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By Marian Currinder


Budget and Appropriations

Burgess Everett, “McConnell averts shutdown with ‘begging, pleading and cajoling,‘” Politico:

“First there were Rand Paul’s objections. Then Jim Risch’s. But finally at 12:39 a.m. on Friday, the Senate passed a bill funding the government through September and went home after a chaotic 12 hours of drama.”

Lindsey McPherson, “Read the Bill or Get Out of Town Quickly? On Omnibus, Congress Chooses the Latter,” Roll Call:

“The pattern of rushing major legislation to the floor — particularly spending bills because of their deadline-driven nature — started long before Ryan but hasn’t exactly let up under his leadership.”

Jamie Dupree, “10 tidbits from inside the massive Omnibus funding bill in Congress,”

“Each party had a laundry list of items that they trumpeted in a flurry of news releases sent to reporters – for Republicans, that often included more money for the Pentagon, while Democrats focused on more money for domestic programs. In all, almost 4,000 pages of bill text and supporting materials were released to lawmakers – almost impossible for anyone to read before the votes, which are expected on Thursday. But we did some speed reading – and here is some of what we found”

Sarah Ferris and Kaitlyn Burton, “What’s in and what’s out in the $1.3T omnibus spending bill,” Politico:

“Congressional negotiators on Wednesday formally unveiled a $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund the government through the end of September.The so-called omnibus would deliver a $143 billion spending boost across defense and domestic programs — the largest funding bump in recent years.”

Romina Boccia and Adam Michel, “Bring back the alternative fiscal scenario to restore fiscal sanity,” The Hill:

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will be release its budget and economic outlook report on April 9. Lawmakers regard the annual report as a foundational document. Its projections for federal spending, revenues, deficits and economic growth over the next 10 years will drive budgetary debates throughout the year. That’s why it is critical that the CBO projections be realistic, reflecting the legislative actions most likely to be taken over the decade. Unfortunately, the report has gotten away from that. It is time to revive the alternative fiscal scenario.”

James C. Capretta, “The Structural Roots of Budget Dysfunction,” Real Clear Politics.

“Congress should refocus the budget process on reducing the government’s massive unfunded obligations for entitlement programs and facilitating durable budgetary agreements between the executive and legislative branches. Such reforms might help bring more stability and certainty to the government’s finances.”

Molly E. Reynolds, “The politics and tradeoffs of congressional budget process reform,” Brookings:

“The committee convened for the first time on March 8, with additional meetings and public hearings expected in the coming months.Will the committee succeed? With only its first meeting under its belt, it’s too soon to say. The JSC has a relatively short amount of time to complete its task, and that window includes this fall’s midterm elections. Success will depend, in part, on just how much the panel tries to tackle.”

Dylan Matthews, “A simple way to prevent government shutdowns,” Vox:

“If we want to eliminate furloughs entirely, and avoid semi-regularly throwing the personal finances of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of government workers into turmoil, as well as the sundry other costs of government shutdowns, we should consider passing a permanent automatic CR that applies to the whole government, not just the military.”

Stan Collender, “The budget process works just as Congress wants it, shutdown threats and all,” Washington Post:

“As Congress races to try to head off yet another possible government shutdown this Friday, one of the most common complaints in Washington — that the federal budget process is broken — is likely to be repeated so frequently that it will seem like commonly accepted political wisdom. But it is actually completely wrong. At least as far as the people in charge are concerned, the process is working perfectly.”

Mark Strand and Timothy Lang, “How Congress Can Make the Earmark Process Work,” Stanford Law & Policy Review:

“For many years, both members of Congress and the public criticized earmarks, alleging that they were fiscally irresponsible and corrupt. When the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives following the 2010 midterm elections, Congress suspended the formal practice of earmarking. Ever since, some have criticized the policy and have called on Congress to resume earmarking. Indeed, Congress should consider restoring earmarks, since these provisions have a legitimate place in the legislative process. Reintroducing reformed earmarks would allow Congress to reassert its constitutional role over both the country’s finances and policy. Congress has many tools at its disposal to promote a healthy earmark process, and if it implements additional reforms, the practice could be revived responsibly, limiting the opportunity for abuse that was present in the previous system.”

Congress and the Executive

Alexander Bolton, “GOP pushes to change Senate rules for Trump,” The Hill:

“A group of Republican senators wants to press the button on a new “nuclear option” that would limit debate time on President Trump’s nominees.The controversial move would hasten the pace of the president’s nominees getting confirmed and curtail Democratic power in the upper chamber. 

