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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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Defense budgeting-example of the Two Congresses in action

I thought this was a great example of how lawmakers can favor local representation rather than policy making that is in the best interests of the national agenda. When we talked about budgeting two weeks ago, we talked about how lawmakers will protect programs and industries that are important to their constituency. In this case, the Army's Chief of Staff publicly announced that they don't need more Abrams tanks, but Congressmen representing districts who have production plants for the Abrams tank continue to push for spending on the Abrams tank.
Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there's a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

"If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way," Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.
Sean Kennedy, director of research for the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, said Congress should listen when one of the military services says no to more equipment. 
"When an institution as risk averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them," Kennedy said.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Daily Show: Gun Control and Political Suicide

I think this Daily Show piece accompanies Profiles in Courage nicely.  Approx. 6 minutes long!

Armenian on the House Floor

Yesterday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) commemorated the Armenian Genocide by speaking Armenian on the House floor:

In English:
“My Armenian friends, here and around the world, today on the 98th anniversary of the [genocide day], I speak to you from the floor of the House of Representatives in the language of your grandparents and your great grandparents – the language they used to speak of their hopes, their dreams, their lives and their loves in the years before 1915.
“Throughout the Ottoman Empire, tens of thousands were to be killed outright.

“I speak to you in the language of the sons who watched their fathers' murdered.
“Women were raped by the thousands.
“I speak to you in the language of the girls begging the gendarmes for mercy.
“Families were force marched through desert heat as the Ottoman government sought to destroy a people.

“I speak you in the language of the children begging for a drop of water.
“By the time it was over in 1923, more than 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children were dead. It was the first genocide of the 20th Century.
“I speak to you in the language of the mothers who died with their babies in their arms.
“A nation was scattered around the world... To the Middle East, to Europe and to America.
“I speak to you in the language of the survivors who came to America for freedom and made a new life.
“For almost a century, Turkey has denied the genocide. In the face of overwhelming evidence – much of it from American diplomats and journalists – Ankara has denied that the genocide ever happened. They want the world to forget.
“I speak to you in the language of those who were lost. Their voices drift across the decades – begging us to remember.
“I am not a descendant of the fallen, but I speak to you in their beautiful language because on this day, we are all Armenian. And not just on this day. Whenever we speak out against mass murder, whenever we refuse to be cowed into silence, we are all Armenian.
“For many years I have sat with you and listened – to the stories of those who were lost in the genocide and those who survived.
“I speak to you in their language to thank you for sharing your history with me. And I speak to you from this place, this House, because Americans have always shown the courage to look horror in the eye and speak its name, and I look forward to the day when its leaders will do the same.
“And because I know that day will come. May it come soon, so the last of the survivors may hear its awesome sound.

“May God hear our voices.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I yield back.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

We'll be showing "Living for 32," a film about gun violence on college campuses. Food/discussion after. Here's the event:


Intelligence and Foreign Policy

Intelligence and Oversight: Hearings in the 1970s:

Comprehensive tax reform bill is the goal for Baucus, Camp and others of the 113th Congress

For Simulation members who served on the Finance Committee, Politico is reporting that Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) will work to reform the Tax Code before the end of the 113th Congress. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and others have expressed the same desire to pass a comprehensive tax reform bill before the end of the 113th Congress. I assume that what they come up with will likely resemble the Camp plan we were looking at in the simulation. I find it interesting how Senator Baucus freed himself up to pursue tax reform legislation by announcing he will not run for re-election. Senator Baucus will need support from Democrats in order to accomplish his goal, which may not be easy to achieve after his recent actions in the Senate.
“There will be a renewed effort on tax reform,” Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on Finance, said in an interview Tuesday. “I think Max will pour everything he has into it now and so will I.” 
But regardless of the new political freedom Baucus will enjoy, he still faces the challenge of convincing fellow Democrats to get behind the effort and to do so the Montanan may have to do some relationship mending. 
Baucus has recently broken with his party on key issues, including over the Democratic budget plan and a key gun control measure that President Barack Obama publicly pleaded with Democrats to support.

Monday, April 22, 2013

National Security and Foreign Policy

Surveys on national priorities

The often-overlooked legal consequences of a declaration of war...

A list

The War Powers Resolution

The Iraq War Resolution

President Obama's Libya letter

Senator Obama on War Powers:

President Obama on war powers:

Take-Home Final

Answer question 1, and one of the other two.

