ICYMI: Top reads on Congress

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By Marian Currinder

Budget and Appropriations

Jennifer Shutt, “With Expectations Low, Select Budget Committee Prepares to Meet,” Roll Call:

“The select committee tasked with overhauling the budget and appropriations process is mandated by law to meet for the first time this week. But what they plan to talk about remains a mystery.”

G. William Hoagland, “Opinion: Pick Up Your Forks. It’s Time for Another Dinner Table Bargain,” Roll Call:

“The table is set. The invitations have been sent. The 16 Senate and House members of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform have accepted. Now it is time for these 16 diners to sit down and choose from a long menu of options for reforming the broken budget and appropriation procedure that the budget process chefs have prepared over the years.”

Peter Kaspereowicz, “David Perdue: Time to punish lawmakers if they can’t do their jobs,” Washington Examiner:

“Sen. David Perdue says it's time to impose real penalties against lawmakers when they fail to pass budgets and spending bills on time, and thinks the new Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform might be the way to deliver those penalties.”

Neil Bradley and Emily Holubowich, "The budget is broken. But not beyond repair," Roll Call:

“We’re encouraged that the recent budget agreement created a bipartisan congressional committee tasked with studying the budget process and offering recommendations to fix it. We urge them to consider our consensus recommendations as a starting place. Each of us involved in developing these recommendations stands ready to work with Congress to help fix this broken process.”

Joe Williams, “Shelby Expected to Assume Appropriations Panel at Prime Time,” Roll Call:

“This year’s legislative landscape appears barren, and expectations are low that the chamber will accomplish much in the run-up to the midterm elections. The appropriations bills offer an alternative for leadership to fill floor time with something other than nominations.”

Jason Grumet, “Opinion: Want to Fix the Debt? Bring Back Earmarks,” Roll Call:

“Many people have ideas about how to help Congress take votes that are essential to the national interest even if they anger constituents. Some believe the answer lies in federal redistricting requirements or campaign finance reform. Others argue for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. A far more realistic and effective approach would be to bring back earmarks — those often-lampooned funds for projects in a lawmaker’s district. Critics accuse earmarks of increasing the deficit. I believe the exact opposite.”

Ryan McCrimmon, “10 Policy Issues to Watch in Omnibus Spending Bill,” Roll Call:

“A swath of sticky policy debates could entangle an upcoming final spending package for fiscal 2018, as lawmakers aim to attach their pet policy “riders” to the must-pass bill.”

Ryan Bourne, “Why We Need a Smart Balanced Budget Rule,” Real Clear Policy:

“No sooner had Republicans passed much needed tax reform than they agreed to an awful budget deal that will undermine it. Government spending is the true long-term tax burden of government activity. So, to sustain a new, more competitive tax code, which cuts rates, Republicans should have made spending cuts. This was the perfect opportunity to balance the budget and lock in reform. Instead, Republicans did the opposite: trading their favored huge defense spending increases for Democrats’ desired hikes in other areas. As a result, a deficit already forecast to widen substantially will blow up much sooner, putting the gains from tax reform in jeopardy.”

Joel Gehrke, "David Perdue: Congress may never pass a budget again," Washington Examiner:

“Congress might be done passing budgets, Sen. David Perdue suggested to reporters Wednesday. “I'm not real sure you'll ever see another budget done again,” the Georgia Republican said during a briefing in his office.”

Quin Hillyer, “How to end government shutdowns (or at least make them much less likely),” Washington Examiner:

“To avoid the regular recurrence of those ills, and to make fiscal profligacy at least somewhat easier to ward off, Reps. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., and Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., on Thursday will introduce a bill to reform Congress’ budget process. The bill makes good sense.”

Congressional Dysfunction/Capacity Issues

Matthew Continetti, “The Missing Republican Agenda,” National Review:

“The lack of a 2018 agenda has had several consequences. It’s meant that Republicans are gambling their majority on the tax cut, which will be close to a year old when polls open in November. Republican leaders return to the tax cut whenever they are asked what their message will be this fall. It’s their safe space. Now, it’s true that support for the tax cut is increasing as the economy reaches full employment. But just as attitudes toward the plan changed once, they may change again. And surely it would help Republican candidates if they had more than one accomplishment.”

Matt Fuller, “House Republicans Weigh a Do-Nothing Agenda for 2018,” Huffington Post:

“Some Republican lawmakers are beginning to ask whether their leaders plan to be ambitious enough with what could be the final months of united GOP control of the government. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) presented a slide at a GOP conference meeting Tuesday that showed an admittedly incomplete but still rather sparse agenda for the coming months, according to members at the gathering.”

Josh Huder, “Congress in 2018: What’s Left,” GAI at Georgetown:

“With mid-term elections looming, there is neither catalyst nor appetite for big-ticket bipartisan deals. Primaries are already underway, and with each passing week, the eyes of incumbents and their leadership will begin to focus on November of 2018 to the exclusion of much else. In other words, the remainder of the 2018 legislative calendar will be driven by campaign and messaging concerns. Governing will take a back seat to retaining (or reclaiming) the majority.”

