Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
January 26, 2015

January 21, 2015

New Congresses Lead With Legislative Blitzes | Procedural Politics

Most Americans prejudged the new Congress a failure before it even began. According to a CNN/ORC poll taken in mid-December, only 37 percent think the 114th Congress will get more done than its predecessor while 62 percent think it will get less done or be no different. But they could be wrong.

Such negative assessments are understandable given divided party control of government and early pronouncements by the president and congressional leaders drawing lines in the sand over their differences. Oh, there will still be occasional rhetorical nods to the need to work together. But the three Cs of conciliation, cooperation and compromise have yielded for now to cold calculation, calcification and confrontation. Veto pens are being brandished quicker than bills inviting them can be introduced.

Given that, there is good reason to be skeptical about the prospects for the 114th Congress. The modern partisan era is different from the more bipartisan days of the mid-twentieth century. Parties are acting more like parties, and that injects more complexity and delay into the policymaking process. But that is not necessarily bad.

The first act of parties in any new Congress is to articulate their positions early, clearly and often. It is difficult to move forward purposefully until you first determine and announce exactly where you stand and in what direction you are inclined to move. If you arrive on the playing field without any goals, it is unlikely you will score any points.

We are now witnessing both political parties and branches staking-out their territory. It began on day one with majority Republicans in both chambers clearly enunciating their immediate legislative aims. House Democrats weighed-in early as well with their leader’s introduction of the Speaker salted with a multi-point Democratic policy agenda.

That was followed by two minority procedural motions during the rules debate aimed at bringing-up specific legislation within the month. Meantime, the president was pressing his policy proposals around the country in warm-up acts for Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

In the first two weeks of the session, House Republicans brought 13 unreported bills to the floor before committees were even fully organized. Most bills were warmed-up leftovers from the previous Congress that went nowhere in the Senate. All were considered under a closed or highly restrictive amendment process.

House Democrats did the same thing when they recaptured Congress in 2007, rushing to the floor unreported bills they had championed in the previous Congress. They had campaigned on a “Six for ’06” legislative platform otherwise known as “A New Direction for America.” It was a page right out of the House Republicans’ 1994 playbook when they campaigned on “A Contract with America” — a 10-point legislative platform they promised to bring to final floor votes within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress.

The main difference in 2007 was that House Democrats promised to bring their bills to final votes within the first 100 hours. They were able to do that by providing for consideration of five of their measures under a closed amendment process established in their opening day rules package. Republicans had set the precedent for that scenario in 1995 by providing in their rules package for an opening day, closed amendment vote on the Congressional Accountability Act.

Speaker Newt Gingrich’s House Republicans in 1995 paved the way for partisan legislative blitzes at the outset of new Congresses following electoral power shifts. Such a strategy requires quick and closed consideration of priority bills — hardly a showcase for the regular order.

The quick pick of low-hanging fruit can build momentum and confidence for the arduous task ahead of actual governing. Neither party wants to come away from this Congress empty-handed and face angry voters at the polls. Consequently, the 114th Congress will enact some significant laws over the next two years, albeit incremental rather than transformational. And that may be the most we can and should expect.

Don Wolfensberger is a resident scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and former staff director of the House Rules Committee.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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January 20, 2015

May Staffers Participate in SOTU Gambling Pools? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I’m a longtime House staffer, and every year for the State of the Union address I host a party with a big group of friends, including many other staffers. One of the most popular traditions at the party is a “word pool” where guests are all assigned certain words at random, and the winner is whoever’s words are heard most often in the address. (I won’t mention what this year’s magic words are.) I always send around emails in advance to administer the pool and solicit entries. This year, one of the invitees told me I shouldn’t be sending these emails from work, using House email addresses. Does this really matter?

A. As a lawyer, I can tell you that we lawyers hate to say no. If the law prohibits a client’s proposed course of conduct, we like to try to find other ways clients can achieve their goals without running afoul of the law. In this case, however, I have to take the unpopular role of party-pooper and say your friend is probably right. I don’t make the rules. I just report on them. And, technically speaking, the rules do in fact prohibit running betting pools on government time with government resources, even one as innocent as this. Full story

January 13, 2015

K Street Files: Some Ex-Members Lining Up Gigs

Former Senator Saxby Chambliss has already found a job on K Street. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Senator Saxby Chambliss has already found a job on K Street. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It took hardly any time at all for just-retired Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

Ditto for ex-Reps. Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Bill Owens, D-N.Y.

The trio of former lawmakers, part of the club of about 70 members who left Capitol Hill earlier this month at the close of the 113thCongress, have already landed gigs on K Street. Full story

January 7, 2015

Harbinger Strategies Adds Manny Rossman | Downtown Moves

Harbinger Strategies, the just-opened firm of ex-aides to Eric Cantor, has added a fourth lobbyist: Manny Rossman, a former Senate leadership staffer who was previously with the Breaux Lott Leadership Group.

Rossman began his career on Capitol Hill as an aide to the late Rep. Phil Crane, R-Ill., who was a senior member of the Ways and Means panel. He later went to work for then-Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., handling his Senate Finance portfolio, and later moving into leadership. “We officially opened our doors this week,” said Steve Stombres, the former top leadership aide to then-House Majority Leader Cantor, R-Va. “It’s an exciting time for Harbinger and our four founding partners to be able to announce our mystery partner.”

