As House members finalize their senior leadership and committee posts, money is playing a decisive role in who occupies and retains the chambers seats of power.
The next two years may be when Joe gets his last, best chance to help run the show.
Q. I worked on the campaign of someone who has just been elected to the House of Representatives for the first time, and I expect to work for him in the House as well beginning in January. I recently met with some experienced staffers to learn the ins-and-outs of working on the Hill. One thing they filled me in on is how strict the gift limitations are, but what really stuck out was that the permissibility of a gift supposedly can depend somehow on the language of the tag or card that comes with it. I had trouble wrapping my head around this. Is this really true?
Lame-duck sessions of Congress are those that occur after an election and before the new Congress. The lame ducks, of course, are those members who will not be returning in the next Congress due to retirement, defeat or running for other office. Oh, they still get paid and are still expected to vote (and most do). But, they have less incentive to show up regularly or vote the party line. That throws an element of uncertainty into lame-duck sessions and is why leaders would prefer to avoid them altogether. Nowadays, however, they are all but impossible to avoid given an appropriations process infected by an unchained malady looping in an unfinished symphony.
The notion that Congress is like college usually gets highlighted a few times each year: When members are rushing to meet several legislative deadlines before a lengthy recess, they tend to act very much like students at the end of the semester pulling all-nighters to cram for exams and churn out papers assigned months ago.
Congratulations, all you members-elect. Now, about your freshman years: What is it you expect might actually get accomplished with the help of your Yes votes, or despite your presence in the No column?
After the probability of a Republican takeover of the Senate (for the first time in eight years) and the possibility that more than six governors will be defeated (for the first time in 30 years) comes the other big subplot of the midterm elections: Will Republicans win more than 56 percent of House districts for only the second time since World War II?
This midterms price tag will hit $3.7 billion, according to the latest projection from the Center for Responsive Politics, with outside groups and billionaires playing a larger role than ever while small contributors dwindle in number.
Twenty days out, and the sum of all the polling, computer modeling and intangibles says that both Senate storylines are still possible. The headline defining the midterm elections could end up being written by a few thousand people scattered west of the Mississippi and east of the Rockies voters who may not decide until the afternoon of Nov. 4 whether to head to the local library or school cafeteria to cast the decisive ballots.
An interesting debate is swirling around next Tuesdays midterm elections for Congress. It involves the extent to which the sources, amounts and uses of campaign contributions will affect not only the outcomes of various hotly contested races but the makeup, policy agenda and processes of the next Congress.
With the midterm elections one week away, K Street lobbyists are taking their powers of persuasion to the campaign trail. Their target audience: voters.
The Senate candidate warned that voters voices are being drowned out by third-party special interest groups with unlimited spending capability, and called on his opponent to help him bar big outside spenders from the race.
Charles and David Koch are best known for their big political spending, but public records show the billionaire industrialists have also invested close to $10 million on lobbying Congress this year, targeting such issues as carbon taxes, renewable fuel standards, greenhouse gas restrictions and campaign financing.
Is the Federal Election Commission a dysfunctional agency deaf to voters fed up with loophole-riddled campaign finance rules? Or is it a newly revived organization making unprecedented moves to invite a wide-ranging public debate over its regulations?
My previous column left some readers in a state of suspended agitation because I praised the revival of the Members Day congressional reform hearing in the Rules Committee (after a 12 year hiatus), but failed to discuss any of the specific proposals recommended. Hopefully this account will douse the ire, though it doesnt begin to cover all the proposals submitted by the 28 members who offered testimony.
Q. I heard that Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., may face ethics discipline because he assisted companies in which he owned stock. I know that Members are not supposed to use their position for their own personal gain, but I didnt realize that meant they are disqualified from taking action on behalf of any companies in which they might own stock. Is that really the rule?
Kimberley Fritts may not be the Podesta Groups typical public persona. That role most often belongs to Democratic donor and firm founder Tony Podesta.
Never discuss politics or religion in polite company is one of those rules to live by that family elders have been passing on for generations.
Capitol Hill staffers might be learning a new issue area in the upcoming Congress: preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings dont show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats.
Think being a congressional staffer can lead to bigger and better things? What about public office? Youre in good company: 75 of the current House and Senate members previously served as congressional staff, according to CQ Roll Call Member Information and Research. Hill Navigator discusses what aspects of the job may serve you well.
