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The Freedom Caucus Chronicles | Madisonville

Sen. Ted Cruz : This group of resolute men gathers to light a torch in the darkness. Standing sentry at the door are two American bald eagles, Freedom and Caucus, the tethered reminders of the liberty hobbled so casually, even callously, by the nearby Congress.  

Rep. Jim Jordan : Thank you, Sen. Cruz.  We’d like to get started. As usual, you remind us of the dramatic time we live in. We’re here to plan strategy for the leadership elections.  

Dear John Boehner: The Madisonville Papers

To: John Boehner  

From: Kevin McCarthy  

Madisonville Gazes Into Boehner's Papal Moment

Boehner: Welcome to Congress, Your Holiness. Your timing is immaculate, if you don’t mind me saying so. We sure need you around here. You can cool passions running pretty high lately.  

Francis: May the Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your house. But what difference can I make?  

House Panel Hones Skills on Genetically Modified Consumers | Madisonville

The more obscure House committee hearings can be like minor league baseball: a place to see raw talent refining its skills for a bigger stage. You just have to look past the wild pitches and base-running mistakes.  

House Agriculture has a Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee that includes Rodney Davis, R-Ill., and ranking member Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., on the roster. Davis, holding the gavel in the absence of the chairman, pounded it audibly at a hearing last week and spoke with one-day-I’ll-be-a-real-chairman deliberation. Schrader kept saying “this great country” as though he had been flubbing it in the past and was sent down for additional practice.  

Senate Panel Goes Back to (Dr.) Oz | Madisonville

You could tell Oz was a star because his entourage included somebody to knot his tie. Bright studio lights were stationed in the corners for the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance hearing Tuesday. Other witnesses knotted their own ties and mostly faded into the wings.  

McCaskill gave Oz a tongue-lashing, telling him to stop talking about the benefits of green coffee bean extract, garcinia cambogia and raspberry ketone — “The number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat!” — on his show. "Why don’t you tell people to take a walk instead of a pill?" McCaskill asked. She was on such a roll that you expected her to accuse Oz of being the inspiration for the 64-oz. soda. Poor Oz — “This is a huge problem for me.” — is finding his words showing up in the diet product ads.  

Health Subcommittee Diagnoses Country’s Mood | Madisonville

The June 11 hearing on 21st century cures raised the question of how to encourage investment in potential treatments or cures for all those sick people. The issue combines two things Americans are passionate about: Their health and getting rich. The hearing was accordingly filled to standing-room-only capacity.  Doctors are identifying problems so fast that they now can list about 7,500 conditions with no cure or treatment. The number ranged from 7,000 to 8,000 through the hearing, possibly because more were being identified as the event progressed. Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette got something caught in her throat during her statement, possibly running up the condition meter. She eventually cleared it, possibly signifying a solution. Only about 500 conditions can be treated.  

The British have a joke that five minutes after meeting an American, they’ve been told his entire medical history. With so many health problems plaguing so many Americans, the British are going to have to allocate more time.  

House Panel Searches for Intelligent Life | Madisonville

The committee initially stumbled over what to call its May 21 hearing. It started as Cosmology: The Search for Intelligent Life, possibly in expectation of a dire outcome in Tuesday’s primaries. But by Wednesday, the title — if not the ambition — was enlarged to Astrobiology and the Search for Life in the Universe.  

Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas welcomed a group of high schoolers, saying the hearing was to inspire today’s students to become tomorrow’s scientists. (Just perhaps not the vast majority of climate scientists, about whom Smith is unenthusiastic.)  

Wyden Channels 'Portlandia' at Senate Finance | Madisonville

So when Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, holds a hearing about the depleted Highway Trust Fund — the biggest single source of funding for the nation’s roads — you expect him to find language to do justice to the cause.  

“My bottom line is that you can’t have a big-league quality of life with little-league infrastructure,” Wyden said to open the hearing Tuesday.  

Too Much Regulation? There Oughta be a Law | Madisonville

Two Minnesotans were enough to account for a third of the congressional participation, and Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen hijacked a good chunk of time to promote the state’s medical device industry, described by some as “Minnesota’s medical alley.” That’s a fine echo of Silicon Valley if you can block out the image of used syringes littering a poorly lit street.  

Red Tape is something all political denominations can agree on.  The pejorative Red Tape is one cue about how to think about it.  Better Analysis is just as uncontroversial, as long as everybody overlooks the reality that Better Analysis is the kind that supports the already established view of one side or another. This being Congress, of course, the road to reduced Red Tape is paved by ... new Red Tape. Mandated by new laws. And executed by a new office of federal employees tasked with regulating the regulators, or at least keeping an eye on them. If you can fight fire with fire, the theory seems to be, you can fight regulation with regulation.  

Wyden Calls His Own Tune in Senate Finance | Madisonville

There’s no particular logic to where he chooses to do it. But once the listener gets in the spirit of it, it’s easy to forget the subject: In Tuesday’s case, it was the misery inflicted on Americans by tax preparers who are incompetent or crooked.  

“most of those paid tax return preparers don’t have to meet ANY standards, ANY standards for competence,” Wyden says. Except that the normal typeface doesn’t do justice to the difference between monotone Wyden and stressed Wyden.  