Paul Kane, “How Senate Republicans could cause trouble for Trump’s latest Cabinet nominees,” Washington Post:

“Senate Democrats have created a logjam for President Trump’s executive-branch nominees. But now it’s fellow Republicans who are causing headaches for some of his major Cabinet selections.”

T. Bennett, “Senate Opts Against Limiting Trump’s War Powers,” Roll Call:

“Trump scored a victory on behalf of the executive branch’s ability to launch and sustain military operations in new countries without first getting authorization from Congress. Amid pressure from Republican leaders, the White House and the Pentagon, the chamber killed a resolution, 55-44, offered by a bipartisan group of senators that would have required Trump to cease all U.S. military action against groups other than al-Qaida in Yemen.”

Peter Kasperowicz, “Trump asks Congress to extend his trade negotiating authority,” Washington Examiner:

“The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 gave President Obama and his successor the authority to negotiate trade deals that are subject only to an up-or-down vote through June 2018, as long as they meet broad negotiating objectives set out in the bill. The 2015 law allows Congress to extend that deadline for three years, through June 2021, subject to the congressional approval that Trump is seeking.”

Quorum, “Trump’s Tariffs Prompt Surge in Congressional Dialogue,” Quorum:

“Tariffs had not been a major discussion throughout the first months of 2018, causing a significant spike in dialogue in Congress. Here’s a look at the shift in conversations around tariffs by members of Congress.”

Clark Packard, “Congress needs to grow a spine and stand up to Trump on trade,” Washington Examiner:

“Despite promising a bold protectionist agenda on the campaign trail, other than withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Trump’s first year in office was fairly conventional on the trade front. The 2018 agenda, however, has been markedly different and significantly worse. Given that most Republicans in Congress have views on trade policy that diverge widely from the president’s, Congress should reassert its constitutional role in setting the trade agenda.”

Steve Vladek, “It’s Time for Congress to Pass the Mueller Protection Bills,” Lawfare:

“Some critics have argued that the legislation is unnecessary; others have suggested that it would be unconstitutional. To help understand these objections—and why, ultimately, I believe that they are unavailing—here’s a brief explainer on the relevant legal questions.”

Congressional staff

Barrett Karr, “Opinion: We All Have the Same Challenges,” Roll Call:

“With Leader McCarthy’s full support, our office is piloting a women’s leadership training program for female senior staff. The mission is to help promising female staffers attain the professional skill sets that will make them the very best hire as a chief of staff, staff director or any other leadership position in the House and Senate. Since launching this program, we’ve hosted speakers who have addressed themes such as know your value, learn to love risk and embrace accountability. The House of Representatives currently has almost 70 GOP women chiefs.  It’s an encouraging number, but given the size of our conference, it could be more. As a woman in a leadership position, I am personally committed to ensuring the next generation of female leaders on Capitol Hill have the resources and tools they need to deliver results at the next level.” 

Nolan McCaskill, “The ‘Worst Bosses’ in Congress?Politico:

“Everyone has an opinion, and many have horror stories to back them up. But now LegiStorm — the online portal that tracks Capitol Hill’s workforce in detail — is putting hard data to the debate over the worst bosses in Congress.”

Alex Gangitano, “Interns Get a Boost from College to Congress,” Roll Call:

“This summer, 12 students will have their cost of living covered as they intern on Capitol Hill, so they can focus on their work. College to Congress, a program that strives to level the playing field for congressional interns, selects students to invest in and places them in Hill offices.”

Alex Gangitano, “New Group Wants to Bring Staffers Together Through Golf,” Roll Call:

“Congressional staffers are trying whatever they can to bring people together in this tough political climate, and Lewis Myers thinks the golf course might be a place to do that.“ The golf ball doesn’t really recognize Republican or Democrat, so we should be able to come together and play the game we love,” said the six-year Capitol Hill veteran, who is the scheduler for California Democratic Rep. Norma J. Torres.”

Congress and Parties/Partisanship

Karoun Demirjian, “’It’s taken partisanship to a place it’s never been.’ Inside the House Intelligence Committee,” Washington Post:

“Over the past year, the demand for a detailed, public assessment of Russian interference and the allegations of collusion surrounding President Trump has inspired three congressional panels to examine the actions of Trump’s affiliates during and after the election. But where others have mounted a bipartisan effort, the House Intelligence Committee has fractured along party lines, earning a reputation more for sniping than as a voice of investigative authority.”