1. Take any of JFK’s “profiles in courage.” How might a critic disagree with the analysis? How does this story illustrate differences and similarities between the Congress of its time and the Congress of today?

2. Are the “two Congresses” converging? Are the two chambers converging? Explain, with reference to Davidson and Malecha books, as well as 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 and references to class materials (especially the Straus and Draper books). Why did this change occur? Is it 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 8. 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 10, two days’ lateness will mean a failing grade for graduating seniors.)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Can You Balance the Budget?

We used this in my AP Gov class. A little simplistic, but interesting nonetheless.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Call for Retro-Budget Process

Politico is reporting that over 80 House members have signed on to a letter urging Republican leadership to return to regular order for budgeting. The article also brings up some interesting points as to why regular order is such a difficult task. No word on whether this was caused by congressional umbrage that Pitney Gov 101 students are not even learning the traditional process of passing budgets these days.

More than 80 House Republicans have signed onto a letter aiming to increase the pressure on GOP leadership to follow the regular legislative process regarding the budget. 
Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) circulated the letter, which urges Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to pass the individual appropriations bills that fund the federal government instead of moving endless stopgap measures known as continuing resolutions.
Republicans tried to pass the appropriations bills — which all fund different agencies — last year, but it’s a tedious process which consumes a lot of time on the House floor. Plus, conservatives spend lots of time trying to craft amendments to cut additional spending, while some Democrats try to plus up federal programs. In order to avoid CRs, the House and Senate need to negotiate the spending bills, come to agreement, pass them through both chambers and send them to President Barack Obama. It’s how the legislative process was designed to work, but with deep divisions in both chambers, it’s a tall task.

Sticking to the regular legislative order is a continuing narrative of this Congress. When Boehner took the speakership in 2011, he was immediately sucked into backroom negotiations with Obama and most of them failed. He suffered some backlash from his colleagues, and in 2013, vowed to keep most negotiations in the open.

Congress and Economic Policy

I. The "Budget Process" (Stop laughing!)

II.  Authorization v. Appropriation, BA v. Outlay

III. Entitlements

IV. Taxes

V.  Debt Ceiling

Star Wars Filibuster from Parks and Rec

Just for some fun, Patton Oswalt guest stars on Parks and Recreation this week and improvises an 8 minute speech about Star Wars to attempt to filibuster a city council vote.   
"I literally have no more fluid in my mouth and I gotta do a Marco Rubio, can we please cut." 

Ruiz Fundraising

In class on Monday, we discussed how Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) is in a better position to raise money now that he is an incumbent.  By coincidence, a Gannett news story today makes the same point:

Rep. Raul Ruiz may be a political novice, but he’s raising campaign cash like a pro.
The Palm Desert Democrat raised more money than about 90 percent of House members in the first three months of the year, according to Federal Election Commission data released Tuesday.
The former emergency room doctor, who upset veteran GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack in November, was the third-highest fundraiser among California’s 53 House members this year, according to Gannett’s analysis of FEC data.
Ruiz raised $344,292 in the Jan. 1-March 31 quarter — the 36th-highest total among 430 House members who filed campaign-finance reports this year, according to the lawmakers’ latest federal campaign filings.
“He’s doing very well,” said Viveca Novak, spokeswoman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks money in politics.
“When somebody raises a lot of money like this, even if it’s a freshman, it’s going to be daunting for a potential challenger. You kind of wonder, ‘OK, where am I going to get my bucks?’ ”
 Jack Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College, said Ruiz needs to raise $1 million or more by November 2014 to defend his seat.
That’s not an exorbitant amount. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, House incumbents spent an average $1.7 million to defend their seats in 2012. More than $6 million was spent in the race between Ruiz and Bono Mack, making it the most expensive local race ever. About $2 million came from outside spending — much of it from national Democrat and Republican groups.
Ruiz also can’t expect that his supporters will turn out in large numbers in 2014, when there won’t be a presidential contest to spur high voter-participation levels, Pitney said.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lobbyists pay millions to honor Congress, executive branch

This is a cool (although dated) interactive article from the Sunlight Foundation showing some of the lobbyists who gave to charities on behalf of legislators, caucuses, officials.

