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.

Search This Blog

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Congress and Willy Wonka

Chad Pergram offers a neat analogy:

Congratulations, members of the 2010 Congressional freshmen class. Like Charlie Bucket in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," you've all scored a golden ticket. You have special entrée to the United States Congress.

Now the question is, can you make it out of the Congressional chocolate factory unscathed?

Or will vanity, arrogance, greed, lust, sloth and general misbehavior prevail?

The halls of Congress are wonderful, much like Wonka's factory. Capitol Hill features its own alluring versions of chocolate rivers, lickable wallpaper and edible grass. The temptations are great. TV cameras and klieg lights offer the beacon of fame. K Street lobbyists command your attention. People want to donate to your campaign.

Like in the Willy Wonka tale, will you suffer the same fate as Augustus Gloop? Will you fail to heed warnings not to drink out of the Congressional chocolate river and be sucked into an oversized pipe in the Capitol Hill Fudge Room?

Or will you wind up like Violet Beuaregarde and morph into a roly-poly blueberry after trying a Congressional Three-Course-Dinner? Will you get rejected like Veruca Salt as a "bad egg" and dispatched down the House garbage chute? Or, will you turn out like Mike Teevee and be shrunk to a minuscule size when you try to appear on the still untested version of Congressional Wonkavision?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lettermarking and Phonemarking

Bans on earmarks mean less than you might think. For one thing, earmarks account for only a tiny sliver of federal spending. For another, there are ways around earmark bans. The New York Times reports on Senator (and former Representative) Mark Kirk (R-IL):

Mr. Kirk, for example, sent a letter to the Department of Education dated Sept. 10, 2009, asking it to release money “needed to support students and educational programs” in a local school district. The letter was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the group Citizens Against Government Waste, which shared it with The New York Times.

The district, Woodland School District 50, said it later received about $1.1 million in stimulus money.

In response to questions about the letter, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kirk defended the practice of reaching out to federal agencies to secure financing for constituents.

“Senator-elect Kirk became the first member of the Appropriations Committee to stop requesting earmarks and voted against the stimulus bill,” the spokeswoman, Susan Kuczka, said in a prepared statement. “He has and will continue to be an advocate for his Illinois constituents before administration agencies but will not request Congressional earmarks to be included in House or Senate legislation.”

Lettermarking, which takes place outside the Congressional appropriations process, is one of the many ways that legislators who support a ban on earmarks try to direct money back home.

In phonemarking, a lawmaker calls an agency to request financing for a project. More indirectly, members of Congress make use of what are known as soft earmarks, which involve making suggestions about where money should be directed, instead of explicitly instructing agencies to finance a project. Members also push for increases in financing of certain accounts in a federal agency’s budget and then forcefully request that the agency spend the money on the members’ pet project.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Last Vote

At Fox News, Chad Pergram has a nice vignette on the last vote of the season:

The bouquet of jet fuel is a powerful essence on Capitol Hill. As soon as members think there's a chance they can hit the exits for a long Congressional break, the jet fuel aroma permeates the Capitol. And lawmakers grow antsy.

The scent certainly wafted through the air Wednesday afternoon. But not so much because lawmakers were hell-bent on escaping Washington. Instead, it was to accommodate just one lawmaker flying in. Exclusively for this vote.

The 9-11 vote was crucial to her. And even more critical to many of the constituents she represents.

At 5:32 pm, Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) strolled into the chamber. Without removing his long trench coat, Austria voted aye. The tally board flipped to 205-60, the first time it moved in more than 40 minutes.

Austria crossed the chamber to the Republican side.

"You weren't the one we were waiting on," said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) to Austria.

Conaway was right.

And a moment later, in the back of the chamber appeared Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). Velazquez voted yes. The tally board advanced to 206-60. And Edwards closed the vote at 5:36 pm. One hour and 16 minutes after it began.

The House is currently comprised of 434 members with one vacancy. And 168 members didn't vote Wednesday, including Speaker-elect John Boehner (R-OH). But Velazquez wasn't about to be one of 168 MIA members. And especially not on this vote. Instead, Velazquez rushed back to Washington from her native Puerto Rico where the Congresswoman was caring for her 90-year-old mother, stricken with bleeding ulcers.