Don Wolfensberger, “Bayh’s bipartisan speakership bromide bucks political, practical realities,” The Hill:

“Ironically, on his way out the door as senator in 2010, Bayh proposed changing the Senate cloture rule by reducing from 60 to 55 the votes needed to end a filibuster. That he should now want to saddle the House with a three-fifths vote rule to elect a speaker is perhaps the best revenge a former senator could visit on a Congress he left on grounds that it was gridlocked due in part to the Senate’s inability to get to 60. Why not parity?”

Carl Levin, “Congress is falling short on its oversight duties,” Detroit Free Press:

“It is essential that the erosion of congressional norms favoring bipartisan, fact-based inquiries come to an end. It is time for the public to demand that members of Congress conduct investigations that are bipartisan, even-handed efforts to discover the facts.”

Joshua A. Tucker, Andrew Guess, Pablo Barberá, Cristian Vaccari, Alexandra Siegel, Sergey Sanovich, Denis Stukal, and Brendan Nyhan, “Social Media, Political Polarization, and Political Disinformation: A Review of the Scientific Literature,Hewlett Foundation:

“The Hewlett Foundation commissioned this report to provide an overview of the current state of the literature on the relationship between social media; political polarization; and political “disinformation,” a term used to encompass a wide range of types of information about politics found online, including “fake news,” rumors, deliberately factually incorrect information, inadvertently factually incorrect information, politically slanted information, and “hyperpartisan” news.”

Reihan Salam, “A Reevaluation of the U.S. Party System’s Stability,” National Review:

“Democrats, Bartels finds, are actually relatively united in their belief in an active government. They are less united on cultural issues, which are also less salient for Democratic voters. Republican voters, in contrast, both care more about and are more united on cultural issues, including nationalism, than Democratic voters. They are more divided and are focused less on the role of government.”

Alexi McCammond, “The group saving political moderates,” Axios:

“A centrist coalition called Country Forward that supports middle-of-the-road candidates in both parties helped Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski fend off a progressive primary challenge this week. The group had help from political technology firm Applecart, which helped Conor Lamb in his Pennsylvania victory over Republican Rick Saccone.”

Congress Misc.

Matthew Green, “Is Nancy Pelosi unpopular because she is a woman – or because she was speaker of the House?Washington Post:

“While gender bias may be why some voters judge Pelosi harshly, closer analysis suggests a more straightforward explanation for why she is unpopular: She was the speaker of the House.”

Lorelei Kelly, “Building the Democracy Stack,” Beeck Center:

“Over the past few decades, incoming communication has increased dramatically on Capitol Hill—up over 300% since the 1990’s. The numbers are stark. Today’s members represent hundreds of thousands more constituents while at the same time, Congress has 45% less expert staff capacity than it had in the 1970’s.  This knowledge gap is especially glaring when it comes to modern decision-making capacity: the effective organization of digital assets to process information. Citizen-facing Congress needs an upgrade to sort and filter incoming communication. It needs internal help optimizing subject matter knowledge.  And, a resilient system will require new ways to share and iterate promising practices.” 

Carl Hulse, “Louise Slaughter Set House Rules and Played by Her Own,” New York Times:

“Her death last week at 88 after a fall at her home in Washington cost Congress one of its unique personalities – a rare lawmaker who was respected, admired and held in great affection by members of both parties even as she served in one of the most partisan positions in the House.”

Joseph Lawler, “Spending bill would make all of Congress’ research available to the public for free,” Washington Examiner:

“All of Congress’ research would be made available to the public for free under the government spending bill released Wednesday night, which would be a victory for transparency advocates and a boon to members of the public interested in governance. The fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill includes a provision that would require Congressional Research Service reports be made available to the public, through a website set up by the the Librarian of Congress.”

D.A. Banks, “As Cochran Moves On, His Famous Senate Desk Will Stay With Mississippi,” Roll Call:

“The antique mahogany desk once used by Jefferson Davis, who resigned from the Senate to become president of the Confederate States of America, has been used by other big-name lawmakers over the decades. But thanks to a resolution Cochran sponsored in 1995, the senior senator from Mississippi gets first dibs — next up, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker.”

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