Last year, four of the country’s biggest military contractors paid $100,000 or more to become top sponsors of a black tie charity gala that honored the influential former chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo.
In exchange for that gift, some of the company's top executives were placed at Skelton's table and all were given the chance to address the V.I.P. crowd that included many top military officials. The event benefited a charity for families of fallen soldiers.
This kind of lavish corporate spending on galas bestowing awards on executive or legislative officials is common practice in Washington, D.C., and unlike other forms of giving—such as donations from companies’ political action committees—it is unlimited. But the donations are supposed to be reported if they come from lobbyists or their clients.
In all, lobbying entities—including lobbying firms and their clients—reported spending $50.2 millionon so-called honorary and meetings fees over 2009 and 2010, according to a Sunlight Foundation analysis.
Today's reading about lobbying (especially about direct lobbying) reminded me of the recent Politico article about how parents of Newton victims have been meeting with Senators and Representatives. They combine their own outside-of-the beltway advocacy as citizens with advocacy from experienced lobbyists. This seems like one of the most beneficial and fair ways to use lobbying.

Here's some excerpts of the article:

When a lobbyist for families of Newtown shooting victims called the office of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to set up a meeting, the first response was a standard D.C. offer. They could get a meeting with her staff, and Collins would stop by, they were told.
The families’ answer: not good enough. According to their lobbyists, the families have a rule against staff-only meetings: They won’t do them. They insist on sitting down with the senators themselves. The families wound up getting more than 15 minutes with Collins...They don’t try to sound like wonks or pundits or operatives. They just tell their heart-breaking stories, weaving in a demand for action that is respectful but forceful. As a result, senators respond to them as bereaved parents, not advocates.

A group of experienced operators is guiding these families — to a degree that has irritated some pro-gun Republicans. An uber-strategist for the families is Ricki Seidman, a familiar face at the top levels of Democratic politics ever since she ran the Clinton-Gore campaign’s famous 1992 war room...Bennett’s Third Way connected the families with a lobbying firm, Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, that set up more than 25 Hill meetings this week alone....The lobbying for about 15 families is being coordinated by Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit started in Newtown by community members...The families’ growing Washington finesse showed when Pelley asked Nelba Márquez-Greene — whose 6-year-old daughter, Ana, was lost in the shooting — whether she wanted to ban assault weapons. “At first, that was where my heart was,” she said. “I have since learned that it’s a more complex issue. … We’re looking for real change and common-sense solutions, not things that just sound good.”

Interest Groups and Domestic Policy

Lawmakers, lobbyists, and campaign money:

Boehner and the bloodhounds (Malecha, p. 135):

The ad resembled a class 1984 ad for then-challenger Mitch McConnell:

The Reach of the Regulators

For more on what regulators can do:
  • Size of Holes in Swiss Cheese: 
    • "The price Swiss makers are able to get for their Swiss depends, in part, on the grade that Agriculture Department inspectors give it. And, for now at least, Grade A Swiss does not allow the smaller holes that large buyers crave
    • "The cheesemakers responded by pushing for smaller holes in their product last year. They asked the Agriculture Department, which sets the standards for grades, for more freedom on eye size. 'Swiss is the only major U.S. cheese variety in decline,' said a letter from the Wisconsin Cheese Makers. '. . . Eye size requirements for Swiss cheese are out of step with the demands of the consumer and the marketer/processor.' "
    • Full WaPo Article
  • Prunes:
    • Renaming to Dried Plums
      • "Cognizant that prunes have a bathroom reputation, the Prune Board embarked on an ambitious name-change program, banishing the word 'prune' from its labeling and replacing it with 'dried plum' -- a makeover that the Food and Drug Administration approved last year. The Prune Board then became the Dried Plum Board."
    • Size
      • "It's not a good thing to be an undersized prune: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is taking you out of the mix. At the request of prune growers and handlers, USDA regulators decided last month to continue a program that allows the industry to remove from the market 'the smallest, least desirable of the marketable size dried prunes' grown in California. The lucky recipients of the dwarf prunes will be livestock: The department decided growers could dispose of them by grinding them into animal feed."
    • Full WaPo Article

Presidential Budgets & Congress

A visualization of the difference between what presidents want and what they have received.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

Followup: Recess Appointments and Court-Stripping

On Wednesday, Neil mentioned a court case on recess appointments.  For more detail, see a recent CRS report:

