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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Monday, March 30, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Harry Reid Tried to Flip Specter

From CQ Politics:

Reid acknowledged that he had reached out to Specter, a moderate Republican, to try to convince him to abandon the GOP. Democrats have long courted Specter, who
is expected to draw a primary challenge in 2010.

But Reid said Specter effectively answered the question on March 24 by announcing he would vote against limiting debate on a major Democratic priority — so-called “card check” legislation that would ease union organizing rules

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Appointment and Removal

Confirmation hearings:

  • John Kerry has questions for a nominee for Ambassador to Belgium, and donor to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Why do you think Bush pulled the nomination?

Kerry Confronts Swift Boat Funder

  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse uses Mukasey's confirmation hearing to make a point about waterboarding:

The removal power came dramatically into view when a controversy arose over the firing of US Attorneys:

He's like the Energizer Bunny

Blago has a new job. Perhaps to defray the cost of his legal bills, or maybe just for ego, the indicted former Governor of Illinois now does guest hosting of radio shows.

“Now I’m here sitting in the seat that Don Wade sits in,” he marveled. “I guess you could say that I’ve achieved higher office.” The Illinois GOP must be loving this.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Congress and the Bureaucracy

Congress "organizes" the executive:

Forms of delegation:


  • GAO and CBO
  • Legislative Veto and the Presentation Clause (Art I, sec. 7, clause 3): Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.
  • Committee hearings
  • A freshman tries his hand:

Hold put--and lifted--on Obama nominees

In light of our discussions the last few classes and the reading for this week I thought that this story about holds that were put on a few of Obama's nominations was rather appropriate. Apparently in an effort to have a change made in US foreign policy toward Cuba, Democratic Senator Menendez of New Jersey put a hold on the nominees for the heads of the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy (John Holdren) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Jane Lubchenco). Three weeks after Menendez’s original hold, it was lifted and the two nominees finally saw confirmations hearings. Both were confirmed on Friday March 20, Holdren unanimously.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Speaker's role

With the CBO's grim predictions of massive deficits, Pelosi provides a prime example of the Speaker's place in Legislative-Executive relations, using her position to round up House support for the budget and in turn, pushing reps to work on their home districts. With the budget hardly a divisive issue within the party, Pelosi offers simply a letter of appeal to colleagues rather than a crack of the whip.

The letter at politico.

Reading the Bills, continued

This site (h/t to Helena) makes an important point that we have stressed in class: lawmakers should read the bills. The stimulus is a great example: page 404 of the final version included language explicitly allowing the kind of bonuses that AIG paid out. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) told Arianna Huffington: "This lack of transparency -- and the lack of accountability that results -- is one of the most significant threats to our democracy. This is not at all how the civics books tell us the system is suppose to work. What we have here is a prime example of Washington deny, defer, delay."

Read The Bill from Sunlight Foundation on Vimeo.

The race that won't end

Seriously, this is getting ridiculous.

It's been over 4 1/2 months since election day and Minnesota still doesn't have 2 senators. The Franken campaign rested its case and its lead has officially increased to about 250 votes from 225, but neither of those mean that the legal shenanigans are over. This week it was reported that top Republicans are pressuring Coleman to appeal to the Supreme Court if he loses using Bush v. Gore as precedent for an argument based on an Equal Protection violation.

In addition, Franken has asked the court to force Coleman to use some of the $5 million he has raised since election day to pay for the cost of the seven week trial and his (Franken's) lawyer fees if Coleman loses. This effort could pay dividends (no pun intended) if Coleman's other legal trouble blows up even more. Turns out that Coleman's donor list (with credit card info) somehow made it onto the web, but Coleman didn't inform supporters promptly, as is required by state law. He had hoped to avoid chilling donations in the run-up to what promised to be a brutal legal battle. That decision may soon come back to haunt him, as he could very well lose both the recount and now have this around his neck.

Turns out that congress can act quickly

Less than a week after the AIG bonus payments were announced, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would take back 90 percent of that money. For all the cries of partisan gridlock, Congress can get something done if it really wants to. The bill passed with large bipartisan support (328-93). Only 6 Democrats opposed it while the Republicans were pretty evenly divided with 85 voting for the bill and 93 against.

Sidenote: AIG comes out of this awfully from both a PR and financial perspective. Not only will they pay out bonuses that won't actually benefit their employees, but the White House and Treasury may decide to withhold $165 million from the next $30 billion payment of bailout funds, leaving AIG $330 million short. (from NPR)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sen. Calls for AIG bow out

Good Morning from D.C...
Sen Grassley suggests, "you know, obviously, maybe they ought to be removed," Grassley said. "But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide. And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."