A few weeks ago, I noticed a piece in Time headlined The Best 6 Political Campaign Ads of the Summer (So Far).
The caucus of the most conservative senators has chosen a new leader. Its not either of the Republicans who will probably come to mind first but he may well be the man whos going to push the Senate hardest to the right over the long term.
As Bob McDonnells lawyers gear up to appeal the former Virginia Governors conviction on 11 counts of bribery, conspiracy and extortion, federal prosecutors, legal experts and elected officials around the country are all watching closely.
Contrary to what seemed certain as the week began, American military boots will soon be on the ground to combat a societal scourge on the other side of the world. And virtually no one in Congress sounds opposed to the idea.
Q. As an aide to a Member of the House, I have a question about the rule requiring the separation of campaign work from official House activities. In our office, we are generally careful about keeping these separate. But, one problem we run into time and again is that people outside the House are not at all familiar with the distinction. For example, we frequently receive calls or emails about the Members upcoming campaign at our Members House office. We dont want to run afoul of the rules. But, we dont want to ignore folks either. What can we do?
She went out to grill some beef, and now hes going out to help some nuns.
Thomas H. Boggs Jr. had the clout of an oracle, the air of a senator and a joie de vivre that gleefully declared his familys Louisiana roots.
Ten months after his fellow Democrats went nuclear in the Senate on his behalf, President Barack Obama is done putting his stamp on the federal judiciary at least for the year, but maybe forever if Republicans take control of the place.
In his Sept. 10 address to the nation, President Barack Obama asserted he already had authority to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant but would welcome congressional action to underscore the U.S. commitment. Leaders of both parties in Congress, while supportive of the presidents aims, visibly balked at holding a direct vote to authorize military action, at least before the midterm elections. It was a rare profile in bipartisanship if not courage.
Its nothing more than another Senate floor sideshow this week, a stage-managed debate in slow motion where the ultimate outcome is such a decisive and foreordained defeat that almost no one is paying attention.
Newly minted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., began his first day on the job promising committee process, regular order and civility a good start and tall order.
The emotional debate over free speech versus free political spending, which erupted onto the Senate floor this week, exposes a deep rift on Capitol Hill and at the nations leading civil rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union.
The 113th Congress may well become the least productive Congress in modern history based on the number of bills signed into law. That is the measure many observers use to assess the institutions productivity. But it does not provide the most complete or accurate picture.
Richard M. Nixons fate was effectively sealed 40 years ago today. Its a curious coincidence at the start of an August recess when the extraordinarily serious matter of presidential impeachment is going to be tossed around in such a cavalier and cynical manner.
Eric Cantors slow fade toward the exits of the House majority leaders office is one day from its official completion. But as a practical matter hes been almost invisible for several weeks.
Conventional wisdom holds that if Republicans take the Senate, generational turnover and term limits will combine to produce a balky and potentially amateurish legislative process next year.
Few things Congress does come in for more ridicule than its penchant for naming post offices. While the exercise soaks up some floor time and keeps the clerks busy, it alters public policy not one bit. Instead, each new honorific provides lawmakers with nothing beyond a sliver of feel-good accomplishment.
This week notwithstanding, this summer on the Hill has been less sticky than usual. But its shaping up to be as somnolent as ever.
Its been a promising year for Republican women who have set out to fix their partys woman problem, but not good enough for their bank accounts.
If Rand Paul is taking this summers most prominent turn in the Republican spotlight, then the same must be said for his Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren among the new generation of national Democratic players.
Q. As a staffer for a Member of the House, one of my responsibilities is to run his official Twitter and Facebook accounts, and I have a question about permissible uses of those accounts. The Member occasionally likes to help political allies by making public endorsements during their campaigns. I figure it is okay to announce these via Twitter as I have seen other Members do it, but another staffer in our office said the rules might not allow it. Its not really against the rules to tweet endorsements of other candidates, is it?
If Rand Paul is taking this summers most prominent turn in the Republican spotlight, then the same must be said for his Senate colleague Elizabeth Warren among the new generation of national Democratic players.
Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services panel, was in a rush to recess a lengthy markup so he and the other lawmakers could make it across the street to the Capitol for evening floor votes.