Under the Appointments Clause, the President is empowered to nominate and appoint principal officers of the United States, but only with the advice and consent of the Senate. In addition to this general appointment authority, the Recess Appointments Clause permits the President to make temporary appointments, without Senate approval, during periods in which the Senate is not in session. On January 4, 2012, while the Senate was holding periodic “pro forma” sessions, President Obama invoked his recess appointment power and unilaterally appointed Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Terrence F. Flynn, Sharon Block, and Richard F. Griffin Jr. as Members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
The President’s recess appointments were ultimately challenged by parties affected by actions taken by the appointed officials, and on January 25, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) became the first court to evaluate the merits of the President’s appointments. In a broad decision entitled Noel Canning v. National Labor Relations Board, the court invalidated the appointment of all three NLRB Board Members. In reaching its decision, the D.C. Circuit concluded that under the Recess Appointments Clause, the President may only make recess appointments during a formal intersession recess (a recess between the end of one session of Congress and the start of another), and only to fill those vacancies that arose during the intersession recess in which the appointment was made.
Although the D.C. Circuit’s actual order in Noel Canning directly applies only to the NLRB’s authority to undertake the single action at issue in the case, the court’s interpretation of the President’s recess appointment authority could have a substantial impact on the future division of power between the President and Congress in the filling of vacancies. If affirmed by the Supreme Court, the likely effect of the reasoning adopted in Noel Canning would be a shift toward increased Senate control over the appointment of government officials and a decrease in the frequency of presidential recess appointments.
In class, we noted that Congress may try to curb judicial influence by "court-stripping" or "jurisdiction-stripping," that is, by passing laws taking certain issues out of the judiciary's hands.   The courts can, however, hold those laws to be unconstitutional.   A key recent example is Boumediene v. Bush (553 U.S. 723 (2008)).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why Coburn Matters

In The Christian Science Monitor, Gail Chaddock shrewdly analyzes the significance of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK):
For years, the dealmakers in the Senate had been the moderates whose swing votes could tip the outcome in a divided chamber. Over time, the centrists were defeated or, weary of the gridlock, resigned.
Coburn, the un-centrist, is reversing the pattern. What makes him an essential player on issues like debt limits, spending, entitlements, taxes, and even gun control is that his conservative credentials are unassailable. Cut a deal with a conservative as firmly fixed as Coburn, and other conservatives have cover to go along.
... Coburn also developed a staff with a capacity for investigation and oversight. Over time, Coburn Inc. became a clearinghouse for data on how government programs worked, or, as Coburn puts it, "methodically and relentlessly building the case for limited government." His profile took a turn from maverick extremist to statesman in 2005, when he challenged an earmark for the "bridge to nowhere." The $453 million project for two bridges in Alaska was backed by the former chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, who threatened to resign if Coburn won a floor vote to remove the funding. Coburn lost, 82 to 15, but the fight captured public attention. "Bridge to nowhere" became shorthand for a useless government project. Congress later rescinded the earmark.
Coburn stepped up his fight, threatening to force "thousands of votes" to eliminate pork projects. Through it all, he was winning converts. In 2011, the House banned earmarks, and the Senate suspended the practice.
But what has made Coburn a go-to lawmaker for Democrats is the possibility that he can rally conservatives to support a "grand bargain" on debt reduction – the great drama of the second Obama term. In 2011, Coburn stunned many colleagues by beginning an assault on what he called pork spending in the tax code, such as a $6 billion annual subsidy for ethanol blenders.

