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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Another Ad Blunder

Mitch McConnell, who is facing steep competition in Kentucky, got some bad press recently for a split second mix-up in his most recent campaign ad. In a clip at the end of the the ad, there is a shot of basketball players celebrating a championship. The intended team was Kentucky's own University of Kentucky Wildcats but unfortunately the shot features two Duke players. His opponents have immediately jumped on the blunder.


President, Congress, Judiciary


A big gaffe

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 -- more after the simulation

Legislation:  Executive Branch Organization

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

House of Claremont

I will use a video camera to record much of the simulation.  Please add some Underwood-style asides.

You may either make up your own, or draw from Sun Tzu's The Art of War

Monday, March 24, 2014

Congress and the President

Article I and Article II
Executive orders
Signing Statements 
Statements of Administration Policy 
1— Strongly Support Passage
2— Support Passage
3— Do not Object to Passage
4— No Position on Passage
5— Oppose
6— Strongly Oppose
7— Secretary’s veto Threat (single and multiple agency)
8— Senior Advisor’s Veto Threat
9— Presidential Veto Threat
Presidential success scores
Presidential approval

Friday, March 21, 2014

First class flights for members of Congress

House Rep. Paul Gosar (R AZ) asked the Appropriations Committee to ban members of Congress from  using their congressional funds for first class plane tickets. The savings would be a drop in the bucket, but Gosar's request is a matter of principle… and politics. His office has written three press releases in the last two days praising his request.

Also, it looks like Congress will not permanently fix the Medicare doctor pay formula and will instead simply extend the doc fix.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Foreign Travel

Here is a follow-up to the question about foreign travel.

Kent Cooper writes at Roll Call:
Some members of Congress didn’t stick around Washington during the cold month of February, but they found better places to be on free trips to foreign lands.
The big free trips during February included eleven members on the trip to Israel sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation. Another fourteen went to Cartagena, Columbia, with expenses paid by the Aspen Institute, the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Other members went to Japan, Australia, and Belgium. The trip to Australia for one member and his spouse was worth almost $50,000.
Family members also traveled free. Seventeen members of Congress took spouses along. Two members took their children. Another took their mother-in-law, all without cost to them.
These foundations are all real.  But other foreign travel has sketchier funding sources, as Shane Goldmacher explained at National Journal in January:
he 2007 rules prevent a lobbyist for a corporate client from planning or paying for a lawmaker's trip. But the same rules allow such a trip if it's paid for by a foreign government. So while it does remain illegal for, say, a Google lobbyist to plan and accompany a lawmaker on a free trip abroad, if that same lobbyist does so on behalf of Turkey, it's perfectly legal. And if that lobbyist happens to have both corporate and foreign-government clients (as most do), they can still go abroad so long as it's a country and not a company footing the bill.
And that's only one of the loopholes the influence industry has exploited to help lawmakers score free travel. Today, a wide network of nonprofits—many with a clear agenda and some with excruciatingly tight ties to Washington's biggest lobbying operations—are putting together international congressional excursions. Some of these paper nonprofits have no staff or space of their own; they simply share with a sister organization that lobbies. Yet ethics officials in Congress have deemed them to be independent enough. In one instance, a lobbyist literally registered a new nonprofit—in his own office—that went on to pay for congressional travel abroad.
Big corporations bankroll some nonprofits, whose trips, in turn, can feature stops at the businesses of their corporate funders. As a bonus, the growing use of 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which occupy the same charitable rung of the tax code as soup kitchens and the American Red Cross, means that the wealthy and corporate donors underwriting congressional travel can do so in secret and get a tax write-off along the way.
Feel free to make up your own Frank Underwood-style epigram.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


In the fall, House passes one version, with public option.  The Senate, rather than use the House-passed health bill, instead uses an unrelated tax bill (HR 3590) as the shell for its version (See Sinclair, p. 211 for a discussion of the differences.)

Scott Brown's election prompts a different kind of procedure:  passing the Senate version, with agreed-upon changes in the reconciliation bill.

The final legislation.

House Leaders contemplate "Deem and Pass," then decide on a direct vote.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Stimulus and Health Care

HR 5140 in 2008

HR 1 (the Obama Stimulus)

Stimulus estimate chart from Obama transition team (with annnotations)


In the 2008 campaign, Senator Obama expressed reservations about a mandate. By mid-2009, he changed his mind.

