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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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Souter's retirement

Justice Souter is rumored to be retiring in June, as reported by the New York Times. If Souter does retire, President Obama would have a chance to elect a judge to the Supreme Court early into his presidency. Although Justice Souter was nominated by a Republican (President Bush in 1990), he has voted as a liberal. This means that Obama is unlikely to drastically change the makeup of the Court with his nomination. The President is, however, looking largely at female candidates. Currently, pundits are speculating that Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, or Diana Pamela Wood could be nominated. There is also pressure on Obama to nominate a Hispanic to the Court. Regardless of who is chosen, the conformation hearing is likely to be tough.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Republicans Attack Specter for Bush Ties

We discussed this idea in class today, but I saw an article in Politico's "The Scorecard" about how the National Republican Senatorial Committee is trying to hurt Specter in the Democratic Primary because of his previous ties to George Bush. Here's the robocall:

Congress: To and From the Civil War

You want polarization? Here's some polarization. Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina beats Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.

Video and transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

The congressional oath of office dates from this era.

Background on the impeachment process.

There is an entire site on the Johnson impeachment.

Another impeachment:

Changing his game plan

With his recent party switch, Senator Specter has received more pressure from unions and other labor groups to change his stance on the Employee Free Choice Act. Specter's support for this bill could increase its popularity among moderate Democrats in the Senate and will most likely help his reelection prospects.

"You can’t win an election in Pennsylvania without labor"- Senator Specter

Politco Article

Specter ad from 2004

This could present problems in a Democratic primary, perhaps...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Even more on the senior Democratic Senator from PA...

Specter's switch is huge for the Senate and Democrats, but how it will effect the structure of the Senate is yet to be determined. Specter is in his fifth term now and is one of the more senior members of the Senate. Given that committee chairs are handed out based in large part on seniority, how does this affect committee assignments? Are Dems going to be booted off committees to make room for Specter? Will chairmanships shift mid session? In addition, Republican assignments will need to shift. However, GOP Senate rules make those changes more complicated.

Here are a few links to articles discussing the implications of this switch on the committee structure of the Senate that I found interesting/useful:

Washington Independent

Wall Street Journal

Talking Points Memo

Specter Defects, cont.

Very big political news this morning, indeed.

The move makes sense for a few reasons:

1) Specter could not have lost the primary and run as an independent, like Joe Lieberman. State law prohibits from doing so, as this The Hill article makes clear.


1) Will the Franken-Coleman court challenge become more acrimonious since his seating now means 60, and not just close to 60?

2) Can Specter win the Democratic primary? (Nate Silver asks why Democrats will settle for a "Lieberdem")

In addition, Sens. Snowe and Graham commented on Politico about the Republican Party attitudes towards moderates (as Snowe said, "You're with us or you're against us.")

Specter Defects


Congess and Flu

As we discussed yesterday, it did not take long for Congress to seize the issue. From Roll Call:

Congress rushed to respond Monday to the swine flu outbreak as the death toll south of the border mounted, the Obama administration urged Americans to avoid travel to Mexico, and fears of a worldwide pandemic grew. Lawmakers were taking another look at pandemic flu funding after the Senate sliced an $870 million item from the stimulus package in February, and committees announced flu hearings for Wednesday and Thursday. Democratic appropriators said they will try to include flu funding in the upcoming war supplemental, after Senate Republicans led by Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) blocked the money in February. Some lawmakers charged the funding was pork, and others — like Collins — deemed it an unnecessary expenditure for the economic recovery plan. Collins defended her role, with her spokesman Kevin Kelley saying in a statement Monday that she supports increasing funding for pandemic flu even though she helped nix it from the stimulus.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Courage and Congressional History

(Start at 3:00)

(Start at 8:00)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Reid splits from Pelosi

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken a softer stance than his House counterpart on so-called "truth commissions" to investigate Bush-era interrogation techniques. Pelosi called for investigations earlier, but now Reid is toning down his rhetoric. Looks like the Dems won't have a united front on the issue.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Congress, War, and Peace


National Security and Intelligence in the News:

Drug War

War Powers

Georgia the Country vs. Georgia the State

During our discussion on Monday, I believe it was said that while members of Congress may not be experts on all areas of foreign policy, they at least know some basics like the difference between Georgias. Unfortunately, that is not always the case as Senate candidate and now Senator Jeff Merkley showed when he thought a reporter's questions was about the state of Georgia and not the country the Russians had just invaded. Here is an ad that tried to use the situation against him:

Election Updates

Coleman has appealed the lower court's ruling that Franken won the election to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Franken has begun to hire a staff to run his future Senate office and his constituent service office in Minnesota. He said that it would allow him to "hit the ground running on Day 1," or Day 154 as the case may be.

