Goobergunch Political Report

9 February 2011

H. Res. 72, the Bloviation Resolution

Goobergunch @ 09:00 PT
Posted in: The Congress

In case anybody was wondering about that resolution “directing certain standing committees to inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations and orders from agencies of the Federal Government, particularly with respect to their effect on jobs and economic growth” I mentioned on Monday, it’s now been officially scheduled for a good nine and a half hours of debate. Oh, and no amendments are in order. Wouldn’t it be better to just adjourn for two days so that the committees in question can actually hold hearings instead of just talking about holding the hearings?

(If you’re keeping score, the committees involved are Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Natural Resources, Oversight and Government Reform, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means, which each get to control an hour of this yack fest; the Education and Labor and Small Business Committees get to split an hour.)

7 February 2011

The House of No

Dave Weigel has a good piece up at Slate about how the Republicans are governing by basically sitting around and not doing anything:

The answer: They are taking an approach to legislating completely antithetical to what President Obama proposed in his State of the Union speech. They don’t want Congress to “do big things.” Government, in general, should not do big things.

This week’s House schedule provides an excellent example of this do-nothing approach. There are four non-controversial bills up on Tuesday and Wednesday: another USA PATRIOT Act extension (through 8 December), a trade extension bill, a bill to return money overpaid to the UN, and finally, a bill to name an under-construction Arizona courthouse after John Roll, the judge murdered in last month’s Tucson shootings. (I will note that only the first and last of these bills are actually available to the public.) Then all of Thursday and Friday are set aside for consideration of the incredibly exciting H. Res. __, “a resolution directing certain standing committees to inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations and orders from agencies of the Federal Government, particularly with respect to their effect on jobs and economic growth.” Substantively, this is an utter waste of time. I really don’t think the chairmen of various House committees need to be formally instructed to hold oversight hearings. They’re going to do that on their own.

So on the floor of the House this week, I expect two days full of Republicans complaining about how Big Government is the Great Evil. I don’t know what Democrats are going to be saying. It’s hard to really come up with a good opposition line to something this vapid. It’ll probably be far more interesting to watch the House Judiciary Committee markup of H.R. 5, the Medical Liability bill, scheduled for 10 AM EST Wednesday. Or Tuesday afternoon’s Constitution Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, if you really feel like throwing up.

22 January 2011

A “Read the Bill” Progress Report

Goobergunch @ 18:00 PT
Posted in: Public Printing and Documents

One of the big complaints that Republicans and various other right-wing forces had was that the public wasn’t getting enough time to read and comment on bills before they went to a vote. Last Tuesday, the House unanimously passed H.R. 292, which was introduced Wednesday of the previous week. One would think that this is enough time to read and comment on a fairly short bill before it was put to a vote. One would be wrong.

The trick here is that H.R. 292 was passed via a “motion to suspend the rules and pass, as amended”. The text of the amendment wasn’t, to my knowledge, provided on any public website prior to the vote—and it made some fairly major changes. The original bill, found here, would have eliminated the automatic printing of bills and substituted an electronic distribution requirement; members and committees could still get print copies if they ask for them. Contrast the text of the bill that the House actually passed. The bill now keeps all of the automatic printing except for the copies that each members of Congress gets. Those copies are eliminated, and members can’t get print copies even by request.

For this bill, the changes don’t do much for those of us living outside of the Beltway. But for some other bill, surprise amendments might make a real difference to many Americans. And of course, not many people actually care about bills on the “suspension of the rules” list, as those tend to be non-controversial anyway. While I’m still going to look over that list every week, I’m saving the more detailed bill discussions for bills that don’t need a two-thirds vote to pass.

6 January 2011

At Bat: The Middle Schoolers

Goobergunch @ 21:25 PT
Posted in: Providing for the General Welfare
Tags: ,

The first bill up for consideration in the 112th House of Representatives is… the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act“. From this I draw the conclusion that the House is being run by people with the emotional maturity of middle schoolers, as the gratuitous refusal to use the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s actual short title just provides more evidence that the Congressional Republican Party is not interested in sincere policymaking but just wants to increase members’ jollies.

The bill itself provides a simple repeal of PPACA and the health-care provisions of the subsequent Reconciliation Act. It’s really not worth further analysis because it will go absolutely nowhere in the Senate, and even if it did President Obama would veto. But since House Republicans seem determined to waste time instead of proposing serious legislation, the bill is scheduled for a good 7 hours of debate next Wednesday, broken down as follows:

  • 30 minutes managed by party leadership
  • 90 minutes managed by the Committee on Education and the Workforce
  • 90 minutes managed by the Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • 90 minutes managed by the Committee on Ways and Means
  • 40 minutes managed by the Committee on the Budget
  • 40 minutes managed by the Committee on the Judiciary
  • 40 minutes managed by the Committee on Small Business

No amendments (except for the obligatory motion to recommit) are in order.

