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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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

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