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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Monday, February 29, 2016

Power of the Purse I

Constitutional Provisions

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.”
— U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 7, clause 1

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
-- U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 8, clause 12

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”
— U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 9, clause 7

What follows would baffle a Martian.

Part 1: Authorization
Part 2: Appropriation
Part 3:  "The Budget Process" and key documents:

Part 4:  Entitlements

Part 5:  Revenue Bills

Part 6:  The Debt Ceiling

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Chronic Budget Crisis

While reading on the federal budget, I found myself getting a bit frustrated thinking about how current leaders and their political squabbles are ruining this country. Our generation really needs to ask itself, "How long before we can turn our deficit into a surplus, how long will we be able to manage a surplus that can pay down what is approaching $20 trillion in debt, and is that even possible in our lifetime?"

Here is a site that looks at causes and consequences of today's debt.
Many think tanks and many economists have thrown their hat in the ring trying to answer these questions. Any solution includes some combination either raising taxes or cutting spending. With the imminent increase in retirees from the baby-boomer generation, no doubt many are growing nervous (if they are not already) that mandatory spending is going to suffocate our economy in the long-term. Some look to rising income and wealth inequality and suggest that if economic elite start to pay their "fair share in taxes," then we can push the problem off. Some take an approach acknowledging both sides of that discussion: we need to take a serious look at entitlement reform and simultaneously increase taxes on the wealthy and close the senseless loopholes that make our tax code look like swiss cheese.
The following summary findings come from an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report that I thought was relevant to our class readings, as it addresses deficit and debt problem and includes an application of the politicized budget process we are studying.
The principal findings are:
  • Our genuinely pressing spending problem is a decline in spending on public investments relative to our needs, which can reduce future economic growth and contribute to growing inequality.
  • The nation is considerably richer today than it was 50 years ago, and it is expected that significant growth in income and wealth will continue for the foreseeable future. There is nothing about current spending commitments that are “unaffordable” relative to the projected income generation of coming decades. Instead, these spending commitments are only “unaffordable” given current political choices about how much revenue to raise.
  • At the same time that income and wealth have been growing, the distribution of income and wealth has become more unequal—the richest 1 percent receives a growing share of income and owns a growing share of wealth. This is a challenge for distributing the fruits of economic growth, and could also pose a political barrier to raising sufficient revenue for future spending needs.
  • There are several ways to increase tax revenues needed for public investment and strengthening the social insurance system by both broadening the federal tax base and raising tax rates. Examples include reducing the gap in tax rates between labor and capital incomes, limiting the value of tax expenditures, closing loopholes in the corporate income tax code, or even introducing new revenue sources like a wealth tax or a value-added tax. To be clear, not all of these solutions are equally desirable, but the scope for revenue increases is much larger than recognized in conventional budget debates.



Donald J. Trump is doing a great public service by providing examples of errors that would be fatal on a job application.  When you review your papers for this class, be on the lookout for such egregious mistakes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Process II

I'm Just a Bill

The regular process:

An update from Don Wolfensberger:
To Speaker Paul Ryan’s credit, during the first four months of his speakership, of the 19 special rules reported by the Rules committee only two (11 percent) have been closed to amendments, compared to 50 percent of the 80 rules reported prior to that in the 114th Congress. Moreover, of those same 19 bills, only one (5 percent) was unreported, compared to 25 of the 80 bills (31 percent) given rules prior to that. Clearly, at the outset of the Ryan speakership, at least, a conscious effort was being made to restore a regular order that is both more fair and open.
On the Senate side...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Paul Ryan talks Congress on The Kelly File

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan went on Megyn Kelly's show this week discussing legislative gridlock and arguing that nothing's going to get done until one party (he's speaking for the GOP, obviously) controls both Congress and the Presidency. Includes some nice sass from Kelly -- "Thank you, Schoolhouse Rock..." -- after Ryan explains how a bill becomes a law. He also says the Reps plan to release a priorities agenda to sway voters leading into the election so they can get a mandate going forward. Last, Kelly and Ryan talk about the possibility of a brokered convention. Had to look up what that meant since they don't really discuss it -- from RCP:
... [S]uccessful nominees have arrived at the convention with the delegate votes needed or close to needed for a first ballot nomination.
If that doesn’t happen in 2016, the convention itself must choose the nominee, as it did from the 1830s to the 1950s. Earlier contested conventions were "brokered," a sanitized term for describing the hard-nosed horse-trading carried on by the party bosses. Sometimes, these contests went on for several days and dozens of ballots, and the battles were often bruising.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sim Roles 2016

Judiciary Committee

Possible issues:  constitutional amendments (including campaign finance reform), immigration, civil rights, Supreme Court nominations.