Jonathan Bernstein, “Why Republicans Don’t Care About Fixing Washington,” Bloomberg:

“Political polarization has been tearing apart Washington for years, but Republicans have found a way to make it even worse. Unlike just a few years ago, Congress now suffers all of the costs of partisan polarization without many of the very real benefits.”

No Labels, “The Reason Congress Can’t Get Stuff Done,” Real Clear Policy:

“While abiding by the Hastert Rule has become the norm, there are a few dozen examples of its being ignored over the years. Here are five facts you need to know about the Hastert Rule.”


David Hawkings, “How Vulnerable Senate Democrats Have Pushed to the Center,” Roll Call:

“These days, when tribal partisan loyalty defines life for the vast majority in Congress, a lawmaker whose voting record stands out for going against the grain is almost always a lawmaker staring political death in the face. But for a senator from one party in a state where the other party is dominant, the simplest way to survive is to come off as politically independent.”

Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane, “Mississippi’s Thad Cochran to resign from Senate after four-decade congressional career,” Washington Post:

“Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) will resign from the Senate on April 1, he announced Monday, ending a four-decade congressional career and triggering a fall election that could carve new divisions in the Republican Party and put the GOP Senate majority at greater risk. Cochran, 80, has been suffering from health problems in recent months.” 

Andrew Glass, “Senate witnesses its first filibuster, March 5, 1841,” Roll Call:

“On this day in 1841, and continuing until March 11, the Senate witnessed its first filibuster. Several members, willing to talk at length, objected to the hiring of Senate printers. They took advantage of a Senate rule allowing them to refuse to yield the floor, thereby blocking pending legislation.”

Matthew Continetti, “Senators And Their Pages,” Claremont Review of Books:

“Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, Al Franken, and Elizabeth Warren do have something to say, however, and the uneven quality of their prose suggests that, in some cases, they eschewed ghostwriters to say it themselves. Their books want to be taken seriously—even, if you can believe it, ex-Senator Franken’s.”

Congress, Miscellaneous

Jeffrey Lazarus and Amy Steigerwalt, “Why you should vote for a woman in 2018,” The Conversation:

“We argue in our book that all these forces result in female politicians believing that they must spend more time guarding against opposition from constituents, potential challengers and even other politicians. As a result, we demonstrate that female officeholders adopt a distinctly different approach to legislating than men – an approach that results in women providing better representation for their constituents.”

Danny Hayes, “Do women in Congress work harder than their male colleagues?” Washington Post:

“Political scientists Jeffrey Lazarus and Amy Steigerwalt of Georgia State University have just published a book, Gendered Vulnerability: How Women Work Harder to Stay in Office. To mark International Women’s Day, March 8, I talked with them over email about their research. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.”

Rachel Wolfe, “Exclusive: Congress requires many unpaid interns to sign nondisclosure agreements,” Vox:

“For unpaid interns on Capitol Hill, secrecy is so much a part of the job that on their first day, many are required to sign sweeping nondisclosure agreements. Employment lawyers reviewed two Hill NDAs obtained by Vox and said they are written in a way that could discourage interns from speaking up about anything, potentially protecting members of Congress and their staff even in cases of harassment or abuse.”

Justin Talbot-Zorn, “How to Reverse the Trump-Era Brain Drain,” The American Prospect:

“The need for Congressional staff capacity didn’t start with the Trump Era. As Lee Drutman, Steven Teles, and other political scientists have shown, declines in general staff funding since Newt Gingrich’s speakership have had devastating impacts on Congress’s ability to withstand lobbying pressure, and ultimately on Congress’s ability to ‘think for itself.’”

Derek B. Johnson, "What does the House retirement wave mean for tech?" FCW:

"A wave of House retirements is thinning the tech and cybersecurity policy leadership ranks of powerful committee chairman in Congress. Thus far, nearly 40 House Republicans have either stepped down this session or announced they will not seek reelection in 2018." 

Jay Cost, “Congress Handed to the President the Power to Level Tariffs,” National Review:

“That is, Congress, not the president, was vested with the power to levy tariffs. At the time of ratification, everybody expected that the first taxes from Congress would be “imposts” — tariffs on imported goods. That is exactly what happened, with the Tariff of 1789. Yet the power to levy imposts has been inevitably wrapped up with matters of foreign policy, and foreign policy falls more clearly within the presidential domain.”

Katherine Tully-Mcanus, “New Training Available for Hill Staffers Who Witness Sexual Harassment,” Roll Call:

“New training is now available for staffers on Capitol Hill on what to do as a bystander or witness to sexual harassment as offices move to comply with the new anti-harassment training requirements implemented by the House and Senate late last year.”