Salud and the Senate

Santa Barbara’s Man in Washington Vents About World’s Greatest Deliberative Body

Salud Carbajal | Credit: Paul Wellman File

On most days, Rep. Salud Carbajal is the most mild-spoken of politicians ​— ​cautious, good-natured, and (his hands-down favorite word) bipartisan to a fault.

Last week, however, as majority Republicans yawned and fidget spun through the start of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Carbajal uncharacteristically let his rhetorical freak flag fly.

“It seems more like a cover-up than the trial we expect for the Senate to conduct,” said Santa Barbara’s 55-year-old congressmember in an interview.

“Certainly, the Senate is on trial as much as the president is on trial,” he fumed. “Because if they choose politics over country, politics over true patriotism, then I think the American people will remember at the ballot box.”

Or not: What “the American people” decide in voting for Senate in November is the most intriguing question of the 2020 election.

KABUKI TRAVESTY:  First elected the night that Trump stunned the world in 2016, Carbajal gallivanted around the 24th Congressional District last week on a packed schedule of local events, including a Goleta town hall, as he seeks reelection.

Amid his agenda of talking points was a fun-with-numbers recap of 2019 accomplishments, ranging from the mundane (“Responded to 80,339 pieces of constituent mail”) to the substantive, including House passage of his California Clean Coast Act (HR 279) to ban future offshore oil and gas leasing in the state.

If only it could get a hearing in the pesky U.S. Senate, that is.

Although Carbajal is acutely fired up about the impeachment kabuki show trial that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is conducting, he’s more chronically indignant over the Republican Senate’s utter disregard for legislation passed in the Democratic House ​— ​including several Carbajal bills now entombed in living death.

“That is a travesty ​— ​that he refuses to collaborate with the House to try to find common ground,” he said.

Noting that the House has sent over more than 400 bills which have gone exactly nowhere (“275 of which are bipartisan!” keens Rep. Diploid), our Man in Washington all but sputters at the crystalline purity of McConnell’s partisanship: “He calls himself, gladly, the Grim Reaper of Legislation, not doing the people’s business.” 

STATE OF PLAY:  While Carbajal foresees Republican senators paying a political price for standing four-square behind McConnell on impeachment and other matters, that’s far from a settled issue.

At first glance, the Senate electoral landscape looks favorable for Democrats. To take control of the 100-member chamber, they need to flip four seats (three if they also defeat Trump and gain a tie-breaking vice president of their party) on a 2020 national map, in which the GOP must defend 23 seats and the Dems only 12.

But political professionals, such as the nonpartisan Cook Report, rank only three of those seats as “toss-up” Dem opportunities ​— ​GOP incumbents Martha McSally in Arizona, Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Susan Collins in Maine ​— ​and rate a vacant seat in Kansas and that of Senator Thom Tillis in North Carolina as potential, but harder, stretches.

The Democrats meanwhile face tough duty protecting Alabama’s Doug Jones, elected in a 2018 special as that state’s first Democratic senator in two decades.

Jones, who won amid an intraparty Republican feud after Senator Jeff Sessions resigned to become Trump’s Attorney General, faces an uphill fight against the winner amid a GOP wannabe pack that includes Sessions, on the comeback trail.

Now below the radar, these Senate races could prove even more consequential in the long run than the cacophonous presidential campaign: Given McConnell’s successful, if unscrupulous, political machinations in shaping the federal judiciary during the final year of President Obama’s term and the first three of Trump’s ​— ​the GOP Senate already has rubber-stamped 185 Trump judges, or one-fifth of the U.S. district and circuit court total ​— ​which will shape the nation, politically, economically, and socially, for generations. 

“That is one thing that McConnell has focused on ​— ​appointing judges, many of whom have not been qualified by the American Bar Association,” Carbajal sighed. “Many legal scholars have evaluated many of these nominees, many of whom have not even practiced law.”

World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, indeed. 

See Salud Carbajal’s entire interview at newsmakerswithjr.com.

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