April 2, 2015

Columns

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.

Why the GOP Will Likely Attack the Potemkin White House

If budget resolutions are aspirational, sketching the big picture Congress envisions for government, then spending bills are the polar opposite: Blueprints that lawmakers micromanage down to the smallest line item.

Republican Budget Is Governance Test

The annual budget resolution has several purposes. In theory, it’s a mission statement on the proper role of government and a mirror on priorities for the coming decade. At a more practical level, it decides the limit on lawmaker-driven spending for the coming year and smoothes the path toward ambitious changes in federal policy.

What the 'Big Ten' Tells Republicans They Need in 2016

We won’t know the 2016 Republican presidential nominee for more than a year, but we already know the 10 states — the electoral “Big Ten” — that will select the next occupant of the White House.

Lessons for This Year in Voting Patterns of Last Year

Given that old adage, “You can’t tell where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been,” casting a close eye over last year’s congressional voting patterns is in order.


Cotton Balls Up Diplomatic Protocol With Letter | Procedural Politics

Senator Tom Cotton’s “open letter” to the leaders of Iran on negotiations over its nuclear program ran into a buzzsaw of criticism from the president, vice president, our negotiating partners and members of Congress from both parties. The main criticism: Senators should not thrust themselves directly into the middle of ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and other countries.

Republican Opposition to Lynch Might Make History

The most amazing thing about the Loretta Lynch story is that the congressional community no longer views it as amazing.

Pat Toomey Is a Strong Candidate. Will That Be Enough in 2016?

Yes, I know Pennsylvania Democrats don’t have a 2016 Senate candidate who excites the entire party yet. I also know the election is 20 months away — plenty of time for them to rally around a nominee.

Lott-Daschle Reform Bars Bill-Blocking Actions | Procedural Politics

House Republicans painted themselves and the Senate into a corner by making Department of Homeland Security funding after Feb. 27 contingent on rolling back President Barack Obama’s unilateral immigration actions. Surely, they were fantasizing a corner with a hidden trap door and safe room.

GOP Aim: Make Menendez's Troubles About Reid

Republicans may not realistically smell another Senate seat about to become available, but they’re moving quickly on the very real scent of political blood. And their nose for scandal has them salivating at more than the fate of Sen. Robert Menendez, who may be only weeks from facing federal corruption charges.

The Maryland Democrat Who Wants to Stay Where He Is

One of these House members is not like the others. One of these members doesn’t hope to belong — in the Senate.

Landmark Supreme Court Cases Ahead, but Not on TV

It’s arguably the most important single hour of federal policymaking this year, and it’s happening Wednesday morning inside a government building on Capitol Hill. But except for clusters of reporters and attorneys, joined by a few dozen citizens who’ve waited hours in a long queue for a glimpse, the event will remain invisible forever.

Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton Face Foreign Policy Challenges in 2016

While the economy is a decisive topic in many presidential elections, national security looks increasingly likely to become a top issue in next year’s contest. And if that happens, it could dramatically affect both the direction of the race for the Republican nomination and the party’s prospects in November.

Mikulski Legacy Is Beyond Longevity

The most obvious distinction Barbara A. Mikulski will take into retirement is that she’s spent more time in Congress than any other woman, and that’s a record worthy of significant recognition. But, especially at a Capitol so deeply mired in dysfunction and partisanship, the meaning of her service is deeper than mere longevity.

What Is All the Fuss About Campaign Coordination? | A Question of Ethics

Q. Some friends of mine who are lawyers were recently discussing a political corruption prosecution that they seemed to think was a big deal. I believe it involved some sort of campaign finance violations by the campaign manager of someone who ran for Congress a few years back. As a non-lawyer, it wasn’t clear to me what all the fuss was about. After all, people get prosecuted for political corruption all of the time. Are you aware of the case I’m describing, and, if so, what makes it such a big deal?

A Former Senior Senate GOP Leader Is Ready for a Comeback. Who Knew?

He’s looking a little tan, sounding rested and signaling he’s ready. He’s a former senator from a big swing state who was a senior member of the congressional leadership. He was even the runner-up for his party’s presidential nomination last cycle.

Presidential Hopefuls Skirt FEC Rules | Rules of the Game

Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s political organization is opening a campaign office for him in Iowa. Ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is meeting with major donors and hosting dozens of fundraisers around the country. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former senator, secretary of State and first lady, is quietly hand-picking a team of high-level advisers to run her anticipated White House bid.

K Street Donors Make Early White House Picks | K Street Files

They’re not billionaire industrialists poised to bankroll millions in the 2016 campaign, but K Street still matters to the crop of aspiring presidential candidates.

Immigration Testimony Revives a Senate Soap Opera

There are 27 states where the attorney general is a Republican, and 22 of them have signed on to the lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s effort to limit deportations. But only one of them is being ushered under the national spotlight Wednesday morning as the single elected official asked to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on “the unconstitutionality of President Obama’s executive overreach.”

Keystone Process Tells Tale of Two Houses | Procedural Politics

Do you remember Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California promising last fall to return the new Congress to the regular order? The initial test came on the first major bill in the well of both houses, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act. Whereas the Senate produced a veritable gusher of amendments with all hands at the wellhead, the House reverted to a narrowly-constricted flow tube controlled by a few valve masters.

Oscar-Winning Portrayals About Legislative Impasse

There’s always at least of whiff of politics at the Oscars, but the speeches this year touched on as many different hot-button issues in Congress as ever.

Why a Fired Fire Chief Got on Capitol Hill's Radar

The firing of Atlanta’s fire chief has already become a flashpoint in the debate over how to balance the religious beliefs of public officials against the civil rights of their constituents. Now the argument has spread to the Capitol — prompting questions about proper congressional roles in local controversies, especially when statewide electoral and legislative consequences lie just below the surface.

Prayer in Congress: Not Just for House and Senate

Taxpayer dollars have been used to pay chaplains of the House and Senate since the spring of 1789, when the first of 106 different ordained Christian ministers were elected to those jobs.

Can Selling Something Be an Ethics Violation? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I read that Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., may face an ethics investigation for selling his house for too high a price. As a longtime House staffer, this worried me. I’ve sold several big-ticket items over the years — cars, a boat, houses, and while I’ve always tried to make sure that the selling price is not too low, it never occurred to me to ensure that the price is not too high. Can it really be an ethics violation to get too good of a deal on something I sell?

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