ABOUT THIS BLOG

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, May 8, 2013

What Grownups Look Like

On Janury 12, 1991, House Speaker Tom Foley (D-WA) and Republican Leader Bob Michel (R-IL) spoke about the impending Gulf War.  Click for video of their remarks:



 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lyndon Johnson's Johnson

Robert Caro was recently on the Colbert Report...and ended up discussing President Johnson's Johnson... Click here to see the video of Caro's interview (it gets interesting at 5:07).

How we broke the Senate without breaking any rules

Ezra Klein wrote an interesting piece in The Washington Post highlighting the Senate's tendency to "run on norms rather than rules."

He cites Gregory Koger's new book "Filibustering," which explains "how and why obstruction has been institutionalized in the U.S. Senate over the last fifty years, and how this transformation affects politics and policymaking."

Klein explains, "We’ve broken so many norms in recent years that the Senate of today bears little resemblance to the Senate of 1983, much less the Senate of 1953. But because there was never a formal fight over a rule change, and because the changes came gradually, we didn’t notice. Now it’s too late. The norms that once protected the Senate are largely gone. And we haven’t erected new rules in their place."

killing filibuster

The Mighty Wurlitzer



After it was mentioned in class today – and with the discussion of unpublicized acts of courage  - I thought I would share some more information about Professor Elliott, Sr. This comes from Hugh Wilford’s very interesting biography of the CIA and its role in American culture, The Mighty Wurlitzer.

“Kissinger had been put in touch with the Office of Policy Coordination by Harvard professor William Y. Elliott. An all-American tackle at Vanderbilt, poet of the southern Fugitive school, and Roosevelt braintruster, Elliott had done his best academic work, on European political relations, in the 1920s, thereafter living off his reputation as the “grand seigneur” of Harvard’s Government Department and trusted counselor of six U.S. presidents. […] In addition to regularly advising Frank Wisner, Elliott helped the CIA by sitting on the board of the √©migr√© organization AMCOMLIB, overseeing student front groups, and steering promising Harvard graduates toward secret government service.

[…] It was Elliott who provided the future National Security Advisor and Secretary of State [Kissinger] with his principal power base at Harvard – and Launchpad for his rise to global celebrity – in the shape of the university’s International Summer School.”

Monday, May 6, 2013

“The Senate is actually going to vote for a bill.”

The title of this post is a quote from Senator Durban, joking today that C-Span watchers were going to see something "historic" and "precedent-setting" in the easy passage of a bipartisan bill to tax online retailers. According to this New York Times article, the Republicans were split on the Internet sales tax bill, also called the Marketplace Fairness Act, with antitax group against it and Republicans prioritizing "Main Street businesses" in favor of the bill's passage. Since bipartisan legislation is becoming rarer and rarer, as per our class discussion today, we should note such accomplishments when they occur. It will be interesting to see what happens to this bill in the House. I also thought it was notable given our simulation strategies that the New York Times reported: "Its sponsors intentionally kept the bill simple — just 11 pages in length — to ease passage."

From Ben Tillotson: Another Special Election Upset in MA?



Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate for Senate in MA, has been polling only slightly behind Ed Markey, the Democratic favorite. Gomez's rise in the polls has been surprising because until recently he has been an obscure political figure. There is a lot of speculation that this could be another Republican upset like Scott Brown's victory in 2010, but there's a couple why I think Markey will pull through:

-He's a much better candidate than Martha Coakley  
-Gomez is pro-life, Scott Brown said he was pro choice and the Warren campaign still was able to successfully attack him for being anti-women
-Gomez has never held public office before, and is running largely on his military record. This record is very impressive and commendable, but I'm not sure how successful this strategy will be in MA. 

- Ben Tillotson 

Congressional History, Through the Present

Congress and Progressive Reforms

16th Amendment


17th Amendment



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

Robert A. Taft on labor law reform (Plus ca changeplus c'est la meme chose) :




A
 timeline of campaign finance reform
A timeline of congressional reforms.

The sorting of America


Trends in Congressional Approval

Tax reform and debt cap hike packaged together?

