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, 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?