Conservatives agitate for change after GOP loses the House

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Nancy Pelosi wrangles votes in her bid for House speaker, another leadership battle is playing out on the Republican side, where Kevin McCarthy faces a challenge from conservative Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan to lead the new GOP minority.

Republicans lost the House majority in this week’s midterm elections, and conservatives are blaming the GOP establishment and angling for changes. McCarthy burned up the phone lines Thursday shoring up his support. And down ballot, the GOP will add a familiar name to the leadership lineup — Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney who announced her bid for the No. 3 GOP leadership spot.

But the bigger battle continues to play out on the other side, where Democrats hold a slim majority, now at 225 seats. That leaves Pelosi little room for error as she rounds up the 218 votes needed to become the first woman to reclaim the speaker’s gavel.

Pelosi’s opponents said they were mobilizing Thursday and discussing writing a letter to show there are enough votes to block her from becoming speaker. Foes have tried to oust Pelosi before. But this time, they say their effort could show some two dozen new and returning House Democrats who won’t give her their vote. On the campaign trail, several candidates said they’d oppose her.

“We have enough,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., one of those who described the effort.

The group was still deciding whether to draft the letter or state their case in person to Pelosi when House Democrats meet privately in the days ahead, he said. “If you add in all the recently elected members who have said they’re not voting for Pelosi in our opening salvo, the math isn’t there. She doesn’t have the votes,” Schrader said.

Pelosi’s allies quickly swatted back the claim as exaggerated. She said this week she’s confident she’ll be speaker, and even got a boost from President Donald Trump, who said he’d like to work with her. Several House races remain undecided, and her hold on the majority could grow if other Democrats are elected.

“Leader Pelosi is confident in her support,” said spokesman Drew Hammill.

Allies point out her opponents actually lost ground Thursday in a separate effort to challenge her leadership by revising the caucus rules for House Democrats.

Congress returns next week to begin sorting out new leadership after eight years of Republican power. Closed-door sessions of voting for leadership positions will set the stage for the speaker’s election in January, when the new members of Congress take their first votes.

On the GOP side, McCarthy, the House majority leader who is close to Trump, is favored for the top spot in the minority, but he has struggled to shore up support from the GOP’s right flank of lawmakers. They have been skeptical of the California Republican and questioned his conservative bonafides. Some would prefer to elect a street fighter who will confront Pelosi’s Democrats in the new House majority.

Trump signaled he’d be happy with McCarthy, but he’s also promoted Jordan, the Ohio Republican, who is a regular on Fox News and popular with conservative groups beyond Washington.

On Thursday, McCarthy was calling colleagues, pledging to fight Democrats and win back the majority.

McCarthy promised “to use every tool at our disposal to deliberately challenge House Democrats” and protect Trump’s agenda. In a letter to colleagues, he acknowledged losing the majority was “difficult” and said the road ahead would be hard. “I expect us to win back the House.”

To become minority leader, McCarthy would need support from half the Republicans in the House. Their tally now stands at 197, but some races remain undecided. Jordan is expected to pick up support from dozens of members.

Jordan’s bid remains a longshot, but he’s making inroads into leadership for the Freedom Caucus, whose members want a seat at the table. His supporters outside the Capitol are revving up to support him.

“Are you going to elect the same people who lost the election, or are you going to elect someone new?” asked Adam Brandon, president of the conservative group FreedomWorks, which announced its support Thursday for Jordan.

If McCarthy and Jordan both fall short, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the GOP whip who was seriously wounded in last year’s shooting at a congressional baseball team practice, could swoop in. For now, he’s running to keep his position as vote counter.

While Jordan, a former college wrestling champ, is seen as the brawler needed, his bid may be complicated by allegations this summer that, as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University years ago, he did not do enough to counter claims of sexual abuse by the team doctor, who has since died. Jordan has denied knowing of any allegations of wrongdoing.