House Agriculture Discloses the Real News | Madisonville

The mainstream media are missing some big stories.  

Like “the black vultures problem that is plaguing the Southeast,” says Tennessee Republican Scott DesJarlais. The vultures are attacking livestock, often going for the eyes — but not always. “They also attack the backside of animals,” DesJarlais says. That detail prompts a quick mental check about April Fools’ Day. There’s no comfort in confirming that it was two days earlier.  

'Debt: The Sequel' Flops in House Financial Services | Madisonville

The Republican juggernaut slowed down from there.  Sequels, even debt sequels, rarely work as well as the original.  

Hensarling nevertheless reeled off the dangers, many of which are mighty familiar: an economic and political death spiral, street lights going out, ambulances not running, buildings going vacant and college graduates turning to subsistence farming. College graduates with the skills for subsistence farming seemed like an inviting campfire in the dystopia, but Hensarling didn’t mean it to be.  Not that the chairman was predicting any of this. He was just saying.  

A Hip Factory in Every Basement | Madisonville

The man on the long side of the room chewing his nails turns out to be Missouri Republican Sam Graves, the chairman who bit his way through a hearing on “The Rise of 3D Printing: Opportunities for Entrepreneurs” on March 12.  Washington visitors who wandered over to see their representatives in action may have hoped for a congressional version of "Shark Tank." The literal-minded spotted in that hearing title a chink in the mandatory view that entrepreneurs are the source of all ideas. If members of Congress have to identify the opportunities, it isn’t good news.  

3D printing is the technology that allows you to make an object by piling up layers of plastic, metal or some other material. Jewelry, phone cases, lenses, tools, bones, you name it – and the witnesses did – this technology can do it.  3D printing inspires phrases like paradigm-shifting and business-disrupting.  It’s the new Internet but with more potential for the elderly. Baby boomers could make their own hip replacements in the basement and carry them down to the hospital for installation.  

McHenry Reaches for the Stars, Settles for Football and NASCAR | Madisonville

When your second-grader’s class stages “Macbeth” at parents’ night, you’re torn between admiring the effort of the kids and worrying that the teacher is unhinged.  

Madisonville-Logo(185x185) So it was when Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, the North Carolina Republican, chaired a hearing called “The Growth of Financial Regulation and Its Impact on International Competitiveness.” Vanity prevailed over good judgment when the Oversight and Investigations unit of the House Financial Services Committee took this up Wednesday.  

'The Very Model of a Sensible Central Banker' | Madisonville

Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who chairs the committee, wants to know if Yellen would be a “sensible central banker.” One wished Yellen might be a Gilbert and Sullivan fan and give the hearing a rousing,  “I am the very model of a sensible central banker.” But, to paraphrase one of her predecessors, the Fed isn’t there to make wishes come true. Nor is it there necessarily to answer questions, despite members bringing everything under the sun from their constituents to the central banker.  

Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann had asked constituents what question they most wanted to put to the first woman to lead the Fed in its 100-year history, the steady hand who will back the central bank out of quantitative easing or the cool-headed leader who will manage financial crises for the next four years.  

House Judiciary's Easy Come, Easy Go Eavesdropping Hearing | Madisonville

The House Judiciary Committee has become even more captivating since it last made the Madisonville news , in the days after Thanksgiving.  Members got together Tuesday to consider changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, under which the Obama administration is gathering data on every American’s phone calls and emails with the help of a FISA court that doesn’t like to give "no" for an answer.  

At least some members got together for that purpose. Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen wasn’t one of them. He wanted to welcome a special group and the enthusiasm in his voice made the listener momentarily think the Rockettes might be in the room, or at least an a cappella group from Memphis, somebody to lighten the mood of the hearing. Cohen offered instead members of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.  

The Carper and Coburn Travel Agency | Madisonville

Some causes look so doomed that all you can do is sit back and admire the pointlessness. So it felt Tuesday, when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee looked for ways to make sure government employees aren't wasting money on travel and conferences. As anyone who’s ever packed a bag knows, the value of a trip or conference is only clear after it’s over.

Madisonville-Logo(185x185)Changing the wasteful-spending-on-travel-and-conferences culture in government is like changing an aircraft engine during the flight, said Chairman Thomas R. Carper of Delaware. Carper didn’t mean it that way, but that’s about as good an illustration of pointlessness as you’re likely to find.

The Coal War Chronicles | Madisonville

Finally. A war that Republicans think the Obama administration is waging effectively. Most Americans won’t have noticed the War on Coal, but the House Natural Resources Committee got together on Thursday to tut-tut about the president’s ruthless treatment of the enemy.

Madisonville-Logo(185x185)Tut-tut may overstate members’ engagement in this hearing.  Chairman Doc Hastings from Washington and ranking member Peter A. DeFazio from Oregon were about as excitable as two doctors delivering babies and treating horse-kickings in a rural medical practice, circa 1955. Hastings and DeFazio also happen to look like two country doctors, circa 1955. Doc Hastings is the sterner, round-faced one. Doc DeFazio is the younger, smiling one. Doc DeFazio also gives the impression that he’s disappearing beneath his collar.