ICYMI Round-up of good reads on Congress
Jeff Davis on “The rule that broke the Senate,” in Politico:
“At the moment, the House and Senate proposals for fiscal year 2018 are quite sweeping in scope. The House resolution calls for $200 billion in mandatory spending cuts, while the Senate bill would cut taxes by $1.5 trillion. If Congress can agree on a final budget resolution, House and Senate committees will have no choice but to write legislation meeting whatever ‘reconciliation directives’ they are given by the budget resolution.
“There’s just one big problem: Budget reconciliation was never meant to be used like this. Once a tool to ease partisan gridlock, reconciliation has become part of the problem, used to reinforce the very problems it was designed to help fix.
“As envisioned in the original 1974 Budget Act, budget reconciliation was limited in scope: a two-week exercise in late September of each year to tweak the spending and tax bills that had already passed earlier in that session. It was not built for legislation sweeping in scope and scale. Allen Schick, the Congressional Research Service specialist tasked with helping Congress draft the 1974 Act, later wrote that ‘reconciliation was intended to deal with legislative decisions made during the interval between adoption of the first budget resolution and consideration of [a] second resolution [in September, just before the start of the fiscal year].’ But it was never used this way.”
Alex Seitz-Wald, “The dubious century-old U.S. Senate ‘blue blip’ custom may finally end,” at NBC News.
“The power of blue slips can be traced back to 1917, when Georgia Democratic Sen. Thomas Hardwick was the first known senator to use the form to object to a nomination, according to the Congressional Research Service. On a light blue sheet of paper soliciting his opinion on President Woodrow Wilson’s pick for a Georgia judgeship, Hardwick called U.V. Whipple “personally offensive and objectionable to me.” The Senate rejected the nomination, and blue slips evolved from there.”
More on blue slips:
- Russell Wheeler, “Senate GOP used “blue slips” to block Obama judicial nominees, but now wants to trash the practice,” Brookings FixGov Blog
- Editorial Board, “Senate blue slip bluster,” Wall Street Journal
The Economist on the possibility and peril of a constitutional convention:
“There are now 27 states in which the legislatures have passed resolutions calling for a convention that would propose a balanced-budget amendment. The two-thirds-of-the-states threshold for calling a convention is 34. And, as it happens, there are seven states which have not yet called for a convention to propose a balanced-budget amendment, but in which Republicans control both houses of the legislature. The earliest all seven could plausibly make the call is 2019, because Montana’s legislature is not in session again until then.”
Finally, ICYMI please have a look at the transpartisan proposal for benchmarks for Congress’ investigations into Russia and the presidential election.