He’s not the only Republican leader with baggage. Scalise has had to distance himself from an appearance in Lousiana by a group with ties to David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Scalise has said he was unaware of the link.

Cheney, meanwhile, will run for conference chair, now held by Washington GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who will not seek another leadership position.

GUEST EDITORIAL: Why Indiana voters should vote Brenton By Guest Poster on November 5, 2018

As I engage with voters on the campaign trail, I hear over and over again, “Why should I vote for you?” I always welcome the opportunity to share my beliefs and Libertarian philosophies about freedom and liberty.

As your senator from Indiana, I will demand a balance budget. I will end deficit spending. I will stop politicians from taxing us all into the grave and beyond. I will work to roll back and eliminate every program that is not authorized by the Constitution. I will require that all taxes be constitutional and that we limit the size and scope of the federal government only to constitutional functions.

As a Libertarian, I believe in the founding principles of our country. I believe in the Declaration of Independence, that the Constitution is the master contract and hold fast to the rights enumerated by the Bill of Rights. I believe that we have more rights than listed in the first 10 Amendments but they are a good start.

I believe the Constitution was designed to limit the federal government and wish to return the functions of our government to only those authorized by the Constitution. My focus as senator would be to stop those who wish to grow the federal government and eliminate the things that are not specifically authorized by the Constitution. I often ask voters, “Would you be willing to give up your favorite federal government program if it meant we could eliminate federal income taxes?” Most happily agree at the thought of reducing the taxes they pay.

Voters are concerned that some federal government programs provide valuable benefits that they would not want eliminated. The state in which they live could, if the citizens and legislators agree, provide those services instead. The social safety net does not need to be dissolved. People still need help. However, it’s clear that the Constitution does not authorize most of the federal government programs that exist today.

As a fiscal conservative, I believe that a balanced budget is imperative. I believe that it is immoral to create debt obligations that fall on the generations that follow us. The interest alone on the debt is a millstone that will follow every living American to the grave — along with our children and grandchildren. This is unacceptable and must end immediately. Current politicians act like they have a blank check on the taxes generated from future generations. This is wrong.

There are three branches of the federal government created specifically to balance power and prevent the types of overreach we see through executive orders. We did not elect a king. In fact, we threw off King George and I will fight to make sure no president tries to unilaterally run this country. Our president should be a shining example of liberty and freedom — not a rogue cowboy that does whatever he wants with impunity.

Our borders must be protected. Our country is just like your home, you have the right to decide who comes in and out. If someone acts inappropriately or criminally, you can remove that person and the criminal justice system can deal with them. Our country is also a nation of immigrants. The melting pot. The American dream lives: you can work hard, study hard, create value and build a great life for you and your family. We should welcome those who want to add to our great country and bring their talent and work ethic here. We should not lure immigrants here with welfare programs that create an incentive for them to come here and live off the populace. Let us make it easy to welcome good, hard working people into our country.

Our economy must be strong in order for our wealth to grow. Every American should pay as little taxes as possible. I will fight to make sure that every dollar is held accountable and stop boondoggle spending that benefits business at the expense of the taxpayer. Every dollar you send to Washington is one that your family doesn’t have. I vow to put every dollar I can back in your pocket. You earned it, you deserve it.

Burt Reynolds, star of film, TV and tabloids, dead at 82

NEW YORK (AP) – Burt Reynolds, the handsome film and television star known for his acclaimed performances in “Deliverance” and “Boogie Nights,” commercial hits such as “Smokey and the Bandit” and for an active off-screen love life which included relationships with Loni Anderson and Sally Field, has died at age 82.

His death was confirmed Thursday by his agent Todd Eisner. In a statement, his niece, Nancy Lee Hess, called his death “totally unexpected,” although she acknowledged he had health issues.

“He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tail bone on a river and finishes the movie is tough. And that’s who he was. My uncle was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino, and the amazing cast that was assembled,” she said, referring to the upcoming film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.