Meanwhile in NY-20, Democrat Scott Murphy is ahead of Jim Tedisco by 273 votes with 1,800 absentee ballots to go. However, Murphy has gained from absentee ballots so far and most of the remaining ballots are from registered Democrats, so it looks like the Democrats will retain the Congressional seat here in what's normally a Republican-leaning district. In fact, even Republicans are worried, with one saying that Tedisco should strongly consider conceding. Though, in fairness, that Republican ran against him in the GOP primary.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Take-Home Final

CMC Government 101
United States Congress
Professor Pitney
20 April 2009

Take-Home Final

Answer question 1, and one of the other three.

1. Take any of JFK’s “profiles in courage.” How does this story illustrate differences between the Congress of its time and the Congress of today? Are there any important similarities?

2. Are the “two Congresses” converging? Are the two chambers converging? Explain, with reference to Baker, Davidson, Oleszek, and Lee, and other class materials.

3. See this article. In light of the history of congressional-presidential relations, do you agree or disagree? Answer with reference to Fisher and other class materials.

4. Consider this statement: “The usual textbook discussion of how a bill becomes a law no longer provides a complete understanding of the standard operating procedure of Congress.” Explain, with specific examples. Is this development good or bad for Congress?

  • Your answers should display a thorough and detailed understanding of the readings and discussions. Write carefully and concisely.
  • Exams should be typed, stapled, double-spaced, and between six and seven pages long (including both answers). I will not read past the seventh page.
  • Cite your sources. You may use either endnotes or parenthetical references to a reference list. In either case, put your documentation in a standard format (e.g., Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style). The endnotes or reference sheet will not count against the page limit.
    Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you.
  • Return exams to me no later than May 6, 2009. Papers will drop a gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a letter grade after that. (Since the deadline for senior grades is noon on May 8, two days’ lateness will mean a failing grade for graduating seniors.)

So How Does Your Senator Compare?

From The Hill. Full story here.

Who’s the easiest senator to work with across the aisle? Who’s the toughest? The Hill asked all 99 seated senators about their colleagues’ bipartisanship, and the following names — arranged by frequency, from top to bottom — were cited the most.


1. Edward Kennedy (Mass.)
2. Tom Carper (Del.)
3. Chris Dodd (Conn.)
4. (tied) Evan Bayh (Ind.)
4. (tied) Tom Harkin (Iowa)

1. Susan Collins (Maine)
2. Olympia Snowe (Maine)
3. Orrin Hatch (Utah)
4. (tied) Richard Lugar (Ind.)
4. (tied) John McCain (Ariz.)


1. Patrick Leahy (Vt.)
2. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)
3. Chris Dodd (Conn.)
4. Dick Durbin (Ill.)
5. John Kerry (Mass.)

1. Jim Bunning (Ky.)
2. David Vitter (La.)
3. Tom Coburn (Okla.)
4. Jim DeMint (S.C.)
5. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

...but do Americans care?

Relevant to our class discussion today, this WSJ article calls for action regarding Darfur from President Obama. As the article states, the questions is not whether the Sudanese know that Americans know about the genocide, it's whether we care enough to do anything substantial about it.

Walk Out

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prompted a walkout from his speech to a U.N. racism summit on Monday when he accused Israel of establishing a "cruel and repressive racist regime" over the Palestinians

Impressive Fundraising

ok maybe not. Senator Roland Burris raised $845 in the last quarter. Jim Bunning claimed that he had "lousy" fundraising but he raised $263,000. Politico has an interesting "FEC Scorecard" where they discuss the winners and losers in the last quarter of fundraising. However, I do not see any way that Roland Burris is not the ultimate loser.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Looking Ahead

How is fundraising looking for Freshman in Congress? This Hill article reports that Freshman Democrats have raised almost twice as much as Republicans since the beginning of 2009. Largely thanks to the DCCC's Frontline program, these more vulnerable representatives are beginning their reelection campaigns strongly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Go to Law School?

