Category Archives: Legislative Process

Boehner Will Always Need Democratic Votes to Govern

U.S. House of Representatives (Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. House of Representatives (Wikimedia Commons)

87 Republicans joined 198 Democrats to support legislation to end the government shutdown and prevent a default on the national debt. This was the key vote to ending the standoff. The Senate and President Barack Obama had been ready to support this legislation from the beginning. But Speaker of the House John Boehner was reluctant to bring a bill to the floor that would rely on Democratic votes to pass. Speaker Boehner has relied on Democratic votes before, but only on a few occasions and usually as a last resort to end some kind of legislative crisis like the recent shutdown. Much more could be accomplished in Congress – and we could stop governing by crisis – if Speaker Boehner was willing to work with Democrats to govern. Continue reading


UPDATED: Congress Can’t Even Agree on How Much We’re Spending Now

This is just weird. I was comparing the House and Senate versions of the spending bill that will fund transportation and housing programs for the 2014 fiscal year. As expected, the House wants to cut these programs far more deeply than the Senate. Less expected, the reports for these bills don’t even agree on how much we’re already spending this fiscal year.

Continue reading

The Farm Bill is All About Compromise…and That’s Why House Republicans Can’t Pass It

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)

House Republican leaders suffered an embarrassing defeat yesterday when the farm bill was rejected by a combination of Democrats and conservative Republicans. The House also failed to pass a farm bill last year, so this is not a new problem. It’s particularly embarrassing for House Republicans, since the Democratic Senate has been able to pass a bipartisan farm bill both this year and last year. In the Senate, leadership must get a 60% supermajority to overcome a filibuster, and a single obstinate Senator can make things difficult by denying the unanimous consent needed to conduct routine business. In the House, a simple majority is enough to pass legislation, and leadership largely controls the floor process through the Rules Committee. So why can’t the House pass a farm bill? Continue reading

Ideology vs. Constituent Service

600px-US-DeptOfHHS-LogoThe Nation is reporting that while Republican lawmakers publicly call for the repeal of Obamacare, they also support funding from the new law for projects in their district:

House Republicans and the Senate Republican Policy Committee have trashed the ACA’s Community Transformation grants as an Obamacare “slush fund.” In the letters seeking these grants, however, GOP lawmakers have heaped praise on their potential. [Senator John] Cornyn writes in his letter that the grant would help “improve the health and quality of life of area residents.” Congressman Aaron Schock, a Republican from Illinois, congratulated a local nonprofit for winning a Community Transformation grant, noting that the program will give “people the tools to live healthier and longer lives.”

This is probably an example of Congressional staff in DC offices and district offices working in different ways. Continue reading

Does the Budget Matter?

The President has released his budget for the 2014 fiscal year, and the House and Senate have passed their budgets as well. None of these will ever implement a dime of taxing or spending – the budget never has that authority. So do they matter at all, or is this all for show?

Continue reading

The Problem with Senate Confirmation (Spoiler Alert: It’s the Filibuster)

While confirmation is an important Constitutional power of the Senate to direct and oversee policymaking, the broken rules of the Senate have turned the confirmation process into the DMV. Nominees wait indefinitely for a decision on their confirmation, and respond to endless requests for information and documents in a process that depends on the whims of every individual Senator.

Continue reading

In Defense of Senate Confirmation

US Air Force Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms

US Air Force Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms (

The Senate has rightly been criticized for failing to confirm President Obama’s appointees for important positions throughout the government. Most of those nominees are uncontroversial, and leaving those positions unfilled makes federal agencies less effective. But the case of Lt. Gen. Susan Helms highlights the Senate’s important oversight role through the confirmation process.

Lt. Gen. Helms was the first military woman to travel into space, so it makes sense that President Obama nominated her to take over as Vice Commander of Air Force Space Command. However, the Washington Post reports that in February 2012, Helms granted clemency to an Air Force officer under her command who was convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow officer. Sexual assault is a major problem in the military, and one that many feel that the Defense Department is not doing enough to address.

Continue reading