To fulfil the second part of their “repeal and replace” promise, the House Republicans will also bring a resolution to instruct various committees to report a replacement health care bill. It’s vague enough to also not really be worth discussing. This one gets an hour of debate and one amendment (adding an instruction regarding the “doc fix”). I will be interested to see the health care bill that comes out of the committees, as this might have substantive policy worth actually discussing. But until that happens, it’s really not worth discussing Republican views on health care—because there really aren’t any.

UPDATE [00:15 CST by Goobergunch]: I intended to quickly update the text of the bill to the version that will be debated on the House floor next week (there needed to be a minor tweak for statutory PAYGO compliance), but apparently the House Rules Committee has failed at actually posting the committee report that contains the applicable amendment. I guess the new era of transparency in the House isn’t starting out so well….

UPDATE [13:21 CST by Goobergunch]: Bill text is updated.

3 January 2011

A Quick Message to Eric Cantor

Goobergunch @ 17:50 PT
Posted in: The Congress
Tags: ,

I’ve been preparing for the new Congress, which convenes Wednesday at noon Eastern time, and one thing that’s really annoying is that the incoming House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Richmond North, VA) likes to put autoplaying YouTube videos welcoming us to various sections of his website. (Note: links may fail as early as Wednesday.) While this wasn’t particularly onerous when he was the Minority Whip (meaning that there was no real reason to ever visit his website), the new Republican majority means that he’s now actually presenting useful information.

While it’s easy enough to make the videos go away using AdBlock, it’s still poor web design to surprise visitors to your website with somebody talking at them. So please, Congressman Cantor—remove the autoplay.

14 November 2010

The Quacking of the Limp

Goobergunch @ 00:00 PT
Posted in: The Federal Government
Tags: ,

There have been a lot of rumors flying about regarding the content of this year’s lame duck session of Congress. DADT repeal, the DREAM Act, ENDA, START… not to mention certain non–optional items like keeping the government funded. But it looks like any of that is going to have to wait until after Thanksgiving, because the House agenda for next week doesn’t show much that’s likely to be controversial. Most of the bills scheduled are boring commemoratives, and I don’t see the substantive bills attracting much dissent. The one item that isn’t scheduled to pass with a 2/3 vote is a motion to concur in the Senate amendments to H.R. 1722, the Telework Enhancement bill. The original version of that bill passed the House 290–131 back on 14 July.

The Senate doesn’t look to be that more exciting. The first votes of the week aren’t scheduled until Wednesday, and they’re just a few more cloture votes on proceeding to bills. I haven’t heard much about whether these votes have any chance of actually succeeding or whether we’re looking at another show of how the Senate Republicans are obstructing things. I’ll update before Wednesday with another look at these votes.

Unless anything new and unexpected shows up, it looks like a quiet start to the lame duck session.

3 November 2010

The Day After

Goobergunch @ 17:03 PT
Posted in: Election 2010, GPR Live
Tags: , ,

The line it is drawn,
The curse it is cast:

The slow one now will later be fast….

I don’t have too much new to say on the election results. There’s been plenty of speculation on what message the American people were trying to send, but I’m more interested on what the 112th Congress is actually going to accomplish. There hasn’t been a lot of detail on that so far.

Speaker-designate John Boehner has announced that a committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R)(Eastern OR) going to be looking into some reforms of the legislative process in the House. As one of the few people that actually cares about legislative transparency, I’ll be interested to see what his panel comes up with. More on that when there’s something substantive to discuss, obviously, but I am a bit skeptical considering that the Republicans weren’t exactly a paradigm of openness the last time they controlled the House.

We haven’t seen many surprises in the House leadership roster, but rumor has it that Rep. Mike Pence (R)(Muncie, IN) is looking at running for governor of Indiana in 2012. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him run for President one day—he’s ambitious and popular among conservatives.

Meanwhile, we’re still counting the votes from yesterday. In the Senate, I am projecting that Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet has been re–elected in Colorado. I’m also projecting that a Republican wins in the Alaska Senate race, although whether they’ll be Sen. Lisa Murkowski or Joe Miller remains to be seen.

The Washington Senate race remains too close to call, because Washington’s mail–in system means that many of the ballots haven’t even arrived to be counted yet. Ditto WA-02. As for some of the other outstanding House races, the Republican is up in CA-20, TX-27, and IL-08 (by 559), while the Democrat is up in AZ-08, NY-25, VA-11 (by 920 votes), KY-06 (by 600 votes), and CA-11 (by 121 votes). We probably won’t know the winner in some of those really close races for a while. Finally, Democrats are clinging onto narrow leads in the Minnesota and Illinois gubernatorial races; Republican Chris Dudley leads slightly in the Oregon race, but much of the outstanding vote is from liberal Portland.

1 November 2010

Writing Up The House

Goobergunch @ 18:00 PT
Posted in: Dynamic Race Ratings, Election 2010

I’m not going to pretend to have some deep insight into the House that nobody else does. Realistically, I agree with Nate Silver that we won’t have a really good read on what’s going to happen across the House races until polls have closed and results are being counted. That being said, if we combine the general pundit consensus of a net 55 or so seat loss for the Democrats with my House race ranking chart, we (after remembering to add in about four seats for Democratic gains) can envision a Republican wave sweeping down to claim almost every Democrat in a reasonably conservative district, including long–time Representatives like Skelton and Taylor. If there’s an even larger wave, it’ll manifest itself in districts that one really wouldn’t expect to see a Republican win.

Of course, a wave does not break evenly—one interesting thing to watch tomorrow night will be which apparently endangered House seats are saved and what the unexpected victories will be. Should be exciting to watch.

19 October 2010

Two Weeks Out

Goobergunch @ 15:00 PT
Posted in: Dynamic Race Ratings, Election 2010
Tags: ,

There’s only fourteen days left before the 2010 midterm elections, and we still have very little clarity on what will actually happen on Election Night. That being said, these last few weeks have not been devoid of surprises.


In the Senate forecast, one of the biggest surprises has been the continued volatility of the Alaska race. Joe Miller, the Republican nominee, seems to be doing his best to implode, with past misconduct coming to light and bizarre behavior on the campaign trail. Democrat Scott McAdams has been running a good campaign (and heck, I just like long–shot candidates that get a surprise opportunity to win), and has been polling just slightly behind Miller and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write–in bid. Given that it’s an open question whether the likelihood of Murkowski’s write-in bid isn’t being overstated (the last Senator to be elected via write–in was Strom Thurmond in 1954), at this time I have to consider the race a Toss–Up, with a slight Republican tilt.

The other surprising Toss–Up is West Virginia. Democrat Joe Manchin remains one of the few popular governors in the country. But support for the national Republican Party has made John Raese competitive. While this race has been tilting back towards Manchin in the last few ways, it could certainly go either way.

The three other Toss–Ups—Illinois, Nevada, and Colorado—have been too close to call for a while now, and it’s really hard to detect a distinct advantage for any candidate in these races. In previous Senate elections, all of the close races have tended to break the same way, but any hints at this kind of lean probably won’t be noticeable until the election is upon us.

Finally, it’s worth discussing the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin races. In the former, I had written Democrat Joe Sestak’s candidacy off a while ago, but he seems to be making a late comeback—much as he did in the primary. While Republican Pat Toomey is still favored, Sestak is a lot closer than I had thought he’d be at this point. In the latter, Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is behind by pretty much every measurement, despite the low profile of his opponent.

House of Representatives

I’m hesitant to express any predictions as to the fate of the House due to the sheer volatility of the environment this year. I can come up with reasonable scenarios for the Democrats losing anywhere from 25 to 70 seats. (The picture is clearer when I turn the board over, with 4 seats that are more likely than not to be Republican losses and an additional 2 or 3 that are still pick–up opportunities.) What I can do, though, is generate a rough ranking of House seats by likelihood for a switch in party control. While this listing should (especially for Democratic seats at risk) be viewed as more of a rough guide than a strict ordering, I believe it still provides useful guidance for how the House is likely to look next year. Like all of my predictions, it is subject to change at any time before Election Day.

29 September 2010

Election Recess

And Congress is pretty much out. The FY 2011 continuing resolution just passed the House 228–194 (after passing the Senate 69–30 earlier today) so we get to have a functional government until at least 3 December. (I’m not waiting for the Presidential signature to update the countdown timer.)

It’s always kind of fun watching Congress scurry with activity right before a break. We also got NASA Authorization, Intelligence Authorization, and three other less high–profile bills cleared for President Obama today. Pity the Senate is still gridlocked, although even they got a couple of treaties and a big truckful of nominations approved.

Also, the hullabaloo about the adjournment resolution only passing by one vote is overblown. There were a number of Democrats that switched their votes from “yea” to “nay” right before the vote was announced, presumably once they had gotten permission from the whip team to vote against. Realistically, the adjournment resolution was never in danger of failing—the Democratic leadership just wanted to give their more vulnerable members another vote to help them proclaim their independence from the party when they go back to campaign.

The House and Senate haven’t quite adjourned yet, but when they do, the next meeting will be on Monday, 15 November, a good two weeks after the election. There’s no shortage of things for them to do when they get back.

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