Image Source:  USA Today
Image Source: USA Today

By Marian Currinder

Gridlock and Reform

Charles Zug and Connor M. Ewing, “What happened to the State of the Union address? Originally, it helped the president and Congress deliberate,” Washington Post:

“On Tuesday night, President Trump delivers his State of the Union address, as have scores of presidents before him. But the performance probably won’t do what it was originally designed for: framing a productive debate between two branches of government about the nation’s direction. The State of the Union is in a state of decay, and has been since well before the age of Trump.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos, “As Gridlock Deepens in Congress, Only Gloom is Bipartisan,” New York Times:

“The sense of gloom is bipartisan. A group of Republicans in the House and the Senate are warning of a secret plot in the F.B.I. to overthrow the Trump government. Democrats speak of corruption and creeping authoritarianism, unchecked by a Congress that has turned into an adjunct of the executive. And few lawmakers can muster a word of pride in their institution.”

Erica Werner and Damian Paletta, “As Trump prepares to unveil State of the Union, Congress struggles to do its job,” Washington Post:

“Congress’s inability to handle its most basic constitutional task — managing the federal purse — not only dims prospects for many of Trump’s ambitions but also threatens to deepen a spending stalemate that has had far-reaching ramifications through government and the economy. The paralysis creates instability for the military and domestic agencies that provide critical services and feeds the public’s growing suspicion toward the institutions of government in general.”

Jason Grumet, “Opinion: Congress, It’s Time to Heal Thyself. Here’s How,” Roll Call:

“Congress has the power to restore public confidence and self-dignity simply by doing its basic duties: examining the nation’s needs and problems and legislating reasonable responses. To succeed, Congress must have the courage to restore some of the tools that any institution needs to work effectively and solve problems.”

Adam Carrington, “Three reforms for repairing Congress, the ‘broken branch,’” The Hill:

“To legislate well, the Constitution’s Framers emphasized one quality in Congress above all others: deliberation. “Federalist 70,” in comparing Congress to the presidency, described the former “as best adapted to deliberation.” By the act of deliberation, the Framers believed that Congress would pass better legislation — laws more refined, more precise, more adapted to the problems lawmakers sought to address.”


Joe Williams, “DACA Debate the Latest to Bypass Senate Committee Process,” Roll Call:

“For an institution renowned worldwide for its historically open debate of contentious issues, the Senate has done little public deliberation under unified Republican government. The reason could be simple: the decline and fall of the committee process. The ongoing negotiations on an immigration deal is the latest legislative package to bypass committee deliberation, but it follows a year in which so-called regular order fell by the wayside.”

Alexander Bolton, “House presses Senate GOP on filibuster reform,” The Hill:

“House Republicans are pressing Senate colleagues to take a more serious look at amending the upper chamber’s filibuster rule amidst an unresolved budget stalemate that shut the government down last month. House Budget Committee Chairman Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said filibuster reform was discussed at a breakout meeting on government reform with Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) at the Greenbrier resort Thursday.”

Jonathan Bernstein, “The Not-So-Uncertain Future of the Filibuster,” Bloomberg:

“Here’s the deal: On the one hand, the sweet spot for eliminating the filibuster is not just unified government, but somewhere around 54 to 57 majority-party senators. A party with 60 senators probably won’t bother because they’ll defeat the filibuster. If they’re close? Democrats compromised to pass financial reform when they had only 59 senators in 2010, and only 58 in early 2009 to pass the stimulus bill. If they only have a narrow majority, as Republicans have now, it’s unlikely they’ll have 50 for changing the way the Senate runs.”

James Wallner, “Can the filibuster long survive?” Washington Examiner:

“Instead of changing the rules using the controversial nuclear option, Republicans should try enforcing the Senate’s existing rules. Doing so allows Republicans to stop Democrats from preventing votes on important legislation simply by saying, “I object.””

Jason Dick, “A Die-Hard Senate Tradition: Pen and Paper to Record Votes,” Roll Call:

“Watch the latest Undercover Capitol to learn more about an enduring — and endearing — tradition in the Senate: the paper ballot, still used by both the Senate clerk and reporters to record floor votes by the members.”


Joseph Lawler, “Paul Ryan gets it done,” Washington Examiner:

“Throughout his two-plus years as speaker, Ryan has been able to maintain a tenuous peace within the House Republican conference, a group of politicians with wildly divergent views and styles that proved unmanageable for Boehner and that might have been unable to settle on a leader if Ryan hadn’t been drafted in 2015.”

Molly E. Reynolds, “The Little-Known Rule That Allowed Congress to Release Devin Nunes’s Memo,” Lawfare Blog:

“Since last week, House Republicans have been pushing for the public release of a classified memo alleging government abuse of surveillance authorities and written by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). Relying on a little-known—and littler-used—House rule, the committee’s Republicans voted on Monday night to make the document public.”

