August 20, 2013

2016 is on Washington, D.C.'s mind


The Evans Report  

      Randy Evans


With President Barack Obama and his family headed to Martha's Vineyard for a vacation [Obama has returned from vacation], Congress in the midst of its month long August recess and most Americans enjoying the last of summer, Washington, D.C., is left with little to do other than ponder the 2016 presidential race. And so, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus did exactly that - focus the town squarely on the 2016 presidential election.


Indeed, on the eve of the Republican National Committee ("RNC") meetings this week in Boston, Chairman Priebus warned that the RNC might actually boycott debates sponsored by networks (specifically referencing CNN and NBC) that air pro-Hillary Clinton programming. Not surprisingly, his statement set off a mini-firestorm because of its many implications for potential candidates and political parties, as well as the television networks. The reaction is a clear signal of the fierce battles yet to come in the 2016 presidential nomination season.

Predictably, based on Chairman Priebus' comments, the mainstream media immediately focused on the implications of a Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential candidacy. Most pundits already consider her to be the de facto 2016 Democratic presidential nominee if not the de facto president-elect in 2016. [Interestingly, the same was true in 2008 before President Obama defeated her to win the Democratic presidential nomination (and subsequently the general election).]


Of course, subsumed within Chairman Priebus' threat was the more fundamental question of "Will she or won't she run?"

Not surprisingly, the former secretary of state has been quite coy about her intentions for the 2016 presidential election. After all, she still has books to sell and speeches to give. As former Speaker Newt Gingrich and current President Obama can attest, nothing drives up book sales and speech invitations more than the very real possibility of a presidential election bid.


Yet, other Democrats have much to say on this subject of 2016 presidential candidacies. Undoubtedly, Vice President Joe Biden takes the lead among them. No one seriously doubts that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, claiming the right to carry the Obama mantle for eight more years. Whether that mantle will be popular enough to carry him to the White House remains unclear based on current public opinion polls. But, like President George Bush following President Ronald Reagan (and Vice President Al Gore following President Bill Clinton), Vice President Biden will definitely make that pitch.


(As an aside, history has actually shown that vice presidents have met mixed success riding on their predecessors' coattails - as Bush (who won), and Mondale and Gore (who lost) aptly illustrate. On the other hand, vice presidents have all actually done quite well in recent years in securing their party's nomination.)


Of course, a Clinton candidacy presents an entirely different question for Republicans, namely who could actually beat the popular former first lady and secretary of state? This then begs the question of "Who is running?" (Candidly, an easier question to answer might be "Who is not running?") In spite of an already long list of presidential wannabes that is getting longer every day, no candidate has yet emerged with a clear path to win the Republican nomination, and, more importantly, the general election.


Yet, this far out from 2016, what does it matter - all of these speculations are merely hollow talking points for political commentators with nothing else to discuss. But, there was something very significant in Chairman Priebus' comments. It was an unmistakable repetitive signal of a significant change in dynamics for the Republicans for 2016.


The RNC chairman (again) left little doubt that the RNC would exercise more control, and equally significantly, real control of the process in 2016 especially in the GOP presidential nomination process. Already, he has suggested limiting the number, timing and frequency of "sanctioned" Republican presidential debates during the GOP nomination process. Now, he is extending that reach into which networks can televise a debate.


While no consensus has been reached on the appropriate boundaries for GOP presidential debates, the mere power to "sanction" debates is no small thing. And, if effective, the ability to veto presidential debates based on the conduct of certain television networks could only be described as game-changing.


Admittedly, in order to translate Chairman Priebus' threats into political reality, the RNC will have to attach some real consequences to violations of the RNC's rules. That has yet to happen. As a result, it is the one thing on which insiders and candidates are keenly focused as the process unfolds.



May 24, 2013, 6:00am EDT

The Evans Report

With Saxby Chambliss’ departure, Georgia will lose seniority in Congress
by Randy Evans

When the 114th Congress of the United States convenes, Georgians will lose 54 years of seniority as a result of the retirement of Georgia’s senior senator, Saxby Chambliss. At the time he leaves office, Sen. Chambliss will have served 20 years in Congress — eight years in the House of Representatives and 12 years in the Senate.

Beyond just the time, Saxby Chambliss’ service in Congress is notable. For example, his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee helped protect Georgia military installations during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round, including to the extent possible Georgia bases targeted for closure.

More significantly, while in the House of Representatives, he served on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chaired the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security, which was responsible for the Intelligence Committee’s investigations after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

His experience was invaluable in the Senate where he served as the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In addition, Sen. Chambliss served as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, the Senate Rules Committee, and the Senate Special Committee on Aging. For Georgians, these were all critically important committees. In the Senate, they carried with them enormous power.

But, it is not only Sen. Chambliss’ seniority that Georgians will lose at the end of next year. Three Georgia congressmen have also decided to leave their current positions to pursue his Senate seat. Each will be replaced with “freshmen” members of Congress. The total seniority lost for these three members is also notable.

First Congressional District Rep. Jack Kingston has served in the U.S. Congress since 1993. When he leaves the House next year, he will have served 22 years.

Like Sen. Chambliss, he holds some impressive positions. In just his second term, he was appointed to the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Currently, Congressman Kingston serves as the chairman of the Labor, Health, and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee. He is also the senior member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Then, there is 11th District Congressman Phil Gingrey, who was elected in 2002 and took office in 2003. When he leaves the House next year, Georgians will lose another 12 years of seniority in the House.

Congressman Gingrey serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Administration Committee, and the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He is also the chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus.

Finally, there is 10th District Congressman Paul Broun, who was elected and took office in 2007. When he leaves the House next year, Georgia will lose another eight years of seniority in the House.

Congressman Broun serves as the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He also serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security and the Republican Study Committee.

In all, the departures of Saxby Chambliss, Jack Kingston, Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun represent 54 years of seniority (not including Sen. Chambliss’ eight years in the House of Representatives). This includes positions on powerful committees, chairmanships and other influential posts.

Of course, Georgia has a long history of powerful people in Congress. Richard Russell served Georgia from 1933 until 1971. He served as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, then chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and finally as the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate. Indeed, his influence was so great that he has a building named after him — the Richard B. Russell Senate Office Building.

More recently, Sen. Sam Nunn achieved significant position and power as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his term, which lasted from 1972 to 1997. Like Sen. Chambliss, Sen. Nunn retired from the Senate citing a lack of “zest and enthusiasm.”

And, of course, there was Speaker Newt Gingrich, the leader of the Republican Revolution and the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 until 1999. Between balancing the budget and reforming welfare, he was one of Georgia’s most historic and powerful politicians.

In the past, with each departure of a Georgia senator or congressman, there have been others to step up. With Sen. Chambliss’ departure, Sen. Isakson will become the senior senator from Georgia. If the Republicans regain control of the Senate, his star can rise even faster than it already has.

In the House, Congressmen Tom Price and Lynn Westmoreland will undoubtedly continue their rise through the leadership with the help of a strong and sizable Georgia delegation. If the Republicans retain control of the House, both will see their stars continue to rise.

Yet, 54 years and all those committees and chairmanships is a lot to lose at one time. But, it is the nature of politics — things change.

Evans is an attorney and columnist.