Grassley, Chuck (IA), Chair: Zachariah Oquenda
Sessions, Jeff (AL): Shannon Miller
Graham, Lindsey (SC): Kevin Wu
McConnell, Mitch (KY), Majority Leader: Henry Head
Lee, Mike (UT): Sophie Mann
Cruz, Ted (TX); Nicky Blumm

Leahy, Patrick J. (VT), Ranking Member; Ellie Eaton
Feinstein, Dianne (CA): Jack Blattner
Schumer, Charles (NY), Minority Leader: Catherine Teebay
Klobuchar, Amy (MN): John Seylar
Franken, Al (MN): Jackman Wilson

Foreign Relations Committee

Possible issues: Afghanistan, China, Iran, Russia, Syria

Corker, Bob (TN), Chairman: David Plumlee
Flake, Jeff (AZ): Johann Lim
Gardner, Cory (CO): Ash Ashburn
Isakson, Johnny (GA): Kathryn Chakmak
Paul, Rand (KY): Hannah Hummelberg
Barrasso, John (WY): Adam Soll

Cardin, Benjamin L. (MD), Ranking Member: Maryl Evans
Menendez, Robert (NJ): Alex Duran
Shaheen, Jeanne (NH) OPEN
Udall, Tom (NM): Robyn Meister
Kaine, Tim (VA): Christine Wilkes

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Congressional Elections IV: The Big Picture

Bill numbers.  REMEMBER THAT BILL NUMBERS START AFRESH WITH EACH NEW CONGRESS.  H.R. 1234 is the 112th Congress is not the same as H.R> 1234 in the 113th Congress.

Why relatively little on TV?  Consider districts and DMAs

Other elements of campaigning

Party Strategy:  Back to the Four Postures (years indicate status going into election)

                                                Majority                      Minority

            Pres Party                   GOP in 06                   GOP in 08
                                               Dems in 10                  Dems in 12, 14, 16
            Out Party                    GOP in 12, 14             GOP in 10
                                               Dems in 08                  Dems in 06

All politics is national:

All politics is local:  incumbent protection

Monday, February 15, 2016

Congressional Elections III: Strategy and Tactics

Finishing Campaign Finance

The basic tool of campaign messaging:  the grid:

Incumbent positive ad: all politics is local

Crossroads GPS sought to nationalize the election:

As Democrats did in 2006:


Opposition research:

Wonderful positive ad, but it was not enough:

Gee, where do you think Politico got this information....

  • The most Machiavellian ad of 2012 -- a GOP Super PAC is plagiarizing it
  • The second most Machiavellian ad of 2012
  • Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    Congressional Elections II

  • "Hard money" contribution limits

  • Outside spending

  • Data

  • Lee Drutman reported in 2014:
    A new report from Daniel Tokaji and Renata Strause at The Ohio State University’s Election Law @ Moritz is out today, and it provides an excellent overview. “The New Soft Money: Outside Spending in Congressional Elections” is based on interviews with former members, campaign operatives and other staffers. It’s quite wide ranging, and worth reading in full.

    Legally, campaigns and independent groups like super PACs are prohibited from coordinating. After all, that’s what makes them “independent groups.” But as this report reveals, there is a delicate dance to coordination. And operatives have figured the moves.

    The primary move in the coordination two-step involves changing partners. As one operative said: “It’s all operatives moving
 back and forth between the parties
 and the groups and the campaigns 
– and it’s mostly people who can
 finish each other’s sentences.”
    Here’s former Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., calling the idea of independence “nonsense”:
    So this whole idea well, oh, they don’t coordinate, therefore it’s really independent is just nonsense. If you look at who makes up these organizations, on all sides, they’re loaded with political operatives. They know the way these campaigns are run, modern campaigns. They can see for themselves what’s up on the air. They can see the polling, a lot of it’s public. Some of it’s, you know not public but pretty much the same thing as what’s public. So they don’t need to talk to anybody in the campaign in order to know what to do.
    And here’s an anonymous campaign operative, saying more or less the same thing: “At the end of the day, it’s all just kind of a fiction – it’s just kind of a farce, the whole campaign finance non-coordination thing.”