Ross Douthat neatly explains the interest group universe:
The mandate offered the interest groups what all entrenched industries desire: a fresh and captive market for their products. For the insurance companies, it promised enough new business to offset the cost of covering Americans with pre-existing conditions. For the health care sector as a whole, it guaranteed that disposable income currently being spent on other goods and services would be spent on its instead.
This explains why the health care bill was ultimately backed by so many industry lobbying groups, from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America to the American Medical Association. It explains why the big insurers, while opposing the final legislation, never attacked it as vigorously as they did Bill Clinton’s ill-fated reform effort.
By 8/1, Energy & Commerce and HELP approve bills. CQ summary:
Two health care overhaul bills — HR 3200 and a draft Senate bill approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee — are similar. Both bills would require employers to provide health insurance to workers and individuals to enroll in an employer-based, private or government health care insurance plan or face penalties. But there are differences in the details.
Employer Insurance Mandate
HR 3200: The bill would require employers that do not offer coverage to pay a payroll tax equal to 8 percent of their payroll costs. Certain small businesses would be exempt.
Senate Committee Draft Bill: For employers that do not provide coverage, the bill would assess a fee of $750 per worker per year, or $375 for part-timers. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees would be exempt.
Individual Mandate
HR 3200: The legislation requires individuals, by 2013, to buy coverage or pay a fine of 2.5 percent of their income — but the fine would be capped at the cost of the average plan in their area. It offers a hardship exemption.
Senate Committee Draft Bill: The bill would make individuals pay a fee of $750 a year if they fail to obtain coverage. As with the House version, it exempts those who have not qualified for any affordable coverage.
Both versions would offer subsidies to those with an income below 400 percent of the poverty level (about $88,000 for a family of four and $43,000 for individuals) down to the eligibility threshold for Medicaid coverage. 
The political climate changes:
In the fall, House passes one version, with public option.  The Senate, rather than use the House-passed health bill, instead uses an unrelated tax bill (HR 3590) as the shell for its version.

Scott Brown's election prompts a different kind of procedure:  passing the Senate version, with agreed-upon changes in the reconciliation bill.

The final legislation.

Nourse and Schacter on bill drafting:
Staffers’ drafting choices seem to be driven not by issues of legal dexterity but by the demands of a competing set of virtues—what we  are calling “constitutive virtues.” The interpretive virtues are the  virtues, generally, of courts: precision in drafting, consciousness of interpretive rules, discovery of meaning in past precedent, and detached reflection on the language of particular texts. Constitutive virtues, by contrast, tend to prize the institutional values of legislatures: action and agreement, reconciling political interests, and addressing the pragmatic needs of those affected by legislation.
Over and over again, staffers explained their choices in terms of constitutive virtues—that deliberate ambiguity was necessary to “get the bill passed,” or that statutory language was drafted on the floor because a bill was “needed” by a particular senator, by the leadership, or by the public. Even staffers’ reliance on lobbyists was an attempt to understand how the bill would “affect” people in the world. It was not that the staffers did not know the rules or recognize the interpretive virtues; it was that those virtues frequently were trumped by competing virtues demanded by the institutional context of the legislature. In an ideal world, the staffers seemed to say, they would aspire to both clarity and agreement, but, if there were a choice to be made, the constitutive virtues would prevail.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Congressional Fiscal Policy: A Mystery in Six Parts

What follows would baffle a Martian.

Part 1: Authorization
Part 2: Appropriation
  • Budget Authority
  • Outlay
Part 3:  "The Budget Process" and The timetable:

Part 4:  Entitlements

Part 5:  Revenue Bills

Part 6:  The Debt Ceiling

Latest Version of Simulation Roles


Simulation veterans are in italics, below

President Barack Obama  Sam Stone
Vice President Joe Biden Claire Goodrich
Attorney General Eric Holder Jack Houghteling

Finance Committee


Ron Wyden (Oregon), chair  Julian Mackie
Harry Reid (Nevada), majority leader* Sean McKaveney
Debbie Stabenow (Michigan) Julian Buckner
Maria Cantwell (Washington) Josh Cohen
Bill Nelson (Florida) Zhenya Pereverzin
Robert Menendez (New Jersey) Denys Reyes
Mark Warner (Virginia) Katie Rodihan
Tom Carper (Delaware) Sara Linssen


Orrin Hatch (Utah), RMM Steve Gilbert
Pat Roberts (Kansas) Cameron Ridley
Michael Enzi (Wyoming) Gavin Landgraf
Rob Portman (Ohio) William Mitchell
Patrick Toomey (Pennsylvania) Morgan Beltz
John Cornyn (Texas) Nick Herzeca
John Thune (South Dakota) Ana Kakkar
Mike Crapo (Idaho), Christina Brandt/Laura Epstein

Judiciary Committee


Patrick Leahy (Vermont), chair Abby Michaelsen
Chuck Schumer (New York) Katie Trettenero
Dianne Feinstein (California) Jennifer Sitton
Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) Tracy Yao
Al Franken (Minnesota) Lindsey Davidson
Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) Hillary Lundberg
Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) Adrian Vallens
Dick Durbin (Illinois) Noah Jay


Chuck Grassley (Iowa), RMM Kate Ruston
Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), minority leader* Michelle Saipe
Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) Alexandra Cooke
Mike Lee (Utah) Kyle Gosselin
Ted Cruz (Texas) Maddie Davidson
Jeff Flake (Arizona) Frances Kyl
*Not actually on the committee:  added for simulation purposes.

But lots of good simulation roles remain!   We need Secretary of Treasury Lew.  And these Senate roles are available:

  • Jeff Sessions R-Alabama
  •  Sheldon Whitehouse D-Rhode Island
  •  Lindsey Graham R-South Carolina
  •  Christopher A. Coons D-Delaware
  • Ben Cardin D-Maryland 
  • Sherrod Brown D-Ohio 
  • Michael Bennet D-CO 
  • Robert Casey D-PA
  • Richard Burr R-NC  
  • Johnny Isakson R-GA

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The legislative process

LexisNexis Congressional has a great series that summarizes the legislative process. These are the ones I found most helpful:

Committee action, hearings, and markup:

Floor action:

Resolving differences between House & Senate versions: