hawkings

The 5 M’s for Describing Why Congress Is Broken
Remembering the root causes of Hill dysfunction will surely be easier than correcting them

Explaining what ails Capitol Hill can be distilled to five elements: money, maps, media, mingling and masochism, Hawkings writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thirty years covering Congress leave me totally convinced the institution is more badly broken today than at any other point in my career, which means getting asked time and again to enumerate the causes for the deepening dysfunction.

Proposing how to cure the place of its metastasizing polarization and partisanship is up to the politicians who work there. But decoding what ails Capitol Hill is the central work of today’s congressional correspondent. And after plumbing the topic with hundreds of people in recent years — senators and House members, staffers and think tankers, lobbyists and advocates — I have reduced what’s a pretty complex diagnosis to five elements.

Why Former Sen. Jon Kyl Got Tapped to Guide Brett Kavanaugh
Supreme Court nominees need an experienced ‘sherpa’ to navigate the Senate’s unique ways

White House Counsel Don McGahn, right, and former Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., arrive at the Capitol on Tuesday as they escort Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Vice President Mike Pence to meetings with senators. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

He spent 18 years as a senator on the Judiciary Committee, the last six as the Republican whip and No. 2 in leadership. Now his lobbying clients include a group already spending millions to push the federal courts hard right. His big gig on the side is rooting out perceived liberal bias on social media.

If Jon Kyl does not have the ideal background for successfully shepherding a Supreme Court nominee through this Senate, perhaps no one does.

So Many Facets in the Downfall of a Single Democrat
Crowley’s ouster emboldens the left, scrambles House leadership and gives all incumbents pause

From left, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley, Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn, Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi all saw their political fortunes change with Crowley’s primary loss on Tuesday, Hawkings writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There’s some silliness to reading too much of a national trend into any single congressional election. So instead it may be better to consider Joseph Crowley’s defeat as more of a Rorschach test.

For the “Bernie Bots,” it’s a sign the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is newly ascendant.

Podcast: A Growing Controversy
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 13

MAY 26: Farm land is watered by a large irrigation sprinkler in the desert near Palmdale, Calif., on Saturday, May 26, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Another Big Boost for Hill Security Spending
A year after baseball shooting, Capitol Police keeps growing and cyber-attack worries intensify

A member of the security detail for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer prepares to let him out of an SUV at the Exxon gas station at Massachusetts Avenue and Second Street Northeast last month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

At a time when steady significant growth for the Capitol Police looks sure to continue, members of Congress are confessing heightened concern they’ll never be altogether shielded from threats both old-fashioned and high tech — no matter where they are.

The Senate on Monday, and the House three weeks ago, passed bills allocating more than $450 million for the congressional force in the coming year. It would be at least a 6 percent hike and produce a Capitol Police budget one-third bigger than just five years before. No other part of Congress, nor any of its support organizations, has seen anything approaching such generous and sustained increases in recent years.

Court’s Gerrymandering Punt Looks to Land in North Carolina
Current House map was drawn by partisan greed, its author says. Is that unconstitutional?

Gerrymandering activists gather on the steps of the Supreme Court on March 28 as the court prepares to hear the a Maryland partisan gerrymandering case. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When it sidestepped an opening to decide the future of partisan gerrymandering this week, the Supreme Court may have turned a tobacco grower and farm equipment dealer into one of the most important people in American politics.

The farmer and John Deere salesman, 47-year-old David Lewis, is also an influential state legislator who represents the rural geographic center of North Carolina — the state that will now be Ground Zero in the three-decadeslong debate over whether electoral boundaries can ever be drawn with so much partisan motivation that they’re unconstitutional.

How Mark Sanford Proudly Failed His Loyalty Test
No regrets from second House Republican ousted by someone claiming stronger Trump allegiance

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., spent heavily but lost narrowly Tuesday in the Republican primary in South Carolina’s coastal low country to a state legislator who aligned closely with President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Today’s Congress deserves its reputation for uniformity in the ranks. Gender and ethnicity aside, the place is overrun with members priding themselves on their message discipline, policymaking tunnel vision and personal lives scrubbed and shielded from public view. And for the Republicans, of course, unflinching loyalty to President Donald Trump is now the core of the homogenized brand.

So is Hill survival even possible anymore for a member capable of thoughtful departures from his partisan talking points, open to ideological subtlety, with a home life that’s been a national melodrama — and who on top of all that has called out the president on more than one occasion?

Podcast: Will a Minibus Rescue Hill’s GOP?
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 12

Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., left, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., talk before a Senate Appropriations Committee markup in the Dirksen Building on June 7, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file)

Republicans would love to avoid shutdown drama before the midterm but a tight timetable stands in the way. CQ’s appropriations reporter Kellie Mejdrich explains why the budgetary salvage vehicle is called a “minibus” and why it just might work.

For 2020, Hill’s Democrats Won’t Be So Super
Activists pushing to neutralize nominating say-so of members of Congress and other party insiders

Delegates appear on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in 2016. There’s growing momentum among Democrats to eliminate the formalized role of superdelegates in deciding the national ticket. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Does it make sense to tell the folks responsible for bringing the tribe back to the Promised Land that they’re losing some of their clout to help keep it there?

That’s one way of phrasing the question the Democratic National Committee has started to answer in recent days.

Sometimes, the Dissidents Do Leadership a Solid
As immigration debate shows, rare House discharge petitions can force the majority out of a self-made jam

A discharge petition filed by GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo has put pressure on his own party’s leaders to strike a deal on immigration — but they may not hold it against him, Hawkings writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It sounds like something that might be overheard at the congressional appliance dealership: Power abhors a vacuum, especially when there’s a political mess overdue for cleanup, and a great tool for fixing all that is a discharge petition.

It’s also an apt summation of what’s going on now with the Republican catharsis over immigration — which is notably similar to what went down three years ago, during the last House majority leadership interregnum, and also to another fabled GOP rift back in 2002.