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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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Power of the Purse (Or, You're Screwed)

In case you were worrying:
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:  Mandatory Spending and Entitlements

Part 5:  Revenue Bills

Part 6:  The Debt Ceiling

Revenues -- Where the money comes from:

The tax system is more progressive than most people realize:  see graphs starting on page 31.

Tax expenditures

Outlays -- Where the money goes:

Outlays by function and superfunction

"Waste, fraud and abuse"  is an old gimmick

No, we cannot balance the budget by catching Social Security fraud: only 13 people aged 112 or older are getting checks.

Last Essay

Pick one:

1.  Choose an issue on which there could be a constitutional conflict between Congress and President Trump.  Examples include:  assertions of executive privilege, allegations of misconduct, the power of the purse,  executive agreements, and war powers -- among others.  Drawing on Trump's statements and activities, explain what he might do create a conflict.  What specific constitutional questions would arise?  In light of the upcoming composition of Congress, what would be the likely outcome?

2.  Propose a specific reform of the congressional budget process or the War Powers Resolution.  What is the problem that you are trying to solve?  How would the reform address it?  What are the chances for the enactment of such a reform?

3.  You are sitting in a secure undisclosed location with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.  "I hear you took a course on Congress," says Pelosi.  "If you're so smart and learned so much, tell us what we should do now," says Schumer.  Lay out a 2017 strategy for congressional Democrats.  In your answer, take careful account of the opportunities and limits of the minority party in each chamber.  Compare and contrast the current state of play with other situations in which the minority party has just undergone a shellacking by the party of an incoming president.
  • Essays should be typed, double-spaced, and no more than four pages long. I will not read past the fourth page. 
  • In addition to outside research, your essay should draw on class discussions and readings.
  • Cite your sources with endnotes in standard Turabian format. 
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. Return essays (as Word documents, not pdfs) to the Sakai dropbox by 11:59 PM, Friday, December 9. Papers will drop one gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a full letter grade after that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tom Cotton added to SecDef Shortlist.....

Apparently Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) joined the SecDef shortlist yesterday. He actively served in the army from 2005 to 2010, and in the reserves from 2010-2013. As those in the simulation's Armed Services Committee can attest, his rhetoric is aggressive and he often votes against Rep. legislation because it is not harsh enough (ie: sim. Cotton voted against the bill to keep GITMO open but DID add an amendment to build more beds so the detainees can "rot in hell," something REAL Cotton said in a hearing [here]). Overall, not thrilled with his potential to make sound choices for our country's security. 

Washington Post: Key figures purged from Trump transition team

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What Can Congress Do Now? Investigations and Filibusters

Legislation:  Executive Branch Organization and Laws on Reporting 

  • The Constitution
  • Gerald R. Ford: "An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history."
  • House role
  • Senate role
Executive privilege and Fast and Furious


Friday, November 11, 2016

Look at me go!!!

Apparently yours truly is in the running for Secretary of Defense. See here

Don't worry Trump, omw back to support ya! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Congressional Elections IV

Turnout apparently fell.  Dante Chinni and Aaron Zitner write at The Wall Street Journal:
In Detroit, Hillary Clinton’s winning margin was 90,000 votes smaller than President Barack Obama’s in 2012. In Flint, Mich., where a water crises drew visits by both presidential candidates, the Democratic 2012 winning margin of 57,000 votes was cut by two-thirds.
Turnout was down Tuesday, preliminary estimates show, but not uniformly. In urban areas that drive the Democratic tally in much of the industrial Midwest, there were signs African-American enthusiasm for Mr. Obama didn’t fully transfer to Mrs. Clinton.
In some of the smaller communities that powered Republican Donald Trump to victory, meanwhile, turnout appeared to rise. The number of votes cast statewide rose in Pennsylvania and Florida—formerly Democratic states that Mr. Trump won—as well as in Michigan, where he was maintaining a lead.

But nationwide, fewer voters went to the polls. Mr. Trump appeared to have won the election, in fact, with fewer votes than GOP nominee Mitt Romney drew in his losing 2012 race. Mr. Trump in preliminary totals had about 59.6 million votes, 1.6 million shy of his party’s total in the last election.
Paul Herrnson (p. 268): "Once an election is over, candidates and their campaign staffs have a chance to reflect.  Their main concern, naturally, is what caused the election to turn out as it did."
Two Parties, Four Postures (a look back from September 8)

Four Strategic Postures Since 2000 (House, by election year)

                                                Majority                      Minority

            Pres Party                    Dems 08                      GOP 06
                                                GOP 00, 02, 04           Dem 10,12,14
                                                GOP 16

            Out Party                    GOP 10,12,14             GOP 08
                                                Dem 06                       Dem 00, 02,04
                                                                                   Dem 16

The next midterm:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Congressional Elections III

In the unlikely event of a deadlocked electoral college:

The House selects the president and the GOP has an edge.


Hamilton's actual words:
Mr. Jefferson, though too revolutionary in his notions, is yet a lover of liberty and will be desirous of something like orderly Government – Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself – thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement – and will be content with nothing short of permanent power [struck: and] in his own hands – No compact, that he should make with any [struck: other] passion in his [struck: own] breast except [struck: his] Ambition, could be relied upon by himself – How then should we be able to rely upon any agreement with him?  Mr. Jefferson, I suspect will not dare much Mr. Burr will [inserted in margin: dare every thing in the sanguine hope of effecting every thing –]
Campaign Finance

The incumbency advantage


Monday, November 7, 2016

Comey and the Hatch Act

Another really interesting election-related article. The Hatch Act was enacted in 1939 to prevent federal employees for using their positions to interfere with or affect the result of elections. After Comey's "October Surprise," some are accusing him of violating the Act. However, punishment largely depends on proving intent/purpose, which is difficult. 

The whole article is here

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"The Art Of The Vote: Who Designs The Ballots We Cast?"

An article on NPR discusses the designing of ballots (with a nod towards the butterfly ballot we discussed Thursday) including the potential for federal standards. See the whole thing here.

FiveThirtyEight Race-by-race analysis


Really interesting article that categorizes the Senate races based on the likelihood of a Democratic win. It also examines how Clinton's coattails have shrunk over time.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Interested in making calls for Hillary?

Hello class!

If anyone is interested in making a few calls for Hillary this Sunday afternoon, I will be calling a GOTV list from Ohio. Text me/email me/message me if you want to be a part of this historic campaign--it's your last chance! If not, feel free to ignore this.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

When did established dues for incumbents officially start? Specifically, why did it start and who had the idea? Is it a written rule or an unwritten rule?

Todd Young the Obscure

The Republican nominee for Indiana's Senate race this year, Todd Young, seems to be dodging the spotlight in order to let the criticism of Evan Bayh pile up. 45% of Indiana, according to a Monmouth University poll, has no opinion of him.


Congressional Elections II

At The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein and Janie Boschma offer important data:

The strategic grid:

  • "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

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