ABOUT THIS BLOG

I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Looks like life is imitating simulation again... sort of. This article details the compromise reached on the human trafficking bill (the one with the anti-abortion provision) and Amy Klobuchar (who I played) is at the middle of it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Foreign Policy and Intelligence

Intelligence and Oversight: Hearings in the 1970s:




Final Paper

Answer one of the following:

  1. Take any of JFK’s “profiles in courage.” How might a critic disagree with the analysis? How does this story illustrate differences and similarities between the Congress of its time and the Congress of today?
  2. Propose and defend a specific reform in the structures or procedures of Congress (including legislative-executive relations). Explain what you would accomplish with your reform. That is, drawing on what you have learned in this course, spell out the problem and tell how your reform would fix it. Use concrete information and cite credible sources. Give fair and careful consideration to counterarguments and practical obstacles.

  • Essays should be typed (12-point), double-spaced, and no more than three pages long. I will not read past the third page. 
  • Cite your sources. Use Turabian/Chicago endnotes. 
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. Return essays to the Sakai dropbox by 11:59 PM, Monday, May 4. Papers will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a full letter grade after that.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Steven Rattner: "Free the President"... from Congress

Financier turned journalist Steven Rattner wrote an op-ed in the New York Times last week arguing that the president should stand firm and resist Congress inserting itself into the nuclear agreement with Iran. While he may have a point regarding this specific issue, I found his other arguments and evidence way off base.
Steven Rattner.jpg
Steven Rattner

He says, "I wish the president had had the votes to hang tough on this important right, in part because of the precedent it sets for future executive agreements and the pall it casts over his fight for the legality of his recent executive orders on immigration, climate change and other matters."

Since the 1970s, Rattner argues Congress has "eroded the powers of the presidency." As we have discussed in class, he believes this began as a response to Nixon’s “Imperial Presidency.” As a result, “Congress ...restricted the president’s ability to withhold funds that had been appropriated.

I think he is conflating president’s power in domestic policy with his ability to negotiate. While the president can enter into executive agreements, this does not correspond to his power to implement Congress's spending, though the Congress exerts a check on the president's ability to pursue treaties. He mistakes Obama’s deference to Congress as a shift in constitutional authority of the president--a political, not constitutional, effect. He then calls for the re-implementation of the president's line item veto and an end to lawsuits against executive orders. 

Lastly, I thought this line was a nice way of saying the president should have the ability to manipulate congressional appropriations: “So let’s reinstate the president’s ability to implement routine reorganizations.” 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Trade Promotion Authority

See Davidson, p. 444 on trade promotion authority (TPA) and free trade agreements (FTAs).  

Under TPA, reciprocal FTAs and multilateral trade agreements that go beyond tariff reductions are treated as congressional-executive agreements, which require the approval of both houses of Congress. Such approval expresses Congress’s consent to bind the United States to the commitments of the agreement under international law. This type of agreement is distinguished from both an executive agreement, requiring only presidential action, and a treaty, requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Because reciprocal trade agreements typically result in tariff rate (revenue) changes, the House of Representatives is necessarily involved. For a more detailed legal discussion, see CRS Report 97-896, WhyCertain Trade Agreements Are Approved as Congressional-Executive Agreements Rather Than Treaties, by Jane M.Smith, Daniel T. Shedd, and Brandon J. Murrill; and Hal S. Shapiro, Fast Track: A Legal, Historical, and Political Analysis (Ardsley: Transnational Publishers, 2006), p. 22
The most important trade bill in a decade has pitted Harry Reid against President Barack Obama. Liberal Democrat Rosa DeLauro against moderate Democrat Ron Kind. Labor unions against pro-business Democrats. And Elizabeth Warren against virtually everyone who supports a landmark piece of legislation that would allow the president to close what could be the biggest free-trade deal in history.
The open warring among Democrats over fast-track trade legislation, and the party’s broader existential crisis on free trade, grew more pronounced Thursday as senior lawmakers announced a breakthrough on the trade bill. Many Democrats still feel the burn, 20 years later, of lost manufacturing jobs from the North American Free Trade Agreement — pushed through by former President Bill Clinton — and they fear another Democratic president is on the verge of turning his back on working-class Americans by negotiating a trade deal that would send jobs overseas.

What’s at stake substantively is giving the president streamlined authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country free-trade deal that would dwarf NAFTA. But there’s also much more at stake politically for a Democratic Party whose progressive wing is enjoying an upswing thanks to the aggressive populism of Warren and liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who are unabashedly anti-free trade deal. Obama wants to cement a legacy on global free trade, but his work negotiating with Republicans has created several factions within the Democratic Party.
...
In the House, Republicans want a vote before the current legislative session breaks for the Memorial Day recess, Rep. Pat Tiberi, an Ohio Republican, said Thursday. The tally is expected to be close.
As few as 10 House Democrats, primarily from the ranks of the business-friendly New Democrat Coalition, are firmly committed to supporting the legislation. The measure needs 218 votes to pass in the lower chamber, which means getting the yeas of anywhere from 10 to 50 Democrats, depending on how many of the 247 Republicans in the House vote against the trade bill. Estimates of Republican defections vary widely from two dozen to as many as 60.

What I can tell you, which is good news, is a lot of members are feeling the heat,” Sanders said Wednesday night to constituents belonging to the liberal group Democracy for America.
“Whether we can beat it in the Senate or not, I don’t know. I think we have a better shot frankly in the House where to the best of my knowledge the overwhelming majority of Democrats are against it,” the Vermont independent said.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Economic and Domestic Policy II

A scene from The Untouchables because ... why the hell not?


Taxes
Health Care



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A rather important problem with the drafting of the bill.
Timeline of legal challenges

The Issue-Attention Cycle