More on Pocket Vetoes

Beginning in 1929, several judicial decisions have attempted to clarify when an adjournment by Congress prevents the President from returning a veto. In recent decades, Presidents occasionally have claimed to have pocket vetoed a bill but then have returned the legislation to Congress. This practice, often called a “protective return veto,” is controversial.
President George H.W. Bush attempted to pocket veto two bills during intrasession recesses. Congress considered the two bills enacted into law because the President had not returned the legislation. ... President George W. Bush characterized his veto of H.R. 1585 as a pocket veto. Since the 110th Congress treated it as a regular veto, this report counts H.R. 1585 as a regular veto. Most recently, President Barack H.Obama characterized his October 8, 2010, veto of H.R. 3808 as a “pocket veto.”
Chad Pergram wrote at the time:
Congress may SEEM like it's out of session. But it's really not. The House adjourned last week until after the midterm elections. The Senate's truly not back in action until November 15. But every few days, a handful of senators meet in what's called a "pro forma" session. Senate Democrats carved a deal with Republicans to technically keep the Senate running in this fashion through next month. It's an effort to bar Mr. Obama from making recess appointments to the federal bench, his cabinet or to ambassadorships. If Congress is open for business, the president has to send such appointments to the Senate for "advice and consent." But the president can bypass the Senate if senators are adjourned for more than three days.
So the Senate is "here." The House is not. Thus, Congress isn't fully adjourned. So the president would have to just veto the foreclosure bill the old-fashioned way, right?
Apparently not. The White House contends it won't send any paperwork to Congress since it's out of session. And the president will just "pocket veto" the bill.
That's the problem.
The housing foreclosure bill is H.R. 3808. "H.R" doesn't stand for human resources or home run. It refers to the "House of Representatives." That means the bill in question originated in the House. Therefore, if the president uses a traditional veto on this measure, he would have to, as the Constitution says, "return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated."
If the bill started in the Senate, the White House would direct its veto message to that side of the Capitol.
But, House rules dictate that even when the House is out of session, it has provisions in which to always receive a "normal" veto from the president. The Clerk of the House is always available to receive such vetoes even if the House is not operating.
But then POTUS did a protective return veto:  
Presidential Memorandum--H.R. 3808
It is necessary to have further deliberations about the possible unintended impact of H.R. 3808, the "Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010," on consumer protections, including those for mortgages, before the bill can be finalized. Accordingly, I am withholding my approval of this bill. (The Pocket Veto Case, 279 U.S. 655 (1929)).
The authors of this bill no doubt had the best intentions in mind when trying to remove impediments to interstate commerce. My Administration will work with them and other leaders in Congress to explore the best ways to achieve this goal going forward.
To leave no doubt that the bill is being vetoed, in addition to withholding my signature, I am returning H.R. 3808 to the Clerk of the House of Representatives, along with this Memorandum of Disapproval.
October 8, 2010.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Captions Wanted! (Add as comments)

h/t Kristie

The Reg Map

h/t Isabel:

A map of the federal regulatory process:

Congress, the Executive, and the Courts

Newt Gingrich, Lessons Learned the Hard Way (1998):
We had not only failed to take into account the ability of the Senate to delay us and obstruct us, but we had much too cavalierly underrated the power of the President, even a President who had lost his legislative majority and was in a certain amount of trouble for other reasons. I am speaking of the power of the veto. Even if you pass something through both the House and the Senate, there is that presidential pen. How could we have forgotten that? For me especially it was inexcusable, because when I was Republican whip during the Bush Administration one of my duties had been precisely to help sustain presidential vetoes.
Rules and The Federal Register

The Congressional Review Act.

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.

NAIL:  Nominations, Appropriations, Investigations, Legislation

Investigations & Oversight

Tension between the Senate and the President?

Obama Pushes His Choice for Position on Appeals Court

The Obama Administration is pushing for the confirmation of a senior Justice Department lawyer to the country's most prestigious appellate court. Specifically, the President is trying to foster bipartisan effort to appoint Sri Srinivasan to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on his nomination today. This will likely lead to a confrontation between the President and the Senate over the long-simmering issue of judicial nominees. President Obama's push for the appointment of Srinivasan to the Court of Appeals puts Senate Republicans in a precarious position. They can either approve the highly regarded Mr. Srinivasan, or risk forcing a change to Senate rules that could prevent Republicans from filibustering nominees.

The Scale of the President's Budget

This link shows an awesome interactive graphics that breaks down Obama's 2014 budget and shows what he is spending money on and how much.

Click here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Two Congresses and Immigration

Politico has an interesting article about the two Congresses and the crafting of the immigration bill. In creating this national policy, individual senators are racing to include benefits for immigrants who tend to come to the lawmakers' little slices of America. For example, Chuck Shumer (D-NY) is trying to help Irish immigrants (NYC has a large Irish community) while Mark Kirk (R-IL) is attempting to ease restrictions on Polish immigrants (Chicago has a large Polish community).

Sen. Barbara Mikulski wants to help the Polish. Sen. Chuck Schumer wants to help the Irish. Sen. Marco Rubio wants to woo foreign workers to help after national emergencies. And Sen. Mazie Hirono wants to reunite Filipino World War II veterans with their families.

