May 30, 2015

Columns

Capitol Hill's Women Hold Power Beyond Numbers

Almost every congressional campaign season opens with the potential for some political firsts. And, with just a few words uttered on the West Coast last week, this cycle has already made a bit of history and will have a shot at making even more.

Can Republicans Repeat an Upset in Colorado?

The May 5 email I received from Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s campaign committee opened with: “Larry Sabato in Politico: COLORADO IS ONE OF ONLY SEVEN 2016 TOSS-UPS. Colorado will decide the 2016 election!”

Trade Votes of Past Point to Obama's Troubles Ahead

It’s too soon to label the first test vote in the great trade debate of 2015 as a harbinger of total collapse ahead. But the prognosticators, the party whips and the president already have some tally sheets providing strong evidence of a cliffhanger in the making.

Why It's a Mistake to Dismiss Bobby Jindal

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a bit of a conundrum.

After Supercharged Start, Tom Cotton Stands Alone (Video)

Tom Cotton marks two milestones this week. As of Monday, more than half of his senatorial career will have elapsed (63 days!) since his pugilistic letter warning Iran against cutting a nuclear deal with the Obama administration. And Wednesday is the Arkansas Republican’s 38th birthday, another reminder he’s the youngest senator in two decades.

Caveat Emptor, in Political Giving Too

Two days before the Tuesday special election in New York’s 11th District, I received one of those hysterical email requests for money.


New Congress, New Round in Senate Fight Over Obama's Judges

In the long-running judicial wars between the Senate and the White House, the first skirmish of the year is flaring into the open this week.

How Much Trouble Is Richard Burr in?

North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard M. Burr apparently is easy to underestimate.

Sanders Asks Democrats to Pick Proud Non-Democrat

When Bernard Sanders declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, he joined a lengthening roster of gadflies who have run in order to push the party to the left.

The Best and Worst of Constituent Meetings With Lawmakers (and Staff)

It’s spring, which means Congress is in store for two types of “invasions”: the parade of Hollywood types for the annual correspondent dinners and thousands of constituents as part of organized fly-ins or lobby days. The first is splayed on the front pages, all glamorous with gowns, tuxedos and red carpets. The second is the invisible drudgery that is composed of the big part of America’s democratic dialogue. Reality is rarely seen in “House of Cards,” rather, it’s hidden in the thousands of meetings on Capitol Hill involving tens of thousands of constituents. It’s not hidden because of any nefarious conspiracy — it’s just kind of boring, not the stuff of the evening news or a blogger’s interest.

What Gay Marriage Briefs Tell Us About Congress

Though only a few lawmakers participated in the rallies during Tuesday’s oral arguments, more than half the members of Congress had already formalized their views on the same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court.

Early Votes Reveal Positioning for 'Blue State Five'

The nation officially has its 83rd attorney general with Loretta Lynch having taken the oath of office Monday morning. But before her five-month nomination odyssey fades into the rearview mirror, it’s worth noting the pivotal part played by an election 19 months down the road.

Signs of Life, but Don't Expect Bipartisan Bloom

If there was ever a sound reason for a congressional leader from one party to plant a kiss on the cheek of a leader from the other side, it was in the Rose Garden last week.

Hillary Rodham Romney? Keep an Eye on O'Malley (Video)

For all her recent efforts to prove her progressive credentials to Democratic primary voters and caucus participants, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has not made those on her party’s left entirely comfortable with her. And she never will.

A Few Delegations Newly Punching Above Their Weight

The newest Roll Call Clout Index reveals that, even more than before, the largest potential for influence belongs to the states with the most people and therefore the biggest delegations. So it’s worth paying special attention to the smaller places with lawmaker contingents positioned to punch highest above their weight.

Tester's DSCC Pursues Same Strategy That Nearly Nixed Him in 2006

If the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had its way a decade ago, its current chairman probably wouldn’t be in the Senate today.

Delegation Clout Shifts in Aftermath of Earmark Era

Four years after lawmakers gave up earmarking, the last of the billions once dedicated to pet projects has effectively been spent, and one result is a changed roster of states laying claim to the most clout in Congress.

'Big Money' and the 2016 Elections

Reporters love to write about money in politics, so I shouldn’t have been at all surprised by an April 20 Washington Post article suggesting campaign finance is becoming an issue in the presidential contest.

Cruz's Struggle: This Man Loves to Argue

The first time I met Ted Cruz, he argued with me. The second time I met Ted Cruz, he argued with me. It wasn’t personal, of course. Ted Cruz simply loves to argue.

Vote Studies Track Presidential Hopefuls in Real Time

Eight years ago, the last time sitting senators launched competing quests for a presidential nomination, each touted their congressional records as evidence they were more the true agent of change than the other one.

The What Ifs of the 2016 GOP Presidential Race

If Jeb Bush doesn’t win any of the first four GOP contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — does that eliminate him from the Republican race? Or does he have the staying power to survive those losses?

The Young and the Restless of 2016

Once upon a time, presidential candidates were expected to have more than passing experience in government, as well as the maturity and wisdom that sometimes come with age. But that has changed, apparently.

Four Reasons Republicans Seem Reticent in Menendez Case

It’s the first federal bribery indictment of a sitting senator in almost a quarter century, and the defendant is among the most combative and combustible Democrats in the Capitol. So why have Republicans spent the better part of the past two weeks with their hands over their mouths?

Elder Members Aren’t the Only Ones to Retire

The usual way to identify potential House retirements is to pick out the oldest members of each caucus. But that strategy misses an entire crop of potential exits, since the most senior members aren’t the only ones to call it quits.

Wyden Looks Safe, but Democratic Rift Is Real

Liberal groups have targeted Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden for defeat in next year’s elections unless he sides with them on upcoming trade deals. But any talk about the four-term Democrat’s vulnerability is premature until there is a challenger.

Why the 'Doc Fix' Deal Has Senate in Something of a Fix

The odds have crested the 50-50 threshold for what would surely become one of the year’s biggest legislative achievements — an overhaul of how doctors and other Medicare providers get paid. And the usual encrusted ideological positioning, at both ends of the political spectrum, is no longer the biggest obstacle.

Can Ex-Members Sustain Success as Mayors?

It’s not only the season’s most consequential political event, but also a rare local election with a big rooting interest on the Hill. Voters in the nation’s third-biggest city are deciding next week if they still want to be led by a onetime member of congressional leadership.

The Yucca 'Albatross'

The consequence of a congressional stalemate is clearly visible in the nearly 75,000 metric tons of spent radioactive fuel piling up in pools of water and steel casks that rest in the shadows of the nation’s nuclear power plants.

Voting Marathon: More Test Marketing Than Attack Ads

Senators readying their patience, their reading material and even their bladders for the annual ritual known as the “vote-a-rama” may rightfully be getting ready to ask, “Will it be worth it?”

A History of Curiosities, Clout for Wisconsin Delegation

The death last week of Robert W. Kastenmeier, who evolved in the House from a prominent peace crusader into a premier intellectual property protector, is the freshest reminder of an odd truth about the modern Congress.

The Fearsome Foursome: Bush, Paul, Walker, Rubio

A veritable bevy of Republican presidential hopefuls have already hired staff, wooed deep-pocketed contributors and made speeches in Iowa and New Hampshire, proving what we already know: The 2016 nomination preseason is well underway.

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