Read on to enjoy the contradictory statements made in the article..


Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Pi Day!

Amid two wars, global economic crisis, and the ongoing threat of catastrophic terror attacks, the House of Representatives took time to declare today (3/14) Pi Day. No kidding. See the text of H.Res. 224:

1st Session
H. RES. 224
Supporting the designation of Pi Day, and for other purposes.
March 9, 2009
Mr. GORDON of Tennessee (for himself, Mr. HALL of Texas, Mr. LIPINSKI, and Mr. BAIRD) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Science and Technology
Supporting the designation of Pi Day, and for other purposes.
Whereas the Greek letter (Pi) is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter;
Whereas the ratio Pi is an irrational number, which will continue infinitely without repeating, and has been calculated to over one trillion digits;
Whereas Pi is a recurring constant that has been studied throughout history and is central in mathematics as well as science and engineering;
Whereas mathematics and science are a critical part of our children's education, and children who perform better in math and science have higher graduation and college attendance rates;
Whereas aptitude in mathematics, science, and engineering is essential for a knowledge-based society;
Whereas, according to the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) survey done by the National Center for Education Statistics, American children in the 4th and 8th grade were outperformed by students in other countries including Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, England, South Korea, Latvia, and Japan;
Whereas since 1995 the United States has shown only minimal improvement in math and science test scores;
Whereas by the 8th grade, American males outperform females on the science portion of the TIMSS survey, especially in Biology, Physics, and Earth Science, and the lowest American scores in math and science are found in minority and impoverished school districts;
Whereas America needs to reinforce mathematics and science education for all students in order to better prepare our children for the future and in order to compete in a 21st Century economy;
Whereas the National Science Foundation has been driving innovation in math and science education at all levels from elementary through graduate education since its creation 59 years ago;
Whereas mathematics and science can be a fun and interesting part of a child's education, and learning about Pi can be an engaging way to teach children about geometry and attract them to study science and mathematics; and
Whereas Pi can be approximated as 3.14, and thus March 14, 2009, is an appropriate day for `National Pi Day': Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) supports the designation of a `Pi Day' and its celebration around the world;
(2) recognizes the continuing importance of National Science Foundation's math and science education programs; and
(3) encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tension on the Omnibus

From the Christian Science Monitor:

As the Senate debated whether to change the House bill and eliminate an automatic pay raise for Congress, Senator Reid cautioned that the House would not accept any amendments from the Senate: “There aren’t going to be any limits on this bill that I can get through the House,” he said. The moment marked a sharp break with tradition. “It’s hard to think of a comparable moment like this,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “The tension between the two chambers is becoming very strong, especially the Pelosi-Reid rivalry.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Congress and the Presidency, continued

Presidential Messages

The Minority Gets a Say in the House

Republican lawmakers slammed the door on a proposal to limit development on millions of acres of public land. Brought up under a rule requiring a 2/3s majority because the measure was expected to pass by a wide margin, Pelosi found herself six votes short of the requisite number. Now Republicans will likely have a chance to amend the bill's content.

House GOP derails public lands bill
House Republicans temporarily derailed a land-use bill Wednesday that had become a top priority for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) after a contentious yearlong back-and-forth with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

GOP leaders corralled enough votes to force the Democrats to bring the legislation back to the floor under a process that would allow them to amend it. The legislation fell six votes short on Wednesday because Democrats brought the legislation up under rules requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. They didn't hit that mark, so Democrats will have to bring the bill back up under a normal procedure.

The bill would set aside million of acres of public wilderness and create more than 1,000 miles of scenic river designations. Some Republicans have opposed this legislation — which is actually a combination of many public lands proposals — because it would lock away so much land for development.

It's meant to be a non-controversial bill, but it created a huge public fight — and a weekend Senate session — back in January when Reid used a variety of Senate procedural tactics to force Coburn to back down after blocking the lands bill for more than a year. The bill passed the Senate on Jan. 15.

House Democrats are expected to bring the bill back next week in a manner that would allow Republicans to tweak it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cuba policy instrumental in omnibus decision

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) was the last vote to reach the 60 necessary for the recently passed $410B spending bill. Initially, he opposed the package because it would have softened the US embargo on Cuba. The Treasury Department guaranteed him that the embargo would remain as strong as ever, and Menendez offered his vote. Havana Spring Break will have to wait.