Velazquez landed at Dulles International Airport in the Washington suburbs around 4:20 pm. Right about the time the vote started. Fighting DC's notorious rush hour traffic, the New York Democrat then raced to the Capitol and entered the building wearing track pants, New Balance running shoes and no coat. Velazquez voted and then turned to leave, visibly shaken, her eyes moist from tears.

I caught Velazquez just before she headed back down the House steps and asked why it was so essential for her to come back.

"I was torn between two important things that I care about," said Velazquez, choking back tears. "My mother and the 9-11 responders."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Gift of Objection

The New York Times reports on the ailing Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR):

Mr. Wyden, who had expected to be absent this weekend, returned to the Capitol for important votes on Saturday. And in his first appearance on the floor, he thanked his colleagues from their warm gestures.

“Senators,” he said. “let me thank all of you for your many kindnesses over the last 48 hours. When news about your prostate is ricocheting around the blogosphere, all the calls and notes and even offers to object on my behalf have meant a lot.”

Offers to object? Yes, that is what he said.

In some workplaces, a concerned co-worker might send a note, or even bake a casserole. But in the Senate, where business is conducted by the unanimous consent of all members, and where any one senator can hold up a piece of legislation, nothing is more precious –- or better represents the singular authority of a United States Senator -– than the ability to stand up on the floor, and declare to the presiding officer, “Mr. President, I object.”

But a senator cannot object to floor proceedings or vote from a sickbed (unless of course, the sickbed has been wheeled onto the floor –- which actually has happened in the Senate). And because senators cannot vote for each other, the offer to stand up and object on Mr. Wyden’s behalf was as sure a message of comradeship as a senator could express.

This story won't seem odd to you after you've done the simulation.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Demon Sheep Redux!

Class may have ended, but thankfully the demon sheep ads haven't.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


At around the 5:15 mark for about 10 seconds... probably not what we're looking for, but a giant elmo

"Nobody wants to go out as a loser.”

Politico reported that House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey announced that he will not seek reelection this fall, serving as a blow to Democrats from an institutional perspective. Obey faced poor poll numbers in his district and admitted:
“I am ready to turn the page, and frankly, I think that my district is ready for someone new to make a fresh start."
Obey's staff insisted he planned to run late last night, and it appears that even Speaker Pelosi only found out this morning. Pelosi considers Obey a close ally, and his decision to leave compounds the loss she suffered after Murtha's death this winter. Murtha's death may have actually influenced Obey's decision as his leave“I have to ask myself how I want to spend the time I have left,” he said.
“All I do know is that there has to be more to life that explaining the ridiculous, accountability destroying rules of the Senate to confused, angry, and frustrated constituents."
Healthcare's passage and his frustration with Obama's troop escalation simultaneously spurred him away from politics. Sean Duffy, a leading Republican challenger for Obey's seat, responded to the news of Obey's departure, asking, “Is this a prank call?”

The End

Views of Congress


The Oil Spill and Lobbying

Expanding upon Kevin's post and returning to our earlier class discussions of lobbying, Politico ran an article looking at how the oil industry--in particular, BP--is reacting to the spill.

Because it knows that policy changes can impact business, BP's lobbyists are keeping lawmakers "up-to-date with the latest information" on the spill and urging that Congress doesn't do anything "hasty." Some watchdog groups speculate that the heavy lobbying is an effort by BP to limit its liability in the future.

In terms of its influence, Politico reported that BP spend almost $16M on lobbying last year and $3.5M on lobbying this year before the oil spill occurred.

Read more:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oil Spill Derails Progress on Energy Bill

The oil spill threatening the Gulf Coast is derailing movement on the Energy Bill.  The bill has been drafted to balance the interests of business and environmentalists, but the oil spill makes it a non-starter for many politicians.

The bill, co-authored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was already in trouble before the spill after Graham threatened to pull his sponsorship.

This is a good example of how exogenous events can have an effect on legislative action.  Senate Republicans had stated that they would only support an energy bill if it included an expansion for offshore oil drilling, but the Louisiana oil spill has stiffened anti-drilling sentiment.  Without drilling provisions, there is little hope that Democrats can get the 60-vote majority needed in the Senate. 

Practice Final Exam

I. Identifications. Answer 11 of the following 13 (4 points each). Write a short paragraph (not just a couple of words) explaining item’s meaning and significance.