Politico gives an account of recent rumblings in the House Ways and Means Committee about possible legislation that raises the debt ceiling while giving incentive to pass a tax reform bill. Here's how it will work...
Legislation would authorize something like a three-month bump in the debt limit while simultaneously giving the same amount of time for the House to act on its tax-reform plan. When the House passes something, the debt limit would get lifted again, and when the Senate moves its own tax-reform product, Congress would authorize another bump in the debt ceiling. A larger increase in the borrowing limit could come if President Barack Obama signs the legislation, according to a source familiar with the thinking of the Ways and Means Committee. The plan would most likely be accompanied by a road map that lays out certain guidelines for Tax Code rewrite.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"House of Cards," Circa 1592

Laurence Olivier plays the Frank Underwood of the Plantagenet Dynasty:


Congressional Sessions

As a followup to today's discussion, here is an explanation from the US Senate:
The first Monday in December! In more recent times, these five words conjure up images of members rushing to get away from Capitol Hill, heading to their home states or off to foreign lands. Immediately after World War II, to ensure that members would be long gone by December, Congress enacted legislation requiring both houses to adjourn no later than July 30 of each year.
Such concerns would surely have amazed the eighteenth-century framers of the U.S. Constitution. Tied to an agriculturally based economy, with its cycle of planting, growing and harvesting, these farmer-statesmen considered the dormant month of December as a particularly good time for members of Congress to begin, rather than end, their legislative sessions.
Accordingly, they provided in Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution that "The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by law appoint a different day" [for the upcoming session].
In September 1788, after the necessary three-quarters of the states ratified the Constitution, the existing Congress, under the Articles of Confederation, passed such a law, setting March 4, 1789, as the convening date of the First Congress.
March 4 thereby became the starting point for members’ terms of office, while future legislative sessions would begin in early December.
In its closing days, however, the First Congress provided that the Second Congress would convene several weeks early, on October 24, 1791.
Not until the Third Congress met on December 2, 1793, did a first session begin according to the Constitution’s "First Monday in December" timetable.
For the next 140 years, Congress generally followed this pattern, although presidents, facing national emergencies or other "extraordinary occasions," exercised their constitutional prerogative to "convene both Houses, or either of them," at other times.
Outgoing presidents routinely used this provision to issue proclamations that called the Senate into a brief session at the March 4 start of their successor’s term to confirm cabinet and other key executive nominations.
With the 1933 adoption of the Constitution’s 20th Amendment, setting January 3 as the annual meeting date, the first Monday in December became just another relic of the nation’s eighteenth-century agrarian society. 
From 1946 until 1990, when Congress repealed the “mandatory” July 30 adjournment as an unattainable goal, members found themselves still in session in December during 19 of those 44 years.

To and From The Civil War


The Compromise of 1850

Webster 1/26/1830:
 Let their last feeble and lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the Republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original luster, not a stripe erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured, bearing for its motto no such miserable interrogatory as, “What is all this worth?” nor those other words of delusion and folly, “Liberty first and Union afterward”; but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true American heart—Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!
Daniel Webster, 3/7/1850 (during the South Carolina secession crisis):
I wish to speak to-day, not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American, and a member of the Senate of the United States. It is fortunate that there is a Senate of the United States; a body not yet moved from its propriety, not lost to a just sense of its own dignity and its own high responsibilities, and a body to which the country looks, with confidence, for wise, moderate, patriotic, and healing counsels. 
Thomas Hart Benton and pistols in the Senate


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

Lincoln-Douglas debate (24:32)

Congress and the Civil War

The Lincoln movie and parliamentary procedure

The Lincoln movie, more generally...

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

Forecasting the 2014 Midterm Elections: "The Sixth Year Itch"

I thought RealClearPolitics did an interesting forecast of the 2014 midterm elections. They looked back at all of the sixth year midterm elections of two term presidents and identified a pattern. The pattern suggests that the Democrats will not take too big of a hit when 2014 rolls around. Take a look.


I’ve highlighted elections where the president’s party lost more than 10 percent of its caucus in the midterm. The pattern is this: Two-term presidents almost always get thumped in one midterm election, but they almost never get thumped twice. The one exception is the Republicans in 1870 and 1874, and that first loss was almost entirely due to the party’s unsustainable strength in the South.


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