Congressional Capacity

Lee Drutman, “Why so many members of Congress are retiring,” Vox:

“Why are more than one in nine current House members calling it quits? Being a member of Congress in 2018 is a miserable job, and it’s not likely to get much better in 2019.”

John Bresnahan, “The demise of one of the best gigs in Congress,” Politico:

“Hemmed in by term limits, a domineering party leadership, bitter partisan feuds and a GOP base that automatically loathes anyone in power, seven Republican committee chairs have decided to leave office at the end of this Congress, a remarkable level of turnover by any measure. Another committee chair, Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee, is running for governor and will give up her gavel at the Budget Committee (the panel has had three chairs this Congress alone.) And Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who led the House oversight panel, quit Congress last year to become a regular on Fox News.”

Nathanaiel Rakish, “We’ve Never Seen Congressional Resignations Like This Before,” FiveThirtyEight:

“On Jan. 15, Pat Tiberi became the 12th member of the 115th Congress to resign from office. If that feels like a lot, that’s because it is; it’s the most people who have resigned from Congress through this point in the session in at least 117 years.”

Andrew Taylor, “Tarnished Prizes: Top Jobs in Congress No Longer So Coveted,” US News:

“Frelinghuysen’s announcement Monday that he would not seek re-election, giving up the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee, punctuated the dwindling prestige and influence of the positions once considered an apex of power on Capitol Hill. Term limits, legislative dysfunction and gridlock-inducing polarization have gradually tarnished the chairmanships that are so prized.”

Michelai Graham, “Congress needs to revive in-house tech office, think tank says,” Fedscoop:

“For Congress to keep up with the pace of technology change, it needs to bring back the shuttered Office of Technology Assessment, a Washington, D.C., think tank argues in a new report. Recreating OTA is crucial because Congress direly needs the in-house expertise and in-depth research functions that the office formerly provided, argue Kevin Kosar, the institute’s vice president of policy, and Zachary Graves, its director of technology and innovation policy, in a new study.”

Stephanie Akin, “Hill Staffers Get New Resource in Sexual Harassment Disputes: Their Predecessors,” Roll Call:

“A group of former congressional aides wants to help their successors come forward with sexual harassment and other discrimination complaints. So they’re offering a support network they say will fill in the gaps in a congressional workplace protection law scheduled for a House markup next week. They have launched a website,, to collect resources, which include the names of lawyers and a public relations expert who have offered to help current staff members dealing with harassment at work.”

Issie Lapowsky, “What It Takes To Make Congress Actually Listen,” Wired:

“Of course, Congress hasn’t functioned the way it’s supposed to in quite a while. That’s one reason why last summer, the non-profit OpenGov Foundation, sent teams to shadow 58 congressional staffers in 20 offices across the country—including Moulton’s. Their objective: to study exactly what happens to every call, email, letter, and yes, even fax, Congress receives, and figure out what resonates and why.”

Debt Limit, Budget, Earmarks

Jonathan Bernstein, “A No-Drama Way to Deal With the Debt Limit,” Bloomberg:

“Neither party should mess with the debt limit, which now has to be raised in March or else the government might default. It was wrong of Republicans to use the debt limit as ransom during Barack Obama’s presidency; it would be wrong of Democrats to do it now.”

Lindsey McPherson, “House Budget Chairman Mulls Skipping Budget Resolution,” Roll Call:

“Rep. Steve Womack, Budget chairman for less than a month, is considering skipping a budget resolution  — thinking time would be better spent changing the budget process.”  

Sarah Ferris and Seung Min Kim, “GOP faces new shutdown threat from within,” Politico:

“Congress is a week away from another government shutdown. And if it happens this time, the blame may lie with Republicans, who are struggling to keep their lawmakers in line.”

Winslow Wheeler, “Just What Earmark ‘Moratorium’ Are They Talking About?” POGO:

“Last week the House Rules Committee held hearings on the idea of bringing back earmarks.  While some have been angling for this idea for a while, the immediate prompt was from President Trump’s recent assertion that if earmarks were revived, Members of Congress would get along better with each other.  Think what you want of Trump’s recommendation, but of one thing be sure: it’s an utterly clueless exhortation; earmarks never went away.”

Justin Bogie, “Earmarks won’t fix Washington’s budgeting dysfunction,” The Hill:

“Congress, of course, per Article I of the Constitution, holds the power of the purse. And for as long as appropriations have existed, members have sought to use that power to send earmarked funding for pet projects back to their home states and districts. A moratorium was placed on these directed spending provisions in 2011 — and with good reason. Reversing the earmark ban would have a toxic influence on the spending process and be a major step backwards.”




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Marian Currinder
Marian Currinder is a permanent staffer of the U.S. House of Representatives' Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress as of December 2019. ...

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