  1. The Armed Ship Bill
  2. Executive agreements
  3. The Speech or Debate Clause
  4. Marginal income tax rates
  5. Grassroots consultants
  6. Queen-of-the-Hill Rule
  7. Subdelegation
  8. The “Decision of 1789”
  9. CTBT
  10. BCRA
  11. Sunshine laws
  12. Racial gerrymandering
  13. Backdoor spending

II Short answers. Answer 3 of the following 4 (6 points each). Each reply should take a brief paragraph.

  1. Explain the differences among the authorizing committees, the appropriations committees, and the budget committees.
  2. “It’s not enough just to lobby in Washington,” a DeLay staffer told Andres, “These members need air cover in the media.” Explain.
  3. Briefly describe three ways by which Congress oversees the bureaucracy.
  4. Briefly describe the three impeachment proceedings against U.S. presidents.

III. Essays Answer 2 of the following 3 (19 points each). Each answer should take about 2-3 large bluebook pages or 4-5 small bluebook pages.

  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 2010? Are there any important similarities?
  2. See this article: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/04/saving_the_republic_yes_we_can.html In light of what we have learned in this course, do you agree or disagree? Answer with reference to Fisher and other class materials.
  3. 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?

Bonus identifications (1 point each). Very briefly identify the following:

  • G. Harrold Carswell
  • Shirley Chisholm
  • Dante Calvo
  • James F. Clyburn
  • William S. Cohen

Monday, May 3, 2010

Congressional History: 20th and 21st centuries

Some artifacts of congressional history, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A glimpse at Robert A. Taft:

A timeline of campaign finance reform and Citizens United
A timeline of congressional reforms.

Polarization of House and Senate.
Polarization of leaders

Campaign Finance Post "Citizens United"

In his State of the Union, President Obama assailed the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizen's United v. FEC so much that he got a verbal response from Associate Justice Alito. Now, Obama, along with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), are pushing legislation that they believe would remedy some of the dangers to campaig finance restrictions posed by the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizen's United. Obama is arguing that the ruling will unleash the full potential of special interests to crowd out the American people in Washington, unless Congress acts quickly. Some Republicans have expressed interest in passing the legislation, though the Republican leadership opposes it.

Some aspects of the prososal include: full disclosure by corporation and unions of their political spending (including donations to other groups that then run ads); top corporate or union officials who approved the money for the ad may need to appear in the ad approving it; contractors that receive more than $50,000 and companies (and subsidiaries) with more than 20% of their stock controlled by foreign nationals would be forbidden from sending ads; companies that have not repaid all their TARP funding cannot sponsor ads.

This seems to be important for Democrats on policy and political grounds. Many of their supporters like the idea of transparent government. They also need some disclosure to protect them from intense blowback around healthcare and financial reform. Republicans tend to like disclosure, but not limits.

See the following links for more information: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/01/nation/la-na-obama-radio-20100502 ; http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-01/obama-urges-congress-to-enact-new-campaign-finance-regulations.html ; http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2010/05/obama-calls-for-support-of-campaign-finance-reform-bill-post-citizens-united-ruling.html

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What to Make of the Obama-Baker "Scandal"

The National Enquirer - a supermarket tabloid with a penchant for exaggerating reports and fabricating quotations - just "broke" a "story" alleging a sex scandal between President Obama and Vera Baker, a political fundraiser and former campaign aide. Full text with updates is here.

According to the piece,
While Baker has insisted in the past that "nothing happened" between them, reports reveal that top anti-Obama operatives are offering more than $1 million to witnesses to reveal what they know about the alleged hush-hush affair.
Surprise, surprise.

Is there any merit to this story? Even if it proves untrue, it could temporarily mar the President's "family man" image and waste time and resources on a possible investigation. Either way, the incident raises questions about the role of a tabloid publication in conducting actual reporting with political ramifications. The way I see it, the National Enquirer is nothing more than an inflammatory, outlandish blog -- except instead of emerging first on the web, its business model began with supermarket checkout lines.

Some blogs and online publications have broken real stories in the past, and many have gone viral quickly through mentions in the New York Times or Washington Post. But a simple Google search shows that the Vera Baker story has made little progress in either the mainstream media or the mainstream blogosophere.

Through repeated failures to report accurately, the National Enquirer has lost readers' confidence. Yet despite its incredibility, people like my mother will continue to read it as they load their groceries -- will this "news" affect the midterms?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy 20th Birthday, Michelle Kahn!!