Opponents of big money in politics celebrated some small victories lately: A constitutional amendment to curb campaign spending cleared a key Senate committee and was introduced in the House. And a new super PAC to end all super PACs raised $5 million in a matter of weeks.
Any anniversary divisible by ten, whether of a country, institution or historic event prompts a spate of news articles, speeches and special commemorations that inevitably pose the question: What does it mean today?
Q. I am hoping you can clear up some confusion about the controversy over news that the House Ethics Committee changed the rules to limit Members disclosure of gifts of free travel on annual financial disclosure forms. The reactions seemed all over the place. Some said that it was a big step backwards. Others said that nothing really changed. So, whats the story?
A trove of new public records recently opened up by the Federal Communications Commission sheds light on the ways undisclosed political ads are creating an underground midterm election thats increasingly hidden from view.
In its recent ruling to confer religious liberties on closely held corporations, the Supreme Court makes no mention of its 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling.
One of my first columns for Roll Call was about the furor over President George W. Bushs use of signing statements (The Problem Isnt Signing Statements; Its Enforcing the Laws, Aug. 14, 2006). I was reacting to an American Bar Association task force report that concluded that such statements, issued when a president signs a bill into law, are contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.
The Womens Campaign Fund and its nonprofit arm She Should Run announced Tuesday that Betsy Mullins will be its new CEO and president, directing the sister organizations in their shared mission of increasing womens political participation at all levels of government.
Mississippis bruising GOP Senate primary, which voters will decide Tuesday in a runoff (get live results here!), has come at great cost more than $17 million to Republicans.
Q. I am a staffer for a member of the House and I have a question about restrictions on campaign contributions. I saw that Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, was under investigation for accepting campaign contributions from employees of his congressional office. Generally, I know that this is not OK, but I dont really understand why. It seems to me that congressional staffers are among those who would most want to donate to members campaigns. I know Id like to donate to my members campaign. He could use it, and I believe in him. Why cant I donate?
Walk through the Capitol South Metro station and youll pass SoftBank ads that festoon the walls but you wont see a campaign for the 3 million people hoping Congress will pass an unemployment insurance extension.
To put a gentler twist on Shakespeares more drastic remedy: The first thing we do, lets chill all the lawyers in Congress. That way they may become cool and practical legislators.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantors primary loss Tuesday shocked K Street and has left the business community without a crucial, well-placed ally in the ongoing battle between conservative and pro-business factions within the GOP.
As Senate Democrats gear up for their third in a series of public hearings on the state of campaign finance, Capitol Hill can expect another made-for-TV performance thats long on political theatrics and short on policy.
House and Senate candidates are stockpiling campaign cash for the costliest midterms on record by making good use of the multi-politician war chests known as joint fundraising committees.
Big business summer agenda on Capitol Hill reads like one big do-over.
I heard that a member of the House was in hot water for using a raffle to raise campaign funds. As a longtime campaign employee, this surprised me. I am nearly certain that this issue has come up several times over the years, and that the government has always confirmed that it is legal for campaigns to use raffles to help to raise funds. Why would the campaign of a member of the House now face legal problems for doing so?
In the third installment of The Purple Networks Opinion Duel, Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni moderated a discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, from National Review and The Nations Zoë Carpenter over the politically charged topic of increasing the minimum wage.
Candidates testing the waters of bitcoin fundraising are following different sets of rules as they go along, a function of both the freewheeling culture of the digital currency world and of mixed signals from the Federal Election Commission.
There is an oddly familiar ring to Democrats escalating attacks on the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.
Republican leaders are stepping up their campaign to discredit tea party activists who are challenging them on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, accusing conservatives of lining their own pockets at the expense of the GOP.
Voters often complain that members of Congress cant seem to agree on anything. You know people are on to something when their own representatives in Washington echo the same complaint one of the few bipartisan sounds emanating from the capital, if not in perfect harmony.
Just what will a Comcastic lobbying budget buy you? A growing coalition of consumer groups hopes not a new merger is the answer.
Q. I read that Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., has requested the House Ethics Committee to investigate himself. I know that members call for ethics investigations from time to time, but, I dont recall if Ive ever heard of a member asking for an investigation of himself. As I understand it, responding to an ethics investigation can be time-consuming and costly. Why would any member wish this upon himself?