As negotiations over a sweeping immigration deal comes to a head, senators are rapidly moving to resolve a bevy of narrow and parochial issues raised by lawmakers nervous about the impact of the far-reaching plan.

Behind the scenes, the chief negotiators are trying to limit dissension both within the Capitol and off of the Hill, though they know the opposition could be intense given the scope of the measure.

Schumer, sources say, was successful in adding language aimed at helping Irish immigrants — many of whom live in New York City. The New York Democrat has long pushed to add Ireland to the E-3 visa program that is currently just available to Australians, meaning about 10,000 new visas would be given to the Irish under the Schumer effort. 

Similarly, Mikulski — who is not a member of the gang — urged the negotiators to include language similar to a bill she drafted with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to help Poland into the visa waiver program. The provision would allow travelers who want to visit family and do business while cutting down on the bureaucratic process. And it would be welcomed by the large Polish communities in Baltimore, Chicago and other American cities.

Politico: Obama tries to fill out NLRB

President Obama named three nominees to the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday in an effort to fill out the five-member, bipartisan board that has become the center of a dispute over recess appointments.

His new nominees include two Republicans, lawyers Harry I. Johnson, III and Philip A. Miscimarra, and he also renominated Democrat Mark Gaston Pearce, who is currently serving on the board.

“With these nominations there will be five nominees to the NLRB, both Republicans and Democrats, awaiting Senate confirmation," Obama said in a statement. "I urge the Senate to confirm them swiftly so that this bipartisan board can continue its important work on behalf of the American people.”

The board has been somewhat in legal limbo since a court ruled earlier this year that three recess appointments the president made to the board were unconsitutional because the Senate was not technically in recess when Obama made the appointments in January 2012.

In February, Obama renominated two of those appointees, Sharon Block, a former counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and Richard Griffin, former lawyer for the International Union of Operating Engineers. If all five are confirmed, the board would be composed of three Democrats and two Republicans.

The McConnell Recording

On February 2, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, opened up his 2014 reelection campaign headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and in front of several dozen supporters vowed to "point out" the weaknesses of any opponent fielded by the Democrats. "They want to fight? We're ready," he declared. McConnell was serious: Later that day, he was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader. During this strategy session—a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones—McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views.
Last month, Judd announced she wouldn't challenge McConnell, whose reelection campaign could become one of the most watched races of the 2014 cycle (if a serious Democratic opponent emerges). But at the February 2 meeting, McConnell and his team were fixated on Judd. McConnell told his aides that at the early stage of the campaign they had to clobber any potential challenger:
  • I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole?” (Laughter.) This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Line Item Vetos

Another variant on the Vana White veto: the Frankenstein veto, which allows governors to veto individual words.

In Wisconsin, Governor Jim Doyle used this to narrow 752 words down to 20. And in the process took $472 million out of the transportation budget. The New York Times does a great job of showing how to do it: New York Times Illustration of the Frankenstein Veto in Action.

In the simulation, we could have had so much fun using this...

Congress and the President I

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Max Baucus Alumni Association, Literally

The New York Times reports that one of our committee chairs has a very active alumni association:
Restaurant chains like McDonald’s want to keep their lucrative tax credit for hiring veterans. Altria, the tobacco giant, wants to cut the corporate tax rate. And Sapphire Energy, a small alternative energy company, is determined to protect a tax incentive it believes could turn algae into a popular motor fuel.

To make their case as Congress prepares to debate a rewrite of the nation’s tax code, this diverse set of businesses has at least one strategy in common: they have retained firms that employ lobbyists who are former aides to Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which will have a crucial role in shaping any legislation.

No other lawmaker on Capitol Hill has such a sizable constellation of former aides working as tax lobbyists, representing blue-chip clients that include telecommunications businesses, oil companies, retailers and financial firms, according to an analysis by LegiStorm, an online database that tracks Congressional staff members and lobbying. At least 28 aides who have worked for Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana, since he became the committee chairman in 2001 have lobbied on tax issues during the Obama administration — more than any other current member of Congress, according to the analysis of lobbying filings performed for The New York Times.

“K Street is literally littered with former Baucus staffers,” said Jade West, an executive at a wholesalers’ trade association that relies on a former finance panel aide, Mary Burke Baker. “It opens doors that allow you to make the case.”
Ms. West does not seem to understand what literally means.  If her statement were true, then K Street would look like this:

See Rob Lowe using the word:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

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