And the Debate Begins

Updating my prior post on the financial bill, Republicans have announced this afternoon that they are now ready to being debate--after three attempts at preventing the bill from moving to the floor. Yesterday Republicans also offered an alternative proposal to the current bill.

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:

Charlie Crist (I-FL)

Charlie Crist will abandon the Republican Party and run as an Independent for the open Florida Senate seat.

He's done this partly because he's far more centrist than Republican primary voters, but also because he would've gotten wrecked. His opponent, Marco Rubio, has held a consistent 20+ point lead on Crist in polling and is the darling of the Tea Party.

Here's how some pollsters have the race:

Crist as an independent:

Charlie Crist (I) 29 (32)
Marco Rubio (R) 32 (27)
Kendrick Meek (D) 27 (31)

There are a few interesting things this brings up:

1. How will Crist raise money? The campaign committees will give him nothing. Other legislators will give him nothing.

2. Will Crist declare how he will caucus? We discussed this in class briefly on Monday. If he declared that he was going to caucus with Democrats, I could see the Democratic establishment urging Meek to drop out of the race to clear a path to Crist's victory. If he declared he would caucus with Republicans, it would eat into the Democratic vote he almost certainly needs to garner a plurality. If he declared he would caucus with the Senate majority, he'll almost certainly be caucusing with Dems.

3. Will it be Meek or Crist in 3rd place? If it comes close to the election and it's clear that one candidate just is not appealing to voters/won't come close to winning [something like Rubio 40, Crist 40, Meek 20], then the third candidate's voters will bolt to someone with a chance. If the third placer is Meek, and Meek is far back enough in the polls, Crist can win.

No matter what happens, Florida just became interesting. Meek just got a breath of life and if Crist announces he will caucus with Democrats - which is smart electorally since he's already lost Republican support - then Democrats have two bites at the apple in this one.

The RNC Gets Creative

The RNC's 2010 midterm message: voting for a Democrat is voting for Obama. And in case you didn't already know, the RNC isn't a big fan of the president. In the past few days, they have unleashed a few interesting strategies to try to convince voters to vote against Democrats.

GOP.com now redirects to Obama v. Constitution, an "edited" version of the constitution that they claim Obama's court nominees support -- complete with creepy background music.

And here's an ad the RNC released yesterday, mocking the president's "Main Street Tour" as the "Jobless Tour:"

Monday, April 26, 2010

Financial Bill on Hold

Earlier today Republicans voted in a block to prevent the financial oversight bill from reaching the floor for debate. Republicans argued that while they want to eventually pass financial reform, the Democrats were rushing too much. Efforts on financial regulation are expected to be important in the midterms as the economy is slowly--but visibly--beginning to recover, and could help Democrats keep seats in the election.

The New York Times provides a good overview of the events as well as the bill itself.

The article also showed various tactics that senators were using, which brought back memories of the simulation. Below are two examples:

"Sensing political momentum at a time of deep public anger at Wall Street, Democratic leaders said they would keep the regulatory bill on the floor — and delay the rest of their busy legislative agenda — to ratchet up the pressure on the Republicans"
"At the last minute, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, switched his vote to side with the Republicans — a strategic maneuver that would allow him to call a repeat vote, which is expected on Tuesday"

GOP looks to the Internet

As briefly mentioned today in class President Obama’s prospective 2012 Republican rivals are investing heavily in the Internet, looking to cut into what was an overwhelming advantage for Obama in 2008.

Link to the Politico Article Here

Congressional History I

(Start at 3:00)

(Start at 8:00)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Obama Speech for Armenian Remembrance Day

Obama never used the word "genocide" in his speech today remembering the "great catastrophe" that took place 95 years ago today in Turkey.

Politico Article Here...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Immigration Reform

Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona recently signed into law one of the strictest immigration policies to date. The bill will allow law enforcement to check alien status without any other criminal suspicion. The policy raises the question of racial profiling.

When asked what the police will use as criteria for suspicion of illegal immigration Brewer responded,
"I don't know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like."
The effect the bill may have on congress and the national agenda may be substantial. Some claim that the bill may change the national agenda to immigration policy and possibly take precedent over issues like the Climate Bill.

It seems immigration may be a much more prominent issue for upcoming congressional elections as well. McCain, who faces an upcoming primary against the far right conservative J.D. Hayworth, states he supports the bill.

