“Avengers: Infinity War” just opened in theatres. The House and Senate are both on recess now. But it sure seemed like an “infinity war” over the past few days in Congress.
There was the Scott Pruitt war. The Ronny Jackson war. The Robert Mueller war. The House chaplain war. The Arizona special election war. The Diamond and Silk social media filtering war. The Supreme Court travel ban case war.
The House Intelligence Committee Russia investigation war. And, amid all of the skirmishes, a triumphant return to the baseball practice field by House Republicans for the first time since last year’s shooting.
For reporters, it was hard to know where to focus. Was it better to dog embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt through the halls as he appeared before two congressional committees and learn about his overzealous spending and security habits?
Or should reporters chase former Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee Ronny Jackson as he huddled with senators in their Capitol hideaway offices until just hours before he withdrew?
Maybe your time was better spent following Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., or the top Democrat on the panel, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana?
After all, it was Tester who released to the press a dossier of allegations against Jackson. The indictment accused Jackson of crashing a government car after getting drunk at a Secret Service going away party.
The file also characterized the Navy admiral as “The Candyman” for his alleged propensity to dole out prescriptions at the White House without following proper medical protocols.
Maybe you were better off chasing Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, as senators prepped a bill before his panel to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from getting sacked in his Russia investigation.
Mueller may not be the one in need of job security.
Perhaps lawmakers across Capitol Hill should have crafted a bill to protect House Chaplain Patrick Conroy from getting fired by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Nobody’s quite sure exactly what spilled off the tracks between Conroy and Ryan. Some suggested Conroy was harsh in a November prayer, which appeared critical of the GOP tax reform bill.
There were observations that Conroy didn’t provide proper pastoral guidance to lawmakers. Yet one of the most iconic images of Conroy shows him praying behind second base at Nats Park with lawmakers from both parties after last year’s shooting.
The players knelt around Conroy before the annual charity baseball game, all donned uniforms from local Major League, college or high school teams. Conroy wore a uniform reading “Jesuit.”
But then again, no one’s really “fired” in Washington. Conroy resigned at Ryan’s behest.
Rep.-elect Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., vanquished Democrat Hiral Tipirneni in a special election to succeed former Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., the other day.
Franks quit in January after he apparently asked aides to sleep with him to serve as surrogate mothers for his children. Lesko won the race. But not by as much as a Republican should in that rock-ribbed, conservative district. Democrats made the case that the contest shouldn’t have been close.
But Republicans note that all special elections are “special.” GOP-ers argue that Democratic advantages in the generic ballot have shrunk in recent weeks, calling into question whether they can flip the House this fall.
Maybe you should have dropped in on a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, alleging filtering of “conservative” viewpoints in social media. Social media mavens Diamond and Silk were sure there. Representatives from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube weren’t.
Perhaps they were too busy following the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Trump administration’s travel ban. After all, Lin-Manuel Miranda was there to listen in. Amid the questions about Pruitt and Jackson, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Miranda’s musical “Hamilton” features not one, not two, but three songs titled “Cabinet Battle.”
They had that this week with Pruitt and Jackson. And it was thought that the fight to extract the nomination of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo out of the Foreign Relations Committee may have been the most epic war of all.
It wasn’t. It turned out to be a skirmish in committee that mainly focused on whether enough senators would show up. The Secretary of state then scored confirmation on a 57-42 roll call vote, earning aye votes from seven senators who caucus with the Democrats.
Even Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., supported Pompeo despite voting no last year when Pompeo was up for CIA director. Nelson seemed impressed with Pompeo’s bona fides after he flew to North Korea to huddle with leader Kim Jon Un.
Maybe scribes were better off tracking down House Intelligence Committee members as Republicans formally released their report probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election. No surprise. Republicans said they found none. Not that anyone could truly evaluate what the report said.
The report was riddled with absurdist, black-line redactions ordered by the intelligence community. There were sentences like “although somebody during a matter in Moscow (redacted) did not know who -- “mentioned sending women to [Trump’s] room,” (redacted) responded “absolutely not.”
Speaking of redactions, perhaps it would have been better if someone redacted the entire week.
Except that would have meant House Republicans wouldn’t have had the chance to begin to heal after last year’s baseball practice shooting. They headed to Eugene Simpson Stadium in Alexandria, Va., for a light practice, in the rain, for the first time since the horror of last season.
Amid a week of turmoil, those early-morning moments on the ball diamond may have been the only minutes of peace amid Washington’s maelstrom of chaos. Those minutes at the ball field were borne out of one of the most-chaotic scenes involving lawmakers, well, perhaps since a gunman shot former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in January, 2011.
The House and Senate are gone for a few days. When lawmakers return to Washington there will be fights over the farm bill, higher education legislation, more nominations in the Senate, the midterm elections, an unknown Veterans Affairs secretary nominee and the dismissal of the House chaplain.
The battles are never settled on Capitol Hill.