Monday, March 9, 2009

For Discussion on Wednesday

Ryan Lizza, "The Gatekeeper: Rahm Emanuel on the Job," The New Yorker, March 2, 2009, at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/03/02/090302fa_fact_lizza

And more Facebook caution (h/t to Bryant):
A Facebook post criticizing his employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, cost a stadium operations worker his job, according to a story in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Dan Leone, who the Inquirer said worked as a west gate chief, was unhappy the team let Brian Dawkins sign with the Denver Broncos in free agency. According to the newspaper, Leone posted the following on his Facebook page: "Dan is [expletive] devastated about Dawkins signing with Denver ... Dam Eagles R Retarted!!" Click here for rest of story.

Congress and the President I

A leftover from last week, some legislative slang:

Congress and the President

Note how both President Clinton and President Bartlet used the Antiquities Act. In this case, as in others, have presidents overstepped their authority?As for the latter, shall see a classic video presentation of LBJ working his will on Congress. Here is an audio on the same topic. (And another.) Could you picture similar conversations with President Bush?

Signing Statements

NYT is reporting that President Obama will order "executive officials to consult with Attorney General Eric Holder before relying on any of them [signing statements] to bypass a statute."

DCCC and NRCC Up With New Ads in Special Election in NY-20

A little off topic from this week's Presidency and Congress but both committees are up with ads for the special election in New York



Sunday, March 8, 2009

Congress and the President I

As the LA Times reports this morning, the separation of powers still stands athwart party unity:
President Obama is facing misgivings about his policy agenda from inside his own party, with prominent Democrats objecting to parts of his taxation and spending plans and questioning the White House push to do so much so fast.

The LA Times also confirms something that we discussed on Wednesday:
When the balance of power shifts in Washington, views on the virtues of filibustering tend to shift with it. Four years ago, the Senate Republican majority faulted the minority Democrats for threatening what they deemed an "unconstitutional filibuster" of President Bush's court nominees. Democrats then said they saw the filibuster as a needed check on extremism from the majority. Now, both parties are adjusting their perspectives.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Real Permanent Campaign

Minnesota still can't figure out who it's second Senator is. The state's Supreme Court unanimously rejected Franken's request to be certified as the winner.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The NRA Understands the Importance of House Rules

Interesting article in The Hill about the DC Voting Bill. The Senate version of the bill had an amendment that removed "D.C.’s ban on semiautomatic weapons, its registration requirement and trigger-lock rule." The article says that:

"Supporters of the District’s voting-rights legislation predicted that a similar amendment could be kept off the House bill. As long as it were in only one version, Democratic leaders could strip it out in conference. Conference reports can’t be amended, just voted up or down, so the conference report would pass without the gun bill.

But that got complicated when word spread in the House that the NRA would “score” the procedural vote (called a “rule”) used to bring up the Voting Rights Act if it didn’t allow for a vote on the gun language. That means that voting to bring the bill to the floor would be considered a vote against gun rights."

The Democrats removed the bill from the floor because they did not want vulnerable members to have the NRA giving them bad rankings which would hurt them in 2010. The article comments that the "Democrats may be running the House, but the National Rifle Association (NRA) can still stop a bill in its tracks." Clever use of House rules.

New hold

Senate Democrat Robert Menendez (NJ) has placed a hold on two of President Obama's science advisers. The Washington Post article states that Menendez is looking to gain leverage on an issue he deems important relating to Cuba. One has to assume that a Democrat leaked this story to the press in the hopes that Menendez would drop his objection. The action taken by Sen. Menendez is a good example of the plotting that occurs in Congress so that certain issues are brought to the attention of fellow Congressmen.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Another way to 60

We all know that Judd Gregg almost took the Commerce Secretary slot in Obama's Administration, leaving open the option of a filibuster-proof Democratic caucus should his replacement have been a Democrat.  But he balked, and Democratic hopes for 60 were destroyed... until now.

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning recently let slip to a group of lobbyists that if his efforts to seek re-election were hampered by the many Republicans urging him not to run again, he would resign his seat in Congress.  This resignation would give Kentucky's Democratic Governor the ability to name a Democratic replacement for Bunning, giving Dems 59 seats.  Al Franken, once the recount challenges are over and he is seated would give Democrats the magic number.  Bunning has since denied that he has said this.  He also has threatened to sue the NRSC if they recruit a primary challenger.  Really, this race provides so much entertainment it's unbelievable.

Trees on the Hill

The Simpsons - An Amendment To Be

How a bill becomes law: the formal process

The classic amendment tree.

Rahmbo on "Face the Nation"

Chief of Staff discusses passage of stimulus bill in Congress and Rush Limbaugh as the "Voice of the GOP":

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