Congress

Trump pressures House GOP leaders to get rid of committee chair term limits

President attacks primary foe Mark Sanford by bringing up affair with Argentine woman

Former South Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Sanford outside the Capitol. He is running for the GOP presidential nomination, drawing an early rebuke from President Trump. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump on Monday welcomed Congress back to Washington by pressuring House Republican leaders to make a major rule change and by trying to humiliate one of their former colleagues challenging him in 2020.

Trump started the workweek on Twitter after a number of memorable weekend tweets. He drew some GOP backlash after revealing a canceled — and highly controversial — Afghanistan peace summit at Camp David that would have put Taliban leaders within miles of the Pentagon into which their al-Qaeda allies crashed a passenger airliner 18 years ago. Some of his tweets lashed out at a singer John Legend and his TV personality wife Chrissy Teigen, while others touted books by political allies.

On Monday morning, Trump began firing off tweets in the 6 o’clock hour, before the sun had even risen in Washington — and on a day when he will hold another campaign rally in North Carolina for a special House race that political observers are watching for signs for how things might go in 2020. Trump’s aides acknowledge he will need to hold the Tarheel State and a few others to secure a second term.

Amid a list of House Republican retirements in recent weeks and months, Trump fired off one tweet with an idea he says would stop the exodus.

He urged House GOP leaders to alter caucus rules to allow committee chairmen to hold their gavels for more than six years. “The Dems have unlimited terms. While that has its own problems, it is a better way to go. Fewer people, in the end, will leave!” he tweeted, just hours before the chamber will formally return from its August recess.

Senior GOP members are leaving Congress largely due to the myriad frustrations that come from being in the minority. And most projections have Democrats keeping control of the chamber after next year’s elections, making higher wages in the private sector or retirement back home much more attractive than the long days of holding office without an ability to pass conservative legislation.

There was no talk before the House adjourned for its month-long break about a House GOP caucus rule change, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California had yet to address Trump’s idea.

Meantime, the president, for the first time this election cycle, directly addressed one of his GOP primary foes. And he did not pull punches, tweeting about an affair Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina congressman and governor, had with an Argentine woman.

As governor, Sanford went off the grid in June 2009, traveling to Argentina to visit the woman, with whom he is no longer romantically linked. He announced over the weekend that he will challenge Trump in the 2020 party primary; he is not expected to be successful.

The president referred to the Argentine woman as Sanford’s “Flaming Dancer friend,” then offered his primary foe a reminder of his 2018 bid for a second House term. Trump noted Sanford lost his 2016 Republican primary race “after I Tweeted my endorsement, on Election Day, for his opponent.”

Trump did so after Sanford emerged as one of the few GOP voices critical of the president in either chamber. But the personal feud did not end well for Republican. Katie Arrington, who beat Sanford in the primary, was upset in the state’s solidly red 1st Congressional District.

A Republican had held the seat since 1981. The last Democrat to represent the district was Mendel Jackson Davis, who left Congress in 1981.

If Trump is concerned his attacks on Sanford could again backfire, he did not show that Monday morning.

“But now take heart, he (Sanford) is back, and running for President of the United States. The Three Stooges, all badly failed candidates, will give it a go!” he wrote.

Trump was referring to Sanford and two other primary challengers: former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and conservative talk show host Joe Walsh, an Illinois congressman from 2011 to 2013, whose campaigns Trump has not acknowledged in the past.

GOP members have not yet weighed in on the president’s House chair term limits idea or attacks on Sanford, but one did pan the canceled Taliban-at-Camp-David summit.

“Never should leaders of a terrorist organization that hasn’t renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER. Full stop,” tweeted House Foreign Affairs Chairman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

And Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., offered this critique on CNN: “I don’t ever want to see again as we head into the anniversary of 9/11, I do not ever want to see these terrorists step foot on United States soil. Period.”

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci appeared on CNN Monday morning and again suggested Trump is mentally unwell.

“I’m not a therapist. I don’t need to be a therapist. What I need to be is a responsible citizen, and take a look at the situation and say, ‘OK, this is intolerable at this point,” he said. “What are we going to do about this, collectively?

“This guy acted like a bully crazy person against his fellow citizens,” Scaramucci said, referring to Legend and Teigen. “He may not have early-stage dementia, but he’s obviously got early stage-facism because … they use their political power to go after their private citizens.”

There has been scant polling on the 2020 GOP primary. But several polls showing Trump trouncing Weld in a one-on-one race.

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