ICYMI: Top reads on Congress

 Image source  here

Image source here

By Marian Currinder

Congressional dysfunction

James Wallner, "Mitch McConnell promised to fix the broken Senate. Instead, it's only gotten worse," Washington Examiner:

"Of course, Republicans did win a majority that November, and McConnell’s colleagues chose him to serve as majority leader. Yet despite his earlier eloquence on the need for reform, the Senate’s dysfunction has only gotten worse. Indeed, the process by which last week’s omnibus was crafted and passed serves as a stark reminder that the Senate is still broken."

Walter Shapiro, “Opinion: A Radical Idea for Congress—Legislate Instead of Loafing,” Roll Call:

“Congress has spent so many decades deferring to presidential power that it has mostly forgotten how to legislate without direction from the Oval Office. But Trump’s erratic reaction to the Republican spending bill should have destroyed the last naive illusions that congressional Republicans have a stable partner in the White House.”

Eugene Scott, "Trump's approval rating may be increasing, but the same can't be said for Congress's," Washington Post:

"Significant attention has been paid to President Trump’s low approval rating. While it recently rose to about 40 percent, it is still lower than all previous presidents at this point in a presidency, since polling began. But there is a group in Washington that is doing far worse: Congress."

Paul Kane, “The (probably) last major act of and anti-spending Congress: A $1.3 trillion budget busting bill,” Washington Post:

“There is no rule that says Congress can’t do more this year. But the $1.3 trillion spending bill is probably lawmakers’ last major achievement as they observe what has become a tradition in these hyperpartisan times, settling into gridlock and girding themselves for the midterm elections.”

Alexander Bolton and Jordain Carney, “GOP ponders how to fill rest of 2018,” The Hill:

“Republican leaders are mulling what to do for the rest of the year after passing a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package. Legislative activity will slow down dramatically after the Easter recess as vulnerable incumbents seek to spend more time campaigning ahead of the fall midterm elections.”

Rachel Bovard, “Changing the rules won’t fix congressional dysfunction,” The Hill:

“Like many Republicans, President Trump is frustrated with the inability of Republican congressional majorities to fulfill nearly any of their campaign promises. The rules are a natural place to put the blame — Republicans would do the right thing if it was just easier, right? But as this omnibus process has demonstrated, passing rules to compel good behavior rarely results in a better outcome when the root of congressional dysfunction resides much deeper.”

Budget and appropriations

Mark Strand, "Joint committee can make meaningful reforms to the broken budget process," The Hill:

"The creation of a Joint Committee to make recommendations on how to fix Washington’s busted budget process, on its face, means little to the American public. But the fact that Congress is ready to do something about its budget should be big news.”

Susan Ferrechio, "Trump's veto threat puts pressure on Congress to fix spending mess," Washington Examiner:

“While many lawmakers are skeptical congressional spending can be reformed, a special committee convened to scrutinize the process of appropriating government funding began meeting this month. Lawmakers added language to a February bipartisan budget deal that created the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform. It’s a temporary panel, comprised of 16 lawmakers evenly divided by party and chamber.”

James Wallner, "Congressional Budgeting is a Matter of Will, Not Procedure," Law and Liberty:

"Yet notwithstanding these procedural advantages, and the fact that several reform-minded members have been tapped to serve on the joint committee, the outcome of similar efforts in the past suggests that Congress’ latest attempt at budget process reform will still fall short. This is because procedural solutions alone can’t solve Congress’ fiscal problems. "

Randy Leonard, “Overview: Where the Omnibus Money is Going,” Roll Call:

“Ignoring President Donald Trump’s budget request in some cases, lawmakers last week passed a fiscal 2018 omnibus spending package with a discretionary funding level of $1.29 trillion — 10 percent higher than fiscal 2017 thanks to the budget agreement reached last month. Here’s a look at how the enacted omnibus, previously proposed spending levels by the House and Senate, and the president’s FY18 request stack up:”

Joe Williams, “Analysis: Omnibus Bill Signals Policy Areas Congress Will Punt On,” Roll Call:

“Congress appears ready to delay action indefinitely on a number of pressing policy issues. The 2018 omnibus spending bill could be the last major legislative package to advance this year, a reality that spurred members in both chambers to lobby leadership to attach their pet project legislation to it.”

Diana Evans, “A return to earmarks could grease the wheels in Congress,” The Conversation:

“As Congress wrestles with the process of passing individual appropriations bills, Republican leaders may respond by once again allowing earmarks in appropriations bills, winning more Democratic votes for spending bills, and protecting some of their own vulnerable members at the polls.”

Sarah Binder, “Three things we learned from the omnibus spending bill,” Washington Post:

“But the deeper lesson of the omnibus measure: It’s really, really hard to make deals in a politically polarized era. The parties play reasonably well side by side when they’re giving out money. But reaching agreement on issues that splinter Republicans and divide the parties proves much harder.”

Jeff Stein, “Republicans consider ‘balanced budget’ amendment after adding more than $1 trillion to the deficit,” Washington Post:

“House Republicans are considering a vote on a “balanced-budget amendment,” a move that would proclaim their desire to eliminate the federal deficit even as they control a Congress that has added more than $1 trillion to it. The plan is expected to have virtually no chance of passing, as it would require votes from Democrats in the Senate and ratification by three-fourths of the states.” 

