ICYMI: Top reads on Congress
Richard Ahrenberg, “Strange bedfellows oppose the filibuster,” The Hill, August 24, 2019.
“Such bipartisan resolve [to end the filibuster] might be welcome if the objective were not so misguided. It is the 60-vote supermajority requirement which makes the filibuster such a potent driver of compromise. In order to reach 60 votes, it is necessary to seek some support from the opposite side of the aisle. This requires communication, negotiation, and compromise. This is in the DNA of the Senate.”
Jonathan Bernstein, “Don’t kill the filibuster,” New York Times, August 23, 2019.
“As a more-or-less supporter of the filibuster, I’m not thrilled with the former Nevada senator and majority leader Harry Reid’s call for Democrats to get rid of it. But I’m even less thrilled by Mitch McConnell’s mischaracterization of what happened when Barack Obama was president. If there’s one person responsible for the likely eventual final demise of the filibuster, it’s Mr. McConnell. Why is the filibuster — a requirement for a supermajority of 60 votes to pass legislation or confirm presidential nominees in the Senate — justified? Because democracy isn’t simply about majority rule. In particular, when majorities are relatively indifferent about an issue and minorities are passionate about it, then there’s a good argument that the correct democratic result is for the minority position to triumph.”
Mitch McConnell, “The filibuster plays a role in our constitutional order,” New York Times, August 22, 2019.
“So this is the legacy of the procedural avalanche Democrats set off: Justice Neil Gorsuch, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and 43 new lifetime circuit judges — the most ever at this point in a presidency. The consequences of taking Senator Reid’s advice will haunt liberals for decades.”
Justin Bogie, “The Budget is at a crossroads. Which path will Congress take?” Heritage.org, August 22, 2019
“In May, the Congressional Budget Office projected the deficit would be $896 billion this year and showed it crossing the trillion-dollar threshold in 2022. The outlook has worsened significantly in just three months. The Congressional Budget Office now projects that by the end of September, the deficit will be $960 billion and exceed $1 trillion next year.”
Benjamin Ginsburg and Kathryn Hill Wagner, Congress: The First Branch (Yale, 2019).
“The idea that Congress is broken is misleading and actually does little service to the cause of popular government in the United States.”
Matt Jensen, “Transparency for America’s scorekeepers,” National Affairs, Winter 2019.
“Two of the most important and powerful agencies of the federal government are barely known to the American public. Those in the know refer to them by their three-letter acronyms, but they are not intelligence agencies or secretive law-enforcement units. They don’t cut checks, negotiate treaties, regulate commerce, or make policy of any kind. Rather, they consist of teams of economists, modelers, software developers, data scientists, and other technicians and wonks who run computer projections that estimate what proposed legislation will cost and what effects it might have.
Josh Israel, “Thanks to Mitch McConnell, U.S. now has no functioning election commission,” Think Progress. August 26, 2019.
“The Federal Election Commission (FEC) — intended to be a group of no more than three Democrats and no more than three Republicans overseeing the federal campaign finance system — has been operating with just a bare quorum of four for the past 18 months.”
Aubrey Neal, “AIN Update: Over 64% of Congress has never participated in proper budget processes,” R Street. August 26, 2019.
“The 104th Congress, in session from 1995 through 1996, was the last to complete all appropriations bills before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. Today, only 121 sitting representatives and 69 sitting senators have congressional careers stretching back to when the appropriations process was completed on time and in order.”
Diane Wagner, “Graves says bipartisan select committee could loosen gridlock in Congress,” Rome News-Tribune. August 24, 2019.
“This special select committee is one of the most exciting things to be a part of,” Graves said. “Congress isn’t at its best right now. That’s what this committee is tasked with changing.”
“How to Improve the Judicial Confirmation Process,” Fix The Court. August 15, 2019.
“Below we take a look at ways to reduce partisanship and polarization of the confirmation process through a set of rules and norms we would hope to see implemented in due course.”
Philip Wallach and Kevin Kosar, “The case for a Congressional Regulation Office,” National Affairs, Fall 2016.
“Unfortunately, this has become Congress’s standard operating procedure for regulatory policy in recent years: Drop a daring and attractive-sounding mandate that may or may not be achievable or well-defined, charge the executive branch with making something sensible of it, hope the courts clean up any messes, and then rail against “out-of-control bureaucrats.” For any given regulatory issue, there are plenty of reasons why iterated, incremental legislating can be difficult: inertia and distraction, tricky interest-group conflicts, or a sense that opening up a policy to change might leave it worse off than before. But, when it comes to complicated policy questions such as the biofuel mandates, there is clearly another cause as well. Congress simply lacks the capacity to understand the real-world impacts of the policies it sets in motion. It is bombarded by lobbyist-provided noise and has limited resources to seek out other information independently, so its default stance becomes that of resentful onlooker. Republican self-government this is not.”