domestic-policy

Schooling Time for New Crop of Hill Education Leaders

When Kline retires at the end of next year, it will mark a passing of the guard for congressional education leaders. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

One of the more remarkable aspects of the bipartisan agreement on a replacement for the No Child Left Behind law, which the House is on course to embrace this week, is the team of authors’ relatively modest level of collective devotion to education policy.  

This is especially true on the south half of Capitol Hill, which is on the backside of a changing of the guard for House members who make improving our schools one of their big interests. The timing of the rewrite of federal policies on elementary and secondary education is notable for more than the fact that it’s eight years overdue. The legislation is getting done a year before the retirement of John Kline, the Minnesotan who was catapulted over eight more senior colleagues into the top Republican slot on the Education and the Workforce Committee six years ago.  

One Day in, Climactic Month Slips Into Pope-Inspired Procrastination

Harry Reid and other congressional leaders are looking at a number of deadlines this month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

How easy it is to procrastinate during the first month of a new semester, knowing none of the difficult assignments are really due before the end of the term — and especially when there are so many tempting distractions on campus.  

So it is again this fall, at the Capitol as much as in college. Which is why Congress, back in town only one day, is already looking ahead to a shortened September that’s long on theatrics but almost bereft of nose-to-the-grindstone legislative work.  

GOP Eyes Audacious Escape Plan From Policy Gridlock This Fall

A stormy fall is assured for Congress. (Bill Clark/ CQ Roll Call)

Even by the standards of today’s Capitol, where doing important business at or after the last possible moment is the default setting, an exceptionally long and disparate roster of battles and deadlines lies ahead this fall.  

Far from conceding they’ll be strategically paralyzed by the welter of polarizing conflict, however, senior Republicans increasingly boast how the situation after Labor Day creates an ideal venue for a big accomplishment by Christmas.  

The One Candidate Who Did Something in Congress

Webb may have only stayed one term, but he got a lot done in Congress, for a freshman. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When the expansive presidential field tops out the week after next, five current and six former members of Congress will officially be in the hunt. Only one can claim to have driven the enactment of landmark legislation.  

Jim Webb, who announced his bid for the Democratic nomination a week ago, spent just a single term as a senator from Virginia and realized his crowning achievement as a freshman. The bill he introduced on his first day in office in 2007, the most comprehensive update of the GI Bill in 25 years and the biggest expansion of educational aid to veterans since World War II, became law a year and a half later. Voters continue to say they’re hungry for a president who can conquer gridlock. The question is whether a proven ability to get a really big bill into law with broad bipartisan support — and one expanding the social safety net under more than a million ordinary Americans — will be enough to propel Webb’s candidacy over a gauntlet of significant challenges and into the zone of viability.  

Four Nominees From Hill History for New Face on $10

Chisholm could be a contender for the new $10 bill. Her portrait was dedicated in March 2009, with Reps. Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There’s not a female face on our paper currency, which the U.S. Treasury is now promising to change. There is also no one on our money who’s distinguished because of service in Congress. The Obama administration has viable options for rectifying both shortcomings simultaneously with its choice for new portraiture on the $10 bill.

A strong case can be made that the visage for our monetary future should be Jeannette Rankin, the first congresswoman. Or Margaret Chase Smith, the first female to serve in congressional leadership. Or Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress. Or Barbara Jordan , a singular voice of congressional conscience during the constitutional crisis of Watergate.

GOP Not Quite Ready for the Health Care Victory It's Dreamed About

Sisters hold a sign at a rally outside of the Supreme Court during arguments in the King v. Burwell case on March 4, 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

With each passing day of Supreme Court suspense, the image of the dog catching the bus has come more warily into focus for congressional Republicans.  

The wait could end as soon as Thursday, when the justices are expected to announce rulings in a few of the 17 cases remaining on this year’s docket. If there’s still no decision on the fate of the landmark health care law, many GOP members will indulge in a collective sigh of relief — because they will have been given a little more time to cobble together plans for a moment they’ve spent five years dreaming about. There has been a striking disconnect between the overriding Republican policy wish for this decade, which is to see President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement eviscerated, and the party’s preparations for the very real possibility that wish could be granted. The volume and passion of their relentless Obamacare criticism has been inversely proportional to their public level of coordination and precision about what they’d do differently.  

In Budget of Billions, a Fight Over Pennies for Metro

Congress' proposed cut to Metro funding would affect hundreds of thousands of commuters. (Bill Clark/Roll Call File Photo)

When tracking this year’s inevitable budget crisis, which is showing every early sign of climaxing 16 weeks from now in another shutdown showdown, the Hill community may want to keep Metro in mind.  

Even the most seasoned members, staffers, lobbyists and reporters tend to have their eyes glaze over when confronted with appropriations numbers expressed in the multiples of billions and adding up to more than a trillion — so much of it for weapons systems, farm programs, school aid, medical research, prison construction and the like that’s way removed from their own lives.  

Voting Marathon: More Test Marketing Than Attack Ads

Begich was able to deflect campaign attack ads stemming from the Senate's vote-a-rama. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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?”  

The answer, predictably, depends on who’s posing the question. A look back over the past decade reveals a divide that countermands the conventional wisdom. For those wishing to make life miserable in the next elections for their Senate colleagues across the aisle, the answer is a version of, “Not so much.” For those hoping to uncover hidden pockets of legislative momentum, the answer is, “Sometimes.” The process starting Thursday afternoon, and probably extending into early Friday morning, will be less a debate than an odd combination of policy-defining sprint and parliamentary endurance test . The rules particular to the annual budget resolution provide that after the maximum 30 hours of deliberation have ended, senators may propose an infinite number of amendments and — with essentially no intervening discussion — obtain “the yeas and nays” on each idea.  

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

Boehner seemed pleased Tuesday that he's worked out a deal with Pelosi on the "doc fix." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

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.  

Instead, what’s standing in the way is a springtime functionality gap between the Capitol’s two wings. The House is on course Thursday to embrace something resembling a legislative unicorn: A bipartisan plan to restrain entitlement spending . Both Speaker John A. Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi claim pride of authorship in this modest breakthrough of a bill, and they’re basking in the expectation it will pass with the votes of most Republicans and most Democrats.  

Landmark Supreme Court Cases Ahead, but Not on TV

Sotomayor has changed her views on cameras in the courtroom since her 2009 confirmation hearings. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.  

The occasion is the Supreme Court oral argument, starting at 10 a.m., in a case threatening the viability of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The justices are going to decide if one phrase fails to legally underpin one of the statute's central provisions: Tax breaks for poor and middle-income Americans who obtain medical insurance through the federal government’s new online marketplace.