The Winter Olympics prove again (as if proof were needed) that competition makes athletes strive to go faster, jump higher and become more agile.
If a martian landed here today with the mission to bring back information on how Congress makes budgets, he might report back there is no sign of intelligent life in Washington at least when it comes to budgeting. On the other hand, he might conclude the opposite: The budget process is so convoluted and complex that officials have obviously encrypted the whole thing so no other country or planet can crack the code as to how U.S. budgets are really made.
When the Supreme Court deregulated independent political spending four years ago, the court reasoned that unrestricted money posed no corruption risk because a firewall separates candidates from their outside benefactors.
Q. I am a staffer for a member of the House and am considering getting a second job. My wife, who is an attorney, is pregnant with our first child, and she plans to stop practicing law so that she can stay home and raise our child. I am more than happy with this arrangement, but it will definitely be a blow to our family budget, so I am looking for ways to supplement my income. One idea was to resume my career as a writer. I wrote for newspapers and magazines before working in the House, and would like to write some magazine articles on the side after the baby arrives. I would not allow the writing to interfere with my official duties in any way. I assume this is okay, but figured I would check. May I write magazine articles for money while employed by the House?
In my previous column (McConnells Lament Stirs Fresh Breeze of Hope, Jan. 29) I called attention to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnells Jan. 8 floor remarks in which he conceded that both parties are to blame for todays hyper-partisanship and vowed to restore the committee system, Senate floor debates and a full weeks work if Republicans regain control of the chamber. McConnell said this will not require a change in Senate rules, but rather a change in behavior that will not happen overnight.
Next to achieving Middle East peace, the hardest thing in the world seems to be passing a law to repair what everyone agrees is a broken immigration system. But theres a chance, if Republicans and Democrats think not big but small.
Q. I have a follow-up question to your recent column about the House Ethics Committees investigation of Trey Radel. Radel has since resigned from the House, and the Ethics Committee announced that, as a result, it was ending its investigation. Can you help me understand this? I would think that the mere fact that Radel resigned doesnt mean that he didnt do anything wrong. So, why would the Ethics Committee stop investigating him?
It is not unusual for sitting members of Congress to twitch and moan that the other party is destroying the institution. The majority party lambastes the minority for obstructing the important business of the country and the minority counter-bastes the majority for excluding it from making those important decisions.
The New York Times front-page story on Jan. 12 on one-party domination of all but 13 state governments is an important piece of journalism that should cause serious rethinking and action.
Q. I am a House staffer with a question about the House Ethics investigation of Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla. I know Radel pled guilty to a drug charge last year, but Im pretty sure that the charge was just a misdemeanor. Also, I know that the House Ethics Committee automatically investigates any Member who commits a crime, but I thought that applied just to felonies, not misdemeanors. If thats right, why is the Ethics Committee investigating Radel?
In my Dec. 18 column, Senate Leader Reids Rule Recalls House Czars, I recounted how a group of progressive Republicans and Democrats removed Speaker Joe Cannon, R-Ill., as chairman and a member of the Rules Committee in 1910 by claiming a constitutional privilege to change House rules from the floor. When Cannon ruled the motion was not privileged under the Constitution, his decision was appealed and overturned.
No one expects a boom in the lobbying business this year. But out of the dysfunction and stalemate of 2013, K Streeters see signs of potential work in select areas, including a revival for an old standby: appropriations.
Q. Over the holidays, I saw news reports that some members of the House use funds from their campaigns to purchase holiday gifts for constituents. As a concerned citizen, this practice surprised me. I would think that money donated to campaigns should be used solely for campaign purposes. Is it really okay to use campaign funds to buy holiday gifts?
The joke used to be that the House of Representatives has dozens of rules while the Senate has just two: unanimous consent and exhaustion.
Campaign spending trends were not as sensational this year as in 2012, when super PACs and other outside groups pumped more than $1 billion into politics, three times what they spent in the previous presidential election cycle.
A famous Tacitus quote about government corruption raises a chicken and egg question. One common translation is: The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. But it is also sometimes cited as, The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., are grown-ups, and it looks as though they are reaching a deal to avoid another government shutdown crisis provided superpartisans dont block it.