Hess noted her uncle’s kindness and generosity, and thanked “all of his amazing fans who have always supported and cheered him on, through all of the hills and valleys of his life and career.”

The mustachioed, smirking Reynolds inspired a wide range of responses over his long, erratic career: critical acclaim and critical scorn, popular success and box office bombs. Reynolds made scores of movies, ranging from lightweight fare such as the hits “The Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit” to more serious films like “The Longest Yard” and “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.”

He received some of the film world’s highest and lowest honors. He was nominated for an Oscar for “Boogie Nights,” the Paul Thomas Anderson film about the pornography industry; won an Emmy for the TV series “Evening Shade,” and was praised for his starring role in “Deliverance.”

But he also was a frequent nominee for the Razzie, the tongue-in-cheek award for Hollywood’s worst performance, and his personal life provided ongoing drama, particularly after an acrimonious divorce from Anderson in 1995. He had a troubled marriage to Judy Carne, a romance with Dinah Shore and a relationship with Field damaged by his acknowledged jealousy of her success.

Through it all he presented a genial persona, often the first to make fun of his own conflicted image.

“My career is not like a regular chart, mine looks like a heart attack,” he told The Associated Press in 2001. “I’ve done over 100 films, and I’m the only actor who has been canned by all three networks. I epitomize longevity.”

Reynolds was candid about his flops, his regrets and about his many famous friends. He would call posing nude for Cosmopolitan one of his biggest mistakes because it undermined the respect he had gained for “Deliverance.” He revered Spencer Tracy as an early mentor and came to know Johnny Carson, Clint Eastwood, Frank Sinatra and many others.

“Burt Reynolds was one of my heroes,” tweeted Arnold Schwarzenegger. “He was a trailblazer. He showed the way to transition from being an athlete to being the highest paid actor, and he always inspired me. He also had a great sense of humor – check out his Tonight Show clips. My thoughts are with his family.”

Born in Lansing, Michigan and raised in Florida, he was an all-Southern Conference running back at Florida State University in the 1950s. Reynolds appeared headed to the NFL until a knee injury and an automobile accident ended his chances. He dropped out of college and drifted to New York, where he worked as a dockhand, dance-hall bouncer, bodyguard and dish washer before returning to Florida in 1957 and enrolling in acting classes at Palm Beach Junior College.

He won the Florida Drama Award in 1958 for his performance in the role John Garfield made famous in “Outward Bound.” He was subsequently discovered by a talent agent at New York’s Hyde Park Playhouse.

Early theater roles included performances in “Mister Roberts” and “Look: We’ve Come Through.”

After moving to Hollywood, he found work as a stuntman, including one job that consisted of flying through a glass window. As a star, he often performed his own stunts, and he played a stuntman in the 1978 film “Hooper,” one of his better reviewed films.

Because of his dark features, he was cast frequently as an Indian early in his career, including the title role in the 1967 spaghetti western “Navajo Joe.” He also played Iroquois Indian detective John Hawk in the short-lived 1966 TV series “Hawk.”

In the 1960s he made dozens of guest-star appearances on such TV shows as “Bonanza,” ″The Twilight Zone” and “Perry Mason.” His first film role came in 1961′s “Angel Baby,” and he followed it with numerous other mediocre movies, the kind, he liked to joke, that were shown in airplanes and prisons.

He did become famous enough to make frequent appearances on “The Tonight Show,” leading to his most cherished film role and to his greatest folly.

In the early 1970s, director John Boorman was impressed by how confidently Reynolds handled himself when subbing for Carson as host of “The Tonight Show.” Boorman thought he might be right for a film adaptation of James Dickey’s novel “Deliverance.”

Reynolds starred as Lewis Medlock, the intrepid leader of an ill-fated whitewater canoe trip. When he and three other Atlanta businessmen are ambushed by violent backwoodsmen, Reynolds must guide the group to safety.