    Sometimes the dance involves an outside group leading, and a candidate following. That is, candidates look to see what outside groups might be around and willing to step in, and then try to appeal to those outside groups. Here’s former Rep. Joe Walsh, D-Ill., explaining how the potential of outside groups stepping in shaped his campaign strategy:
    I think early on that summer you begin to hear of or learn of other outside groups or individuals or interests who may have an interest in helping. And, you know, again, ... it’s my downfall ... [I] can’t tell a lie. You factor that into how you’re going to run your campaign. You don’t for sure know that this big wealthy guy’s coming in but you’ve heard he is. You don’t exactly know how much he’s going to spend, but you look at what you have to do, what Duckworth’s going to do. And so a campaign factors it into your over – all game plan.
    Operatives also described the “b-roll” trick that Jon Stewart recently called attention to with his “McConnelling” segment. As Tokaji and Strause explain, “The most common signaling tactic we heard about in our interviews was the quiet release of 'b-roll,' high-resolution photographs, and targeted talking points, either available through a hidden link on the campaign’s website or through some other microsite or YouTube account.”

    Herrnson, p. 84:

    Why relatively little on TV?  Consider districts and DMAs

    Thursday, February 4, 2016

    NH Senate

    Thanks to Hannah:

    Maggie Hassan is the Democratic governor of New Hampshire, running for the Senate against incumbent Kelly Ayotte.  What is she doing with this Instagram post?  To whom is she appealing?

    Wednesday, February 3, 2016

    "McCarthy Hearings"

     I was watching a few Late Show with Stephen Colbert reruns and came across a video that was relevant to Monday's lesson on Kevin McCarthy and his withdrawal for speaker of the house. The relevant segment begins at 5:00 and I think you guys will enjoy watching it! (if you haven't seen it before or even if u have)

    Leadership II: Parties, Committees, Factions, Caucuses

    Gingrich and Camscam

    The current committee structure

    Senate committee assignment process

    House committee assignment process


    Congressional Mitosis

    Party campaign committees:

    Republican... RNC NRCC NRSC 
    Democratic.. DNC DCCC* DSCC*

    *Chair appointed by party leader

    Paying your dues ... literally  (No formal dues for Senate committees)

    Monday, February 1, 2016

    Leadership I

    Followup to the writing lecture

    Hill leadership
    Again, the Four Strategic Postures Since 2000 (House, by election year)

                                                    Majority                      Minority

                Pres Party                    Dem 08                      GOP 06
                                                    GOP 00, 02, 04           Dem 10,12,14
                Out Party                    GOP 10,12,14             GOP 08
                                                    Dem 06                       Dem 00, 02, 04

    Note:  even majorities of the president's party may split with the administration agenda.  See Democrats on trade in 1993 and 2014.

    Edmund Burke:
     In all bodies, those who will lead, must also, in a considerable degree, follow. They must conform their propositions to the taste, talent, and disposition, of those whom they wish to conduct: therefore, if an assembly is viciously or feebly composed in a very great part of it, nothing but such a supreme degree of virtue as very rarely appears in the world, and for that reason cannot enter into calculation, will prevent the men of talent disseminated through it from becoming only the expert instruments of absurd projects!
    Speakership Elections

    LBJ in Frank Underwood's office

    LBJ and Charlie Halleck

    The moment that made Newt

    Gingrich on the difference between majority and minority:
    In short, overnight I found myself in a job far bigger than most people, even Washingtonians, understand to this day. The Speaker is the third-ranking constitutional officer. That in itself might seem weighty enough. In addition, the day-to-day job requires him not only to preside over, but to attempt to lead, 435 strong-willed, competitive, and independent-minded people. (Some wag has likened this to an attempt to herd cats.) After all, if these people had not in the first place been heavily endowed with all three of these characteristics—will, competitiveness, and independence of mind—they would never have been able to get through the process of winning a primary, followed by a general election, followed by the requirement that they represent 600,000 of their fellow Americans in the nation's capital. So if they sometimes made difficulties for one another, and for me, that was one of the great strengths of the system.
    All of this added up to the fact that, politically experienced as I was, everything seemed a little unfamiliar to me. I hadn't shifted from my old job to my new job fast enough. I hadn't shaken off some of the habits I had acquired being the minority whip. I'll give you an example. As the minority party, we were in the position of having to fight every day just to get some media attention. We tended to say and do things that were far more strident and dramatic than are prudent to do and say as the leaders of the majority who find themselves in front of the microphone every day. If you are seldom covered by the press, which was the case with House Republicans for forty years, you have a lot of leeway to make mistakes. But when you are in people's living rooms every evening, your mistakes are magnified.

    Blog Archive