Charles C.W. Cooke, “If a Balanced Budget Amendment Could Pass, We Wouldn’t Need One,” National Review:

“Rather, it’s that if a proposal such as this had the requisite support, it wouldn’t be necessary in the first place. The federal government routinely fails to balance its budget because Congress does not want to balance the budget. And Congress does not want to balance the budget because voters do not want to balance the budget. Or, more accurately, they don’t want to do what would be necessary in order to do so.”

Louis Nelson, “Trump, unhappy with omnibus bill, calls on Congress to reinstate line-item veto,” Politico:

“Trump’s call for a line-item veto, by which he would be able to reject specific portions of a measure without vetoing a piece of legislation entirely, came amid afternoon remarks at the White House Friday in which he excoriated Congress, especially Democrats, for sending him an omnibus bill that met his demand for a dramatic increase in military spending but nonetheless included funding for “things that are really a wasted sum of money.”

Congressional Research Service

Karen Tumulty, “That big spending bill contained a buried gem,” Washington Post:

“The bill lifted a 64-year-old ban that prevented the highly respected, nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which is the legislative branch’s in-house think tank, from sharing its massive store of knowledge with the public.”

Michael Teitelbaum, “From Wite-Out to Regular Order: A Lot Has Changed at the CRS,” Roll Call:

“When Walter Oleszek was hired at the Legislative Reference Service in 1968, Lyndon Johnson was president. The Legislative Reference Service is now the Congressional Research Service, and Oleszek is still there 50 years later. He has seen a lot of change when it comes to his favorite subject: Congress.”

Ariana Skibell, “Move to open CRS reports spotlights agency’s climate debate,” E&E News:

“CRS's core mission is to provide members of Congress high-level "analysis, appraisal and evaluation" of proposed legislation without partisan bias. But as controversial issues in the Trump administration continue to widen the partisan divide, observers say the agency is failing to offer expert conclusions in an attempt to sidestep party politics and bias, a move that could have the opposite impact by increasing misinformation and lending validation to falsehoods, they say.”

 House Leadership

Lindsey McPherson, “Paul Ryan Says He’s Done a ‘Phenomenal Job’ Restoring Regular Order,” Roll Call:

“Speaker Paul D. Ryan thinks he’s lived up to his promise to open up debate on legislation and restore so-called regular order in the House, blaming the rushed process of the fiscal 2018 omnibus on Democrats, deadlines and a funeral.” 

Paul Kane, “Speaker Ryan exiting soon? ‘Ludicrous,’ says predecessor Boehner,” Washington Post:

“House Speaker Paul D. Ryan isn’t about to retire anytime soon. Take it from two men who know him well and are quite familiar with the burdens of political leadership.”

Rachel Bade, “Scalise comeback fuels talk of succeeding Ryan,” Politico:

“Scalise’s recovery has coincided with his fast-rising stature within the House Republican Conference. This time a year ago, he was seen as a dependable but unremarkable member of Paul Ryan’s leadership team. Now the 52-year-old is being talked up as a possible successor to Ryan when the House speaker retires.”

 Congress, Misc.

Elana Schor, “Senate’s female members push for harassment vote,” Politico:

“The Senate's 22 female members joined together Wednesday in a bipartisan push for their leaders to overhaul its workplace misconduct rules, airing "deep disappointment" that the chamber hasn't already moved.”

Melanie Zanona, “Centrist lawmakers eye growing power in 2019,” The Hill:

“Moderate lawmakers in both parties believe their influence will rise after the midterm elections no matter which party takes control of the House.The centrists are projecting that either Democrats or Republicans could have a narrow majority, which would give lawmakers in the middle more power to drive the agenda as leaders come begging for their votes.”

Kevin King, “Who’s talking about town halls in Congress?” Quorum:

“With the passage of a 1.3 trillion dollar omnibus spending bill, Congress is headed home to their districts for a two-week recess. There will be plenty to discuss with constituents as primary season is in full swing, but how vocal have members of Congress been about hosting town halls? Here's a look at the legislators leading the dialogue on town halls in 2018 and how it compares by party.”

Amber Phillips, “This GOP congressman just demonstrated what a headache retirements will be for Republicans in 2018,” Washington Post:

“On Tuesday, Republicans got a reality check on just how much trouble retirements within their ranks can cause them as they try to retain control of the House of Representatives in November. It happened in the outer Philadelphia suburbs. Rep. Ryan Costello (R) is retiring after two terms in Congress, and he did it in a way that almost certainly hands Democrats the seat.”

Jason Dick, “The Former Members Club,” (podcast) Roll Call:

“Who thinks members of Congress who sleep in their offices attract mice? Or is proposing a supermajority necessary to elect a speaker? The U.S. Associations of Former Members of Congress is a good place for currents and formers to kibitz and exchange ideas on things like this. Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski dropped by their recent gathering and has the goods on who said what on the latest Political Theater Podcast:”