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By Marian Currinder

Congressional dysfunction and reform

Rep. Darin LaHood and Rep. Daniel Lipinski, “Opinion: The Time to Reform Congress and our Political System is Now,” Roll Call:

“Our resolution would establish a Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress to examine all the structures and rules of both chambers to find ways to enable the institution to once again respond to the needs of the country. To date, our bill has attracted 63 co-sponsors.”

Tom Davis, “How to fix Washington, step one,” The Hill:

“The basic truth is that Congress doesn’t function today as it needs to function. Upending the outdated norms that have come to ruin the House could open the floodgates to bipartisan progress. We need rank-and-file members of Congress to work toward process reform because, as our nation’s current challenges make clear, bipartisan progress can’t be forged soon enough.”

Michael Barone, “Still saddled with the politics of the Seventies,” Washington Examiner:

“Not since James Monroe left the presidency in 1825, 48 years after he fought in the Battle of Princeton, has America had political leadership with careers running so far back in the past. Our current government leaders have political pedigrees going back to the 1970s.”

Alex Gagitano, “Congressional Offices Announced as Democracy Award Finalists to Help Establish Trust in Congress,” Roll Call:

“To try to “restore a little faith” in Congress, the Congressional Management Foundation on Friday announced the finalists for its first Democracy Awards. The organization chose its finalists for their focus on constituent services, their workplace environment, innovation, and transparency.”

Congress and gun control

Sarah Binder, “Three reasons you should expect congressional gridlock on gun control,” Washington Post:

“The passionate Florida students — backed by pro-gun regulation organizations — may be particularly effective voices for reform. We might see some congressional baby steps, such as a bipartisan bill to improve the federal background checks system or ban bump stocks. But skeptics could be right. Here are three main barriers to congressional action.”

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jonathan Martin, and Thomas Kaplan, “Is This the Moment for Gun Control? A Gridlocked Congress Is Under Pressure,” New York Times:

“Lawmakers will return to Washington on Monday facing intense public pressure to break their decades-long gridlock on gun control, a demand fortified by a bipartisan group of governors calling for Congress to take action to prevent against mass shootings.”

Naomi Lim, “John Cornyn: I am concerned Congress is ‘unwilling to lead’ gun control debate,” Washington Examiner:

“Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Wednesday said is he worried his colleagues in Congress have forgotten they form a coequal branch of the federal government on par with President Trump, as lawmakers negotiate legislation addressing school safety and gun control.”

Budget and appropriations

Alexander Bolton, “McConnell, Schumer tap colleagues to explore budget reform,” The Hill:

“Congress agreed to create a joint select committee on budget and appropriations process reform earlier this month as part of a deal to raise defense and nondefense spending caps for 2018 and 2019.”

James C. Capretta, “Don’t Weep for the Appropriators,” Real Clear Policy:

“The federal government is awash in deficits and debt, and the main culprit is the growth of entitlement spending. That’s indisputable. But that doesn’t mean spending on annual appropriations — so-called “discretionary spending” — should evade scrutiny.”

Joe Williams, “As Omnibus Looms, Lobbying Commences,” Roll Call:

“It’s Christmas again in Congress. Members in both chambers return to Capitol Hill on Monday from a ten-day recess with four weeks left to put together a massive fiscal 2018 spending bill. And the package, which Congress must pass by March 23 to avoid another government shutdown, may be the last major legislative vehicle to advance this year. That turns up the pressure on lawmakers, who must now begin the annual tradition of lobbying House and Senate leadership to include in the package their “pet projects” that, for one reason or another, are unlikely to advance unless attached to a vehicle — congressional speak for a major bill that is large enough to carry other pieces of legislation.”

Mark Strand and Tim Lang, “Bipartisan Budget Reform Committee: Congress’ Best Hope To Fix Budget Process,Congressional Institute:

“It is not exactly news to say the Federal budget process is broken.  Threats of government shutdowns and legislative duct tape have become the norm.  What is news, however, is that Congress has voted to finally do something about it. As part of the recent Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Congress created the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, a temporary House-Senate committee to study ways to reform how Congress debates the country’s spending decisions. This type of committee is rare, and it presents an important opportunity for Members of Congress to reexamine their stewardship of their constituents’ money.”

Congressional Institute, “Congressional Reform Concepts: Budget Process,” Congressional Institute:

“The following recommendations are the result of conversations that have taken place among several groups and are intended to serve as a framework for short-term and long-term change. Such a framework would be best achieved through the creation of a bipartisan, bicameral Joint Committee on a Modern Congress, patterned after those created during the last Century for a similar purpose.”

CRFB, “Playing By the (Budget) Rules: Understanding and Preventing Budget Gimmicks,” CRFB:

“Increasingly, lawmakers have relied on budget gimmicks to circumvent discretionary budget caps, pay-as-you-go budget rules, and a variety of other budget enforcement mechanisms. Budget gimmicks are also used to paint more favorable fiscal and budgetary outcomes than are likely to be the case, to hide long-term debt increases, and to allow lawmakers to take credit for savings that will not materialize. In this paper we discuss 20 types of budget gimmicks, describe how they have been used in the past, and offer suggestions to limit or prohibit their future use.” 

Don Wolfensberger, “Super Budget Committee is not so super,” The Hill:

“When the bipartisan budget agreement was unveiled last week, one news report mentioned in passing that the deal included the creation of “a new, super budget committee.” That misleading terminology must have triggered heart tremors in those who remember the last time Congress created a budget “super committee” in 2011.”

Wealth in Congress

David Hawkings, “Wealth of Congress: Richer Than Ever, But Mostly at the Very Top,” Roll Call:

“The people’s representatives just keep getting richer, and doing so faster than the people represented. The cumulative net worth of senators and House members jumped by one-fifth in the two years before the start of this Congress, outperforming the typical American’s improved fortunes as well as the solid performance of investment markets during that time.”

Paul V. Fontelo, “Maybe They’re Too Rich for Congress?Roll Call:

“The wealthy are heading for the exits. So far, 44 current lawmakers, or one in 12, have announced they are retiring at the end of the year or seeking new offices away from the Capitol. And collectively, they now account for nearly a third of the $2.43 billion in cumulative riches of the 115th Congress. Seventeen of these about-to-be former members described themselves as millionaires in their most recent financial disclosure forms, the basis for the Wealth of Congress studies conducted by Roll Call since 1990.”

Walter Shapiro, “Opinion: What Matters About the Wealth of Congress?Roll Call:

“Are we close to the point when members of Congress — in both parties — tend to see their constituents who live paycheck to paycheck as abstractions? How representative should your representative in Congress be? These are questions as old as American democracy. The framers of the Constitution were not simply mechanics and yeomen of the soil who happened, by chance, to wander past Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1787.”

Congress, Miscellaneous

Todd Ruger, “Supreme Court Backs Congressional Power to Affect Lawsuits,” Roll Call:

“A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday backed the power of Congress to pass legislation that would affect ongoing litigation, ruling that a law about Michigan land and its use as a Native American casino did not violate the Constitution. In a 6-3 opinion, the court found that Congress did not overstep into the power of federal courts with a law to end a lengthy court battle over the Interior Department’s decision to take that tract into trust for the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians.”

Lisa Hagen, “White House blasts Senate Dems’ ‘historic obstruction’ on nominees,” The Hill:

“The White House on Tuesday slammed Senate Democrats for what it claimed to be “historic obstruction” to President Trump’s nominees compared to previous administrations. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blamed Senate Democratic Leader Charlese Schumer (N.Y.) for blocking Trump’s nominees, noting that half of them are still waiting for Senate confirmation.”








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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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