ICYMI: Top reads on Congress

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By Marian Currinder

Sarah Binder, “Confirmation hearing fireworks are likely to be the new normal,” Brookings FixGov:

“If confirmation is likely, why so many fireworks? A pivotal vacancy, intense partisanship, and a majority inclined to bend the rules have markedly polarized advice and consent—setting a precedent for fights over future nominees.”

James Hohmann, “The Daily 202: Kavanaugh hearing offers an ‘unprecedented’ display of the Senate’s institutional decline,” Washington Post:

“No one who watched yesterday’s circus could credibly call the Senate the world’s greatest deliberative body. It certainly isn’t what James Madison had in mind when he designed the upper chamber as a cooling saucer on the passions of the people’s representatives in the House.”

James Wallner, “Neither party treats Supreme Court nominations like the Founders intended,” Washington Examiner:

“In short, no one expects Kavanaugh’s confirmation to be derailed because the confirmation hearings are not intended to reveal the kind of information that could jeopardize a nominee’s chances. This is because senators generally avoid close scrutiny of a nominees’ views on specific cases that may come before the Supreme Court in the future.”

Amber Phillips, “‘Congress has decided to self-neuter.’ One senator’s compelling theory for why the Kavanaugh hearings are so ugly,” Washington Post:

“In a word: Congress. In a few more words: Congress is ab­di­cat­ing its duty to write laws, which leaves people to place their hopes in the ju­di­cial branch to try to get their prob­lems solved.”

Jim Geraghty, “Should Public Seating at High-Profile Congressional Hearings Continue?” National Review:

“It may be time to ask whether the tradition of limited seating for the public at high-profile congressional hearings should continue.”

James C. Capretta, “Congress Must Grow to Check the Administrative State,” Real Clear Policy:

“The executive branch so dominates policymaking that Congress often stands by as major aspects of public policy get rewritten without any change to underlying law. The country’s founders wanted the people’s representatives in the House and Senate to serve as checks on an overly assertive executive branch. Congress’s persistent failure to properly fulfill this essential constitutional role in recent years is one reason the nation’s politics are out of balance.”

David Winston, “If Congress Wants More Lions, It’s Time to Change the Habitat,” Roll Call:

“If we want more lions, we need to breathe new life into a bipartisan ecosystem that respects and rewards men and women who put the country first and politics second. We can start with three steps.”

Christopher DeMuth, "The Difference Congress Makes," CRB:

"Books about Congress typically compare the existing institution to a procedural ideal. Is Congress making good use of its constitutional powers? Is it fairly representing democratic sentiments? Is it legislating through deliberation and compromise, so as to moderate the clash of factions and pursue some approximation of the national interest? Is it accountable?"

Richard Eldred, “Congressman Keating laments Washington dysfunction,” Wicked Local Chatham:

“Congress is a winner take all system,” he explained. “The party in the majority is in absolute control. Their leadership decides if a bill even comes to the floor or if there is a debate. They control the horizontal. They control the vertical.”

Nicholas Fandos, “Democrats, Eyeing a Majority, Prepare an Investigative Onslaught,” New York Times:

“House Democrats, increasingly optimistic they will win back control in November, are mining a mountain of stymied oversight requests in preparation for an onslaught of hearings, subpoenas and investigations into nearly every corner of the Trump administration.”

Melanie Zanona, “Republicans mull new punishments for dissident lawmakers,” The Hill:

“House Republicans are chewing over a proposal to hold members accountable for not voting along party lines or for  signing discharge petitions — two acts of rebellion that GOP leadership has had to grapple with this year.”

John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett, “Pelosi vs. McConnell could dominate Congress in 2019,” Politico:

“With Democrats increasingly favored to win the House in November and Republicans to keep their hold on the Senate, the Pelosi-McConnell dynamic is poised to become one of Washington’s most consequential political relationships — one fraught with tension but also holding the potential for legislative breakthroughs spurred by decades of congressional deal-making.”

Lindsey McPherson, “Blue Dogs See Single-Digit Majority as Their ‘Sweet Spot,’” Roll Call:

“The nearly moribund Blue Dogs, the coalition of moderate-to-conservative House Democrats, are looking to rebuild influence in the next Congress — and they think they’re in an especially good position to do so if the November midterms result in a single-digit House majority.”

Rachel Bade and John Bresnahan, “GOP leaders scramble to avoid pre-Election Day shutdown,” Politico:

“Congressional Republicans return to Washington on Tuesday with a singular goal for September: avoid a government shutdown. But with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, that’s easier said than done.”

Patricia Murphy, “Just When You Least Expect It — A Congress That (Sort of) Works,” Roll Call:

“And yet, while the country’s focus has been trained on Paul Manafort’s corruption trial or Omarosa’s secret White House tapes or what the president thinks about all of it, lawmakers have been making slow and steady progress toward their most basic, but often most difficult, job every year — funding the United States government.”

Melanie Zanona, “Renewed talk of reviving earmarks down the road,” The Hill:

“Some congressional Democrats are starting to push for consideration of reviving the practice of directing federal spending to pet projects if they are in power next year. Doing so could help them pass an infrastructure package and other major spending bills on the Democratic agenda.”

Mark Strand, “How to reinstate earmarks responsibly without political considerations,” The Hill:

“By not directing federal funds to their districts, members of Congress are shirking one of the primary responsibilities given to them by the Constitution – the power of the purse. Congress is a legislative body. It is also the branch of government closest to the people and therefore should be the most familiar with funding needs.”

Lindsey McPherson, “Why Republican Candidates Aren’t Getting Asked Who They’d Back for Speaker,” Roll Call:

“Of the many explanations for why Democrats are leaving the race to replace Ryan out of campaigns, name recognition seems to be the most common.”

Philip A. Wallach and James Wallner,"Richard Russell and the Importance of Remembering the Past," Law and Liberty:

"The Senate’s oldest office building was not named after the patrician senator from Georgia because of his position on civil rights. Rather, Russell’s colleagues believed unanimously that they should honor him because he honored the Senate. That is, he valued the institution’s stature and integrity higher than his party and the presidency for more than three decades."

Barbara A. Trish, “Congress isn’t paying its interns enough,” Washington Post:

“But this one is easy: Let’s put an end to unpaid Capitol Hill and political campaign positions, the entry-level jobs so perversely enticing to college graduates focused on public service. Congress will soon have an opportunity to make needed headway on this front.”

Katherine Tully-McManus, “House and Senate Interns Set to Receive Pay in Legislative Branch Spending Package,” Roll Call:

“The final version includes $8.8 million to pay interns in the House and $5 million for intern pay in the Senate. The Senate funding is included in the accounts that lawmakers use to pay staff salaries, official travel and office expenses. In the House the funds will exist in a newly created account for each member office, according to House Appropriations Committee staff.”