It is certainly an election topic and the effect on the national agenda is yet to be seen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Financial Reform Hallelujah

With further negotiation and more acceptance of Republican ideals, as well as Republican's realization that opposing financial reform doesn't play well with Main Stret, it looks like financial reform is going to get passed.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) says there will be "substantial" Republican support and that close to 100 Senators will vote to begin debate on the bill. Bob Corker (R-TN) says there will be 70-80 votes for the bill.

Furthermore, the Ag committee put out a pretty strict derivatives bill that got a Republican vote [Chuck Grassley (R-IA)].

Foreign Policy and National Security

The Iraq War Resolution


Monday, April 19, 2010

So What Should Congress Do About Financial Reform?

At the beginning of class earlier today, we talked about what Congress's response would be to the S.E.C.’s civil lawsuit against Goldman Sachs. A very basic summary of the case: The S.E.C. claims that Goldman created and sold a mortgage investment that was secretly intended to fail. Roger Lowenstein, an op-ed contributor for The New York Times, outlined three policy objectives for Congress as it considers financial reform options:

1. "[Congress should] end the culture that 'financializes' every economic outcome, that turns every mortgage or bond issue into a lottery—often with second-and third-order securities that amount to wagers on wagers of numbing complexity."

2. "[Congress] should insist that all derivatives trade on exchanges and in standard contracts—not in customized, build-to-suit arrangements like the ones Goldman created...the financial bailout has demonstrated that big Wall Street banks fall firmly within Washington’s regulatory authority, and regulation confers implicit bailout protection. Protected entities should not be using (potentially) public capital to run non-productive gambling tables."

3. "...Congress should take up the question of whether parties with no stake in the underlying instrument should be allowed to buy or sell credit default swaps...tax policy could be changed to skew heavily against swaps contracts that are held for short-term periods."

Lowenstein points out that Wall Street used to be a place where money was raised "for industry: to finance steel mills and technology companies." But financial products like collateralized debt obligations (CDO), which are used by banks like Goldman Sachs and have raised billions of dollars in bonuses, have really "raised nothing for nobody" but these bankers. Lowenstein writes, "In essence, they (CDOs) were simply a side bet—like those in a casino—that allowed speculators to increase society’s mortgage wager without financing a single house."

Full text of the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/20/opinion/20lowenstein.html?hp


Take-Home Final for Graduating Seniors

Answer question 1, and one of the other two.

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 2010? Are there any important similarities?

2. See this article. In light of what we have learned in this course, do you agree or disagree? Answer with reference to Fisher and other class materials.

3. 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 5. 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 7, two days’ lateness will mean a failing grade.)


The Iraq War Resolution

Liu Confirmation - 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

No longer unique to Supreme Court nominations, the confirmation process for appeals court judges has become contentious on ideological grounds. President Obama nominated Goodwin Liu, a Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale Law School, to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. If confirmed, he would be the only Asian-American on a federal appeals court. When asked about him, Republicans affirm that he is knowledgeable, articulate, etc. However, they argue that he is ideologically unqualified. The Republican party may be trying to work up its base by getting a reaction to Obama appointees.

However, Democrats arguably did the same thing when in the minority. They filibustered many of Bush's appointees, until the Republicans threatened to use the "nuclear option" and the Gang of Fourteen agreed to confirm them in a compromise intended to avoid shutting down the Senate.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Budgets & Domestic Policy: The Tale of the Tape

Power Point slides

Our future:

Air Midterm

Relax. This “air midterm” does not count toward your grade; do not even turn it in. Instead, use it to appraise your own progress in the course. Try out this test, either in your head or on paper. If you flounder, then you should take more care with class sessions and assigned readings.

I. Identifications Write a short paragraph (not just a couple of words) explaining each item’s meaning and significance.

  • The Johnson Treatment
  • Senatorial courtesy
  • Quality candidates
  • Phonemarking
  • Ways and Means Committee
  • The legislative veto
  • CRS
  • Independent regulatory commissions
  • “Nuclear option”
  • Legislative Counsel
  • Grasstops lobbying

II Short answers. Each reply should take a brief paragraph.

  • Explain the differences among these terms: authorization, budget authority, and outlay.
  • How does the majority party control roll-call outcomes on the House floor?
  • How has party polarization affected lobbying?

III. Essays Each answer should take about 3-4 large bluebook pages or 4-5 small bluebook pages.

  • Explain the sources of the incumbency advantages in congressional elections. Compare and contrast the advantage in House and Senate elections. If the incumbency advantage is so strong, how did Democrats take control in 2006?
  • 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.