“Deliverance” was an Oscar nominee for best picture and no film made him prouder. In his 2015 memoir “But Enough About Me,” he wrote that “Deliverance” would be his choice could he put one of his movies in a time capsule.

“It proved I could act,” he wrote.

But soon after filming was completed, he made a decision he never stopped regretting. While appearing on “The Tonight Show” with Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown, he agreed to her invitation, offered during a commercial break, to be the first male centerfold for her magazine.

“I was flattered and intrigued,” Reynolds wrote in his memoir. The April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan quickly sold more than 1 million copies, but turned his life into a “carnival.” The centerfold would appear on T-shirts, panties and other merchandise and Reynolds began receiving obscene fan mail. Reynolds’ performance in “Deliverance” was snubbed by the movie academy.

“It was a total fiasco,” he wrote. “I thought people would be able to separate the fun-loving side of me from the serious actor, but I was wrong.”

He did remain an A-list movie star, starring in such films as “Shamus,” ″The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and three popular “Smokey and the Bandit” comedies, with co-stars including Field and Jackie Gleason.

Reynolds also directed a few of the films he starred in, including “Gator,” ″Sharky’s Machine” and “Stick,” and made cameo appearances in the Hollywood spoof “The Player” and Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).”

One of his first encounters with the tabloids came in 1973 with the mysterious death of Sarah Miles’ manager during filming of “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing.” Reynolds testified during a highly publicized inquest; the death was eventually ruled a suicide.

His romance with Shore, 20 years his senior, brought intense media scrutiny. The two met when Reynolds made a surprise appearance on her talk show, bursting out of a closet on the set.

In the 1980s, his career was nearly destroyed when false rumors surfaced that he was infected with the AIDS virus, in the height of hysteria over the disease. He had injured his jaw making the 1984 comedy “City Heat” with Clint Eastwood. Barely able to eat, he lost 50 pounds and suddenly looked ill and emaciated.

“For two years I couldn’t get a job,” he told the AP in 1990. “I had to take five physicals to get a job. I had to take the pictures that were offered to me. I did action pictures because I was trying to prove that I was well.”

He eventually regained his health, and in 1988 he married Anderson. The actress, one of the stars of the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” had met him on a talk show.

The couple divorced in 1995, and their breakup was an embarrassing public spectacle, with the pair exchanging insults in print interviews and on television shows. Reynolds finally paid her a $2 million settlement and a vacation home to settle the divorce.

He rebounded once again, this time with the role of porn movie impresario Jack Horner in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights,” which brought him some of his best reviews even though he felt ambivalent about his character and felt limited rapport with the director.

He won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor and received an Oscar nomination. Convinced he would win, he was devastated when the Oscar went to Robin Williams for “Good Will Hunting.”

“I once said that I’d rather have a Heisman Trophy than an Oscar,” he wrote in his memoir. “I lied.”

Reynolds had previously won a Golden Globe in 1992 for “Evening Shade,” in which he played Wood Newton, a former professional football player who returns to his Arkansas hometown to coach the high school team. He also received an Emmy for the role in 1991.

He was back in the tabloids again in 2005 after he appeared in a remake of “The Longest Yard,” which starred Adam Sandler in Reynolds’ old role as an imprisoned former football star. Reynolds costarred as the warden, the role Eddie Albert had in the original film.

At a premiere in New York, a studio publicist admitted he hadn’t seen either movie, and Reynolds responded by slapping him across the face. He joked later that it was just a “love tap.”

Burton Leon Reynolds was born on Feb. 11, 1936, the son of a police chief who looked down on his son’s ambitions to become an actor. After several years in California, he returned in 1969 to Florida, where he had gone to college. He bought eight acres of waterfront property in the wealthy community of Jupiter and spent most of the rest of his life there, devoting much of his later years to his only son, Quinton, whom he had adopted with Anderson.

He opened the Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre and a Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum, where he displayed his memorabilia and sometimes lectured to drama students.