Image Source:  Daily Beast
Image Source: Daily Beast

By Marian Currinder

Budget, Appropriations, Earmarks

David Hawkings, “When the Deal Precedes the Bid, Time to Change the Rules?Roll Call:

“But something largely overlooked got tacked on to that bipartisan agreement on a spending splurge for both guns and butter, signed by the same President Donald Trump who then called for deep curbs in domestic programs and the social safety net. It was a commitment by all the players to get their budgetary story straight.”

Linda J. Bilmes, “Congress’ budget dysfunction is more than 4 decades in the making,” The Conversation:

“The present dysfunction in the congressional budget process can be traced back to the budget reforms of 1974 when Congress passed the sweeping Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act. The law was the first fundamental change in national budgeting since 1921 and was driven by Congress’ effort to reassert its constitutional “power of the purse” in the aftermath of Watergate. The act strengthened the role of Congress in the budget process and established the House and Senate Budget committees to determine the size and allocation of the annual budget pie.”

Susan Ferrechio, “Can the ‘Supercommittee II’ fix Congress’ dysfunction?” Washington Examiner:

“Lawmakers say they want to examine the problem and come up with a solution by the end of this year “on how we can fix this broken process between the House and the Senate once and for all on budget and appropriations,” Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said.”

Molly E. Reynolds, “Lessons learned from Congress’s recent budget deal,” Brookings:

“Republicans remain divided over the content of immigration policy, and Democrats are generally united in favor of a measure addressing DREAMers. Where Democrats differ internally, however, is on how much weight to put that on position. In a party where there are competing demands being placed on leaders by diverse groups within the caucus, difficult tradeoffs must be made. Last week’s brought us a budget deal. Who knows what this week’s will bring?”

Kurt Couchman, “Congress can and should end government shutdowns for good,” Washington Examiner:

“Ending the counterproductive shutdown dance at the federal level would improve policy, improve the process, and improve congressional politics. As Congress moves to finalize spending for a fiscal year that is nearly halfway over, it’s clear that authorizing automatic continuing resolutions is the smart way forward.”

Elaine S. Povich, “Earmarks May Make a Comeback in Congress. In Some States, They Never Went Away,” Governing:

“The U.S. Congress placed a moratorium on the use of federal earmarks in 2011, hoping to curb wasteful spending. But in California and some other states, they never went away. Many state leaders argue that inserting money for local projects into broader bills isn’t wasteful — it’s an indispensable tool for winning votes. They say earmarks promote bipartisanship and break gridlock.”


Congressional Productivity/Capacity

Philip Wallach, “Congress: Where Politics Go to Die,” The American Interest:

“Unfortunately, most members of Congress justly feel they are given no real part in these decisions today. Fewer bills pass; those that do are assiduously shielded from any amendments; and nearly all of the development of crucial omnibuses (like the budget deal just passed) happens in leadership offices, with the work of committees mostly unceremoniously ignored. Normal members find that their job description as legislators is reduced to showing up to cast votes when the leadership instructs—and those are usually carefully stage-managed votes, with little suspense about the outcome.”

Michael Thorning, “Little Debate or Deliberation in Congress in 2017,” Bipartisan Policy Center:

“The first year of the 115th Congress mostly saw breakdowns in the legislative process and Congress’s ability to function. Neither chamber gave its members many opportunities to offer amendments to legislation. The Senate was not gridlocked by many attempts to filibuster legislation, but the cause seems to be more that the Senate considered few controversial bills that could be filibustered rather than any trend away from reliance on the filibuster. This may also explain the low utilization of conference committees to resolve differences between the chambers. Congress’s ability to carry out its most basic functions, the budget and appropriations processes, seem to have completely atrophied, and could be considered failures. Though the Senate spent ample time working in Washington, the House continued to lag behind in this area. Halfway through the 115th Congress, there is much room left for improvement.”

OpenGovFoundation, “From Voicemails to Votes,” OpenGov Foundation:

“During the late summer of 2017, The OpenGov Foundation undertook a first-of-its-kind effort to apply a human-centered design/user research approach to investigate the systems, tools, constraints, and human drivers that fuel congressional constituent correspondence processes. This report holds the findings of our work.”