A couple of years ago, the legendary Christiana Dominguez reflected on the pros and cons of law school. Now, the New York Times reports:
The economic downturn is hitting the legal world hard. American Lawyer is calling it “the fire this time” and warning that big firms may be hurtling toward “a paradigm-shifting, blood-in-the-suites” future. The Law Shucks blog has a “layoff tracker,” and it is grim reading. Top firms are rapidly thinning their ranks, and several — including Heller Ehrman, a venerable 500-plus-lawyer firm founded in 1890 — have closed.

The writer recommends that law schools prepare students for fields other than the law. Amber Taylor (CMC `02, Harvard Law `05) takes exception to that advice:
Law graduates usually end up in those fields because they didn't like law. This probably means they shouldn't have gone to law school in the first place, not that an already "sometimes-aimless" law school curriculum should be diluted with more cheesy law and ____ classes to cater to people who really ought to be in J-school or an MPP program. These people ought to cross-enroll, or better yet transfer. The idea that law schools should teach more practical legal skills is in direct tension with the idea that they also ought to teach finance and reporting so graduates can use them in non-legal careers.

Coincidence? I Think Not

This article on Nancy Pelosi is fairly interesting, but I was particularly struck by the following piece of information:

"The reconciliation rules, set by agreement of both houses, would allow health care reform to get through the Senate with only a bare majority of 51 votes. But cap-and-trade will need 60 votes."

Sound familiar? It looks as though Congress took a page out of our stimulation manual but switched up health care and environment rules. Hopefully Obama won't go into hiding when it comes time to sign bills.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Congress and Interest Groups

Interest groups spend much more on lobbying activities than campaign contributions.

What is lobbying?

Frogs do it:

Congress Tweeting Twitterhea to Tweople

Although a phenomenon upon which I am not particularly sold, the simulation taught me a little more about the appeal of Twitter. We've talked about it before, but Congress is still seemingly obsessed.

We now understand why, how else would we know that Senator Kerry said: "Boom Shakka Lakka. Count it." at the end of the simulation?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Oh no, no, no, no, no"

Concerned resident aims to form armed militia to patrol Stockton

By David Siders
April 07, 2009
Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON - A retired truck driver and Vietnam War veteran said Monday that he is forming an armed militia - mostly men with rifles and armbands, four to a car - to patrol Stockton this summer, when at least 43 police officers are to be laid off.

Alan Pettet, 66, said he has recruited 18 men, most of whom are ex-military. He said the militia will train at a firing range and "activate" if the city lays off any officer, as it intends by July 1.

The likelihood of an armed militia materializing is uncertain - there are legal concerns, and posturing to influence City Hall is not uncommon - but for a neighborhood activist even to advance such a proposal was indicative of frustration about Stockton's awful budget forecast. The City Council is expected by July 1, the start of fiscal 2009-10, to order police layoffs and spending reductions citywide to balance a general fund budget that is otherwise expected to be $31million in deficit by June 2010.

Pettet, a midtown neighborhood activist who has a Desert Eagle pistol, said militiamen will detain suspected criminals and call police to arrest them. They will wear armbands and will patrol in a car marked by a magnetic sign, he said.

"It's going to be 'Stockton Armed Militia,'" Pettet said. "'SAM' for short."

Neither the Police Department nor the city administration was impressed.

"We are not at the point that we need to have armed militias patrolling Stockton," Vice Mayor Kathy Miller said.

Mayor Ann Johnston said, "Oh, no no no no, no no no. ... We don't want armed citizens out there who are not trained."

That it is illegal in most circumstances in California to carry a loaded firearm in one's car did not disturb Pettet.

"If you look under the Constitution, a militia can be formed," he said. "Watch and see. Who's going to stop us?"

