committee, according to a source briefed on the committee’s plans. It’s a significant step forward as lawmakers warn President Donald Trump not to fire the man investigating him. The combined version of two Mueller protection measures, set to be released Wednesday, would give any special counsel 10 days after a termination to challenge the move in court. The new bill is the product of months-long talks among Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cory Booker(D-N.J.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has yet to lend his full support, but that’s not stopping him from setting up the legislation to advance.”

Prosecutors said to be seeking info in ‘Access Hollywood’ tape – NYT: “The F.B.I. agents who raided the office and hotel of President Trump’s lawyer on Monday were seeking all records related to the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape in which Mr. Trump was heard making vulgar comments about women, according to three people who have been briefed on the contents of a federal search warrant. The search warrant also sought evidence of whether the lawyer,Michael D. Cohen, tried to suppress damaging information about Mr. Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. It is not clear what role, if any, Mr. Cohen played regarding the tape, which was made public a month before the election. But the fact that the agents were seeking documents related to the tape reveals a new front in the investigation into Mr. Cohen that is being led by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.”

Mueller subpoenas 35 witnesses to testify against Manafort – Fox News:“Special Counsel Robert Mueller is moving to subpoena 35 witnesses to testify in the case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Fox News has learned. Mueller’s team made its request to the clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Virginia on April 6. ‘It is respectfully requested that the Clerk of said Court issue subpoenas as indicated below for appearance before said Court at Alexandria, Virginia, in the United States District Court at 10:00 o’clock a.m., on the 10th day of July, 2018, then and there to testify on behalf of the United States,’ the request, obtained and reviewed by Fox News, read. The subpoenas, at this time, are blank, meaning Mueller and the special counsel team could have the opportunity to call 35 witnesses to testify against Manafort in his trial. It is unclear at this point who the special counsel will subpoena to testify on behalf of the United States. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III will hear Manafort’s case.”

Top Justice official turned over notes corroborating Comey accounts –
WaPo: “Dana Boente, the former acting attorney general who now serves as general counsel at the FBI, has been interviewed by the special counsel’s office and turned over handwritten notes that could be evidence in the ongoing investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice, according to people familiar with the matter. Boente was interviewed months ago by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on a wide range of topics, including his recollections of what former FBI director James B. Comey told him about troubling interactions with Trump, one of the people said. The interview is significant, because it shows how Mueller is exploring whether the president obstructed justice and keying in on conversations Trump had with his former FBI director about the probe involving his presidential campaign. It also shows the extent to which Mueller has gone to corroborate Comey’s account.”

ILLEGAL BORDER CROSSINGS SURGE  
The Economist: “It certainly looked like a ‘Trump effect.’ Within weeks of Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House in January 2017, the number of people caught crossing America’s southern border illegally fell to a 17-year low of 11,127. John Kelly, then secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), attributed the drop to Mr. Trump’s executive orders on immigration.Elaine Duke, the department’s deputy secretary, gave credit to better enforcement of immigration laws. Mr. Trump hailed it as ‘a historic and unprecedented achievement.’ If such an effect did exist, it appears to have been short-lived. On April 5th, the DHS announced that Border Patrol agents apprehended 37,393 people in March, an increase of more than 200% on the previous year. The number of unaccompanied children caught entering illegally jumped by 300%, and the number of families detained while attempting the journey surged by nearly 700%.’”

House Republican says he has votes to force DREAMer vote – The Hill: “A Republican congressman said Tuesday he’s rounded up enough GOP co-sponsors to force multiple immigration votes on the House floor. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) told The Hill that he has secured support from more than 40 House Republicans on a resolution that would allow debate and votes on four separate immigration proposals. The four bills that would be considered are the conservative bill authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.); a Democratic measure that would be the Dream Act; a bill offered by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that would mirror President Trump’s immigration plan; and the bipartisan USA Act, a narrow bill limited to border security measures and protecting so-called Dreamers. ‘It’s time for us to have a full debate in front of the American public,’ Denham told The Hill.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
McConnell skeptical of House plan to claw back spending – The Hill

Heitkamp says Trump asked her to switch parties – WaPo

Dems card another statehouse win, this time in Florida Senate – The Hill

Ohio’s Republican House speaker forced out amid corruption probe – Cincinnati Enquirer 

Well, we knew he was a smoker… Boehner joins board of cannabis firm – Politico 

Deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow is the third security aid to resign – WashEx

AUDIBLE: OUCH
“I will not be Wasserman Schultzed.” – Lee Whitnum, a Democrat running for governor in candidate, seconds before police dragged her off stage at a candidate forum to which she was not invited. Her reference was to efforts by former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s efforts to help Hillary Clinton win the party’s 2016 nomination. 

Share your color commentary: Email us at
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AIR B&E
KIRO: “A 35-year-old Marysville, Washington, man is facing charges after investigators say he broke into a home and created an elaborate scheme to swindle renters out of money. Matthew Robert Paul is facing several charges including theft and obtaining a signature by deception…  In April 2017, investigators say Paul broke into a home on Hermosa Beach Road near Tulalip Bay knowing the owners were on an extended vacation in Mexico. Paul hung framed pictures of himself on the walls, lit the fireplace and even checked references in an effort to appear legitimate, according to charging documents. Police say five people became victims of the scheme after responding to Paul’s advertisement. Police say the victims paid Paul up to $5,825 to rent and remodel the home. Matt Dunn’s parents own the house. …  ‘Just using somebody’s house is dirt-baggish to begin with. Going the extra mile and trying to gain from it? It’s really crazy.’”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.