Jan Leighley and Jennifer Oser, “Members of Congress respond to more than money – sometimes,” The Conversation:

“In any case, the founders’ faith in the power of citizen activism has been borne out, at least partially. Elected officials do respond to citizens who do more than vote — and they also respond to those activists in a way that might well counter the advantages of the wealthy in American politics.”

Dan Glickman, “Some members of Congress seem to have forgotten their oath,” CNN:

“Politicians, love them or hate them, are largely patriots whose sworn duty it is to uphold the Constitution, and it is their sacred duty to protect the nation. Thankfully, the Senate Intelligence Committee leadership seems to understand this, but the House Intelligence Committee needs help, so here’s a suggestion. Speaker Paul Ryan should take off his “leader of the Republican Party hat” on intelligence oversight, and put on his “leader of the House hat,” sit down with the House Intelligence Committee and get the members to act like adults.”

Doug Weber, “The effect of congressional retirements,” Open Secrets:

“Better comparisons for the current Congress are the 103rd and 110th Congresses. In both cases, one party had a much higher number of retirements than the other. In both cases, the party with more retirements suffered significant losses in the election. 1994, of course, saw Republicans take control of the House for the first time in 40 years. 2008 saw the Democrats increase their control of the House as Barack Obama was elected President.”

Thomas O. McGarity, “The Congressional Review Act: A Damage Assessment,” American Prospect:

“President Donald Trump has boasted that he had signed far more bills during his first months in office than many of his predecessors. Like many of his boasts, this one was misleading. Apart from purely ceremonial bills, the vast majority of bills enacted during his first six months in office stemmed from the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA).”



James Wallner, “What is the Purpose of the Senate?” Law and Liberty:

“Popular frustration with the Senate is nothing new. And calls to change its rules are an evergreen feature of our politics. In a sense, this frustration is something all Americans have in common. It transcends ideology and partisan affiliation. But underpinning this widespread agreement is a shift in the way Democrats and Republicans understand the Senate’s role in our political system. Acknowledging the nature of this shift highlights the real source of the Senate’s present dysfunction.”

Gregory Koger, “The immigration “debate” shows why the Senate flails,” Vox:

“This is the background for the free-for-all debate that the Senate is supposed to be having this week, in which senators offer amendments to an empty bill. As of Wednesday at noon, this wild, raucous deliberation has yielded exactly zero votes on amendments. The reasons are a great illustration of what is wrong with the Senate.”

Carl Hulse, “No Room for Debate: Senate Floor Fight Over Immigration Is a Bust So Far,” New York Times:

“In terms of rip-roaring debates, it certainly hasn’t rivaled Calhoun versus Webster. It is definitely not in the pantheon of Lincoln with Douglas. In fact, it really hasn’t even measured up to Biden meets Palin.”

James Wallner, “Filibuster change won’t fix flawed appropriations process,” The Hill:

“Given these concerns, Republicans should reject calls to eliminate the filibuster on the motion to proceed to appropriations bills. Fixing the appropriations process does not depend on it. And elimination poses greater issues for the Senate.”

Jeff Bell and Emmett McGroarty, “Against the Filibuster,” Weekly Standard:

“Republican politicians face a binary choice: They can either stand up for constitutional principles, or they can preserve the status quo and maintain the arcane Senate filibuster rules. At its core, this is a showdown between politicians who are high-energy and courageous versus those who are low-energy and timid.”


House/Freedom Caucus

Jonathan Bernstein, “House Freedom Caucus Is On the Warpath Again,” Bloomberg:

“They’re already upset with Ryan because of the recently passed agreement on spending for the remainder of the fiscal year, along with raising the debt limit and various other measures. The truth, however, is that the conservative radicals are the ones responsible for that bill. Democrats only have leverage to negotiate a fairly good deal because Ryan’s Republican conference was split, with Ryan knowing he would never have the radicals’ votes on anything that could even get a simple majority in the Senate.”

Lindsey McPherson, “Freedom Caucus Fires Fresh Warning Shots to Ryan on Immigration ‘Consequences,’” Roll Call:

“Meadows did not elaborate on what those consequences would be, but some of his caucus members have been clear for months that Ryan striking a bad deal on immigration would potentially be a deathly blow to his speakership.” 

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Tags: Marian Currinder
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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