Bonus identifications (1 point each). Very briefly identify the following:

  • Ray LaHood
  • Francis LaBelle
  • Celinda Lake
  • Rita Lavelle
  • Robert LaFollette

They Call Me... Unmaverick

John McCain is giving up the maverick brand.

John McCain — who built his political persona and his 2008 presidential campaign around the claim that he’s a “maverick” — told Newsweek recently: “I never considered myself a maverick.”

Lindsey Graham sums it up:

When you’re running for president, you show the public at large that I’ll put the country ahead of the party. When you’re in a primary, you’ve got to prove to people you’re a good conservative. That’s the difference in the forms. John has a record of conservatism that’s being highlighted now because he’s in a Republican primary. When you’re running for president, you highlight that part of your record, and it shows you’re willing to govern the country as a whole.

In other maverick news, Sarah Palin just got snubbed by the Senate's most useful Republican. Palin is speaking at a Boston Tea Party, but she will not be joined by Scott Brown. Brown says he's got too much work. That or he doesn't want to be associated with that kind of person in that kind of state.

The Tax Man (Does Not) Cometh

Expanding upon our discussion of tax rates and that 47% of Americans do not pay taxes, the New York Times ran an article analyzing the numbers. It factors in tax credits, while also looking at the impact of other taxes, like corporate taxes and excise taxes.
"Even if the discussion is restricted to federal taxes (for which the statistics are better), a vast majority of households end up paying federal taxes. Congressional Budget Office data suggests that, at most, about 10 percent of all households pay no net federal taxes. The number 10 is obviously a lot smaller than 47."
(N.B. This is a post for Jacinth Sohi, not Abhi. She just hasn't figured out the website yet to be able to publish herself.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stupak won't seek reelection

Also in the news this morning...

Bart Stupak, the Representative from Michigan that led the fight against federal funds for abortion in the health care debate, will not run again in November. Stupak wants to "to spend more time with his family." Obama, Pelosi and Dingell asked him not to retire. Republicans are claiming he is retiring because he compromised his antiabortion principles and supported the health care bill... The next casualty from health reform. I am sure we will find the true reason in his memoires "Bart Stupak: I kind of tried, but we all knew I would lose anyway."

According to Real Clear Politics, the Tea Party Movement labeled him as Public Enemy Number 2 behind Harry Reid. He has never faced a tough challenger in previous races and there are no obvoius heirs to the throne of the Fightin' First.

Politico Article Here

RCP Article Here

Justice Stevens Retirement

In case you haven't seen it yet: Justice Stevens announced his retirement...not a surprise but the timing is a little surprising. . Stevens was widely expected to wait until after the high court's oral arguments concluded at the end of the month but instead will step down when the court's term ends in June or July.

Interesting point the article makes: "The president may have to tread more cautiously with this nomination than he did last summer, when he chose federal appeals court Judge Sotomayor for the court, because Republicans, with 41 votes in the Senate, now have the power to filibuster a controversial choice."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Peer Evals & Simulation Writeup

1. Peer evaluation: This Monday, April 5, please bring in a short memo in which you identify three or four members of this class who did a particularly good job. Give a couple of sentences to each person you name, explaining why she or he stood out. Give special attention to those who did their work behind the scenes. Please take some care with these memos. In addition to using them for evaluating the assignment, I save them so that I may quote them in letters of recommendation. Evaluations are anonymous: do not put your name on the sheet.

2 Writeup: In analyzing your role in the simulation, please cover these points:

  • How well did your positions and goals match those of your real-life counterpart?
  • What methods did you use? In the circumstance that you dealt with, would your counterpart have done the same?
  • What obstacles did you face?
  • What did you achieve?
  • How did the simulation both resemble and differ from the real world?
  • Overall, what did you learn?
You may attach or e-mail me relevant supporting materials, such as: memoranda, bill drafts, or strategy notes. Please be selective here: do not include everything, just the key items.

  • Essays should be typed, stapled, double-spaced, and between 5 and 6 pages long. I will not read past the 6th page.
  • Cite outside sources in standard format (e.g., Turabian).
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you.
  • Return essays to class on Wednesday, April 14. Your grade for the simulation will drop one gradepoint for one day's lateness, a full grade after that.