Attorney and anti-blight activist Ron Stein, who is a friend of Pettet's and has been advising him, said the militia will conform to state law, perhaps by having members seek permits to carry concealed handguns.

"You've got to do what you've got to do," Stein said.

Pettet said the militia will bill the city $350 per hour for its services. City Attorney Ren Nosky said he knew of no legal basis requiring the city to pay such a bill.

Nosky had other reservations, too.

"I just don't know if that's in the best interest of these gentlemen, from a safety perspective," he said. "We have a concern about the level of training that these gentlemen have, if any, especially in light of the firearms that they say they're going to be carrying."

Police encourage people to report crimes and form Neighborhood Watch groups, said Officer Pete Smith, a department spokesman. To form a militia is "taking it to another level," he said.

"It's ill advised," he said.

Stockton's violent crime rate is among the highest in the state. Stein and Pettet are critical of a budget proposal by City Manager Gordon Palmer that would require laying off at least 43 of the city's 403 police officers.

"We've got to protect ourselves," Stein said. "We are in the wild, wild West when you take people who are supposed to protect us off the street."

The telephone number Pettet is using for the militia is that of midtown's Safe Neighborhood Action Group, a group formed in the 1990s.

"You've reached the Safe Neighborhood Action Group," a recording at that number said. "Helping to protect Stockton citizens from their mayor and City Council."

Contact reporter David Siders at (209) 943-8580 or dsiders@recordnet.com.

Quoted Verbatum

Here's a quotation from a CNN interview with Joe Biden posted in an article on cnn.com.

"... I think the biggest thing we're doing is, I'm operating in concert with the president," he said. "There are not -- there are -- look, everybody talks about how powerful Cheney was. His power weakened America, in my view."

Biden does not have the best relationship with the press, so given what we've talked about I thought it was interesting that the journalist made him sound sloppy.


A recent Onion article describes Congress's efforts to urge bipartisanship. While satirical (again, its from the Onion), the article is particularly funny in light of the simulation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Congress, Courts, and Interests

On March 21, Congress passed P.L. 109-3, which provided that either parent of Theresa Marie Schiavo would have standing to sue in federal court.

Congress had passed other bills for the relief of individuals. (Note, however, that P.L. 109-3 was technically a public law.)

Judicial nomination hearings can take dramatic turns:

And hearings can also involve discussion of legal principles:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Disturbingly Realistic

Just when you thought that the simulation was getting silly, it was actually at its most realistic.

From CQ Politics:
The Senate embarked Thursday on its annual budget “vote-a-rama,” an event many feel is deeply flawed but that neither party has found a way to avoid. The vote-a-rama is an hours-long series of roll call votes on dozens of amendments to the annual budget resolution — in this case, the fiscal 2010 blueprint (S Con Res 13) ...

To Senate newcomers the vote-a-rama often seems bizarre.

“As we went up to vote on this kind of preposterous comical bomb-throwing positioning amendments, a lot of the new freshmen at the time were thinking and
saying to each other, ‘You know, this is just too damn silly to vote on,’” Sheldon Whitehouse , D-R.I., said at the February hearing, recollecting his first vote-a-rama in 2007. “And so we at that time discussed the idea of actually changing the Senate voting tally so that your choices were ‘yay,’ ‘nay,’ or ‘too damn silly to vote on.’”

Whitehouse went so far as to write the idea down on paper at the time.

“We have it framed and hanging in my office in case anyone wants to see it,” said a chuckling Lamar Alexander , R-Tenn., first elected in 2002.

From AP:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., spent much of the day at her desk in the rear of the chamber, studiously trying to read each amendment before voting. Despite her earnestness, she couldn't keep up.

"I would like to change my vote," she said at one point, referring to an amendment on which she was a co-sponsor. "It was my intention to vote 'yes' and I voted 'no.'"

"If we had a vote on my amendment, I missed it," Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, said at another point. "Was there a vote?" Conrad said Bennett's amendment had passed unanimously, without a roll call vote.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Obama and Congress

Lyndon Johnson biographer and historian Robert Dallek has an interesting blog post on the Times discussing how President Johnson was able to pass legislation in Congress, and what challenges Obama faces.

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