Third Night of Simulation on C-SPAN

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Second Night of Simulation on C-SPAN

Sim: Murkowski Op-Ed on Claremont Factor

I (Sen. Murkowski) wrote an op-ed on the Claremont Factor. I have copied it here for your reading pleasure:

Dear friends and distinguished colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that I have introduced an amendment to the Democrats' Big Funding Deal Act for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind that would deal directly with the severe problem of homeless students that the great State of Alaska faces. Unfortunately, our great state has one of the highest homeless populations in the nation, and many of those individuals are children already at high risk. These students need extra attention. They need an education, and they need a home.

That's why I proposed a bipartisan amendment with my distinguished Democratic colleague Patty Murray from the State of Washington. The opportunity to home-school children is a priority of mine and of the Republican caucus in general. But homeless children do not have homes. So instead of home-schooling, I proposed school-homing.

A school-home would allow homeless children to attend school in an environment in which they can be safe. A mix between a boarding school and a homeless shelter, a school-home is critical to alleviate the most severe problems facing the great State of Alaska's homeless population: a lack of a home, and a lack of education.

I urge my colleagues in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee to support this amendment in the mark-up hearings tomorrow night, and I urge my colleagues in the full Senate to keep this amendment to the Big Funding Deal as we move to floor debate. It is what is best for our children and what is best for our communities.

All my best,

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Senate Shuts Down over Reconciliation

Apparently Senate procedure requires unanimous consent for any hearings after 2pm. When Democrats won a vote to debate the HC reconciliation bill yesterday, Republicans responded by sending everyone home:

Congress and Interest Groups I

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

The best explanation of campaign fundraising in the history of film:

What is lobbying?

Frogs do it:

Two Explanations of How the Simulation Works

You have entered the Matrix.

In this alternate universe, the rules ... change.

Monday, March 22, 2010

H--- No!!!

Boehner says it all.

The Internet and the Health Care Bill

TechPresident's Micah Sifry has a post examining the role of the internet in the health care battle, comparing the circumstances of the 93-94 health care battle to the 09-10 battle.

Sifry writes that the internet opened up the legislative process (bills posted online) and that this allowed more debate and discussion to take place.

I'll buy that transparency and debate are good for democracy and bill making, but did the internet drag out the process? Make it more difficult? Are those both good things in the end? Could Congress have done a better job of leveraging the internet to have managed the health care debate more effectively?

Congress, Courts, and Interest Groups

Blue slips

Miss the debate?

Between the Rules Committee hearing on Saturday and the floor session yesterday, I spent an unhealthly amount of time watching C-SPAN this weekend. Alas, I wasn't able to focus on all 11 hours to debate. In case you missed some (or all) of the proceedings, The Huffington Post put together a 10 minute video of the highlights:

Some of my favorite parts were the procedural maneuvers not shown in the video, like the line of GOP reps taking turns asking for "unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in opposition to this flawed health care bill," and David Dreier's exchanges with Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter during debate on the rule. Also, check out Pelosi making her way into the Capitol with the gavel used to pass Medicare in 1965, while a crowd of Tea Partiers chant "Kill the Bill!":

And Obama's remarks on the passage:

"This is what change looks like."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Health Care, Dennis Kucinich, and President Obama's "Power to Persuade."

Before Spring Break we talked about Congress and the president. Davidson and Oleszek write, "To persuade members to support their programs, presidents often grant or withhold their patronage resources." (307)

NY Times columnist Timothy Egan wrote an article in today's paper about House Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and the end of his opposition to health care reform. When President Obama accompanied Representative Kucinich on Air Force One to his district in Ohio for a rally, he used the Presidential "Power to Persuade" to get Kucinich's vote. The plane ride helped:

"Until the last minute, it looked like even an executive sky ride would not move the pure heart of Dennis Kucinich. When you’ve seen a U.F.O., as Kucinich says he has, a mere lobbying session at 32,000 feet by the Leader of the Free World, urging you to join your party in a cause that has eluded Democratic presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, is a tough match. But let’s give him credit — he swallowed his pride and switched. Obama may not yet have the defining legislation of his presidency on his desk, but he’s already pulled off a small miracle: getting the holier-than-thou purists of his party to realize that they have to govern every now and then."

Full text of the article can be found here: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/the-purists/?hp

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Listen up, especially those of you on HELP:

The Second Weirdest Ad of the Season

From the people who brought you "Demon Sheep,"

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