Full story

January 6, 2015

May Former Staffers Discuss Legislation With Current Staffers? | A Question of Ethics

Q. I have just completed more than a decade of service as a House staffer and am now preparing for a job in the private sector. I know there are rules about what I can and cannot do, and I am trying to make sure I understand them all. I am particularly concerned about restrictions on my communications with former staffers, as I have many friends on the Hill whom I am sure I will still often see. I know I can’t lobby them during the cooling off period, but what if I run into some of them, we start talking shop, and they ask what I think about a proposed bill? Am I not allowed to answer?

A. It happens every two years. A host of new members and staffers arrive on the Hill, while a host of old ones move out. And, just as the newbies must quickly learn rules governing congressional employees, those moving into the private sector must familiarize themselves with the restrictions on former Hill staffers. There are many, so you are wise to be concerned.

The specific restrictions you’ve asked about apply during the “cooling-off period” and limit what members and staffers can do within one year of leaving the House. As you may know, the restriction does not apply to all staffers, only to those whose salary is at least 75 percent of members’. I’ll presume this includes you, but mention it just in case.

Several activities are prohibited during the cooling-off period, including, for example, lobbying a federal official on behalf of a foreign government. Your question concerns the restriction on communications with members and staffers during the cooling-off period. It provides that you may not communicate or appear before any member, officer or employee of the House or Senate with the intent to influence, on behalf of any person, the official actions of the member, officer or employee. The restriction bars “certain types of contacts with certain categories of officials,” says the House ethics manual, “basically former colleagues and those most likely to be influenced on the basis of the former position.”

Last month, the House Committee on Ethics issued guidance on post-employment restrictions, clarifying what former staffers may and may not do during the cooling-off period. It cautions that the term “communication” is defined very broadly for purposes of the restrictions. Specifically, a communication is “the act of imparting or transmitting information with the intent that the information be attributed to the former official.”

The memorandum also sets forth several helpful fact patterns. For example, suppose that during your cooling-off period you were to call a current member and request that she meet with one of your clients. This, the memorandum states, would violate the restriction even if you did not intend to be present at the requested meeting. The request itself, the guidance states, would be a communication intended to influence official action.

The guidance also includes an example addressing a circumstance similar to the one you raise. It concerns a former member who had become a lobbyist and was asked by a current member about the views of one of the lobbyist’s clients on a pending piece of legislation. According to the ethics committee’s guidance, the lobbyist may not respond by stating the client’s views to the member. “There is no exception in the statute for covered communications that are solicited by a current Member or staff person,” the guidance states. In other words, if a communication meets the definition of forbidden communications, it is illegal regardless of whether it came in response to a question by a member or staffer.

This raises an obvious question. During the cooling-off period, what can you say if a member or staffer asks for your client’s views on pending legislation? The memorandum issued last month has an answer. “It may be permissible,” the memorandum says, to refer the member or staffer to one of your colleagues who is not subject to post-employment restrictions.

By the way, I know you didn’t ask about the penalties here, but they are worth mentioning as they are no small deal. A violation of the cooling-off period restrictions is a federal crime, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $50,000 fine. You’re right to be careful.

C. Simon Davidson is an attorney with the law firm McGuireWoods. Submit questions to cdavidson@mcguirewoods.com. Questions do not create an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not treat his column as legal advice.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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Parties Poised to Exploit Broad New Rules | Rules of the Game

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Congress moved quietly late last year to permit much larger contributions to the political parties, some experts cast the rules change as, at best, an improvement on the old system, and, at worst, inconsequential.

“This isn’t going to be a game changer for big money in politics,” Jonathan Bernstein, political scientist and columnist, said of the higher limits. The limits now allow an individual to give as much as $1.7 million to the parties in one election cycle — an exponential increase over the previous per-cycle cap of $64,800.

“For those who want more transparency, this means more accountability in political fundraising,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus declared in USA Today. The rule’s cheerleaders enthuse that strengthening parties tempers partisanship and frees parties to better compete with unrestricted and increasingly influential outside groups that often operate outside the disclosure rules.

It remains to be seen whether such sunny predictions come true, or whether the watchdogs’ dire warnings — that the new rules will usher in a new era of soft-money abuses — will prove closer to the mark. Either way, there’s little question that party officials will test the new regulations to the fullest, exploring every possible legal avenue to fatten their coffers.

True, the new limits do not free the parties to raise unrestricted money for just any purpose. Under the campaign finance provisions inserted into the eleventh-hour “cromnibus” spending package, the party committees may raise larger amounts only for separate accounts to pay for their conventions; for buildings and facilities, and for election recounts and other legal matters.

But the broad wording of the campaign finance changes, and the backdoor way in which Senate leaders slipped them into budget legislation, leave plenty of room for interpretation. In the 1990s, a single Federal Election Commission regulation that approved soft money for “party building” ultimately led the parties to round up unlimited corporate checks to pay for campaign ads cast as “issue ads.”

This time, look for the parties to use funds set aside for building, legal and convention costs in equally creative ways. Of particular interest will be funds ostensibly raised for “the construction, purchase, renovation, operation and furnishings of one or more headquarters buildings of the party,” as the statute describes it. The term “party operations,” for one, could be interpreted to include “activities such as data mining and modeling projects or opposition research centers,” noted election lawyers at Covington & Burling in a recent client memo.

The new party convention accounts could also become “a route to tickets and passes to the national conventions,” the memo adds. The reference to “headquarters buildings of the party” is also open to interpretation. It could mean one national party headquarters building in Washington, D.C., for example, or buildings in states all over the country, noted Robert Lenhard, a Covington & Burling partner who coauthored the memo with four colleagues.

Having been approved with no public notice or comment, the new rules raise some tough questions said Lenhard, a former chairman of the FEC: “This is a statute that was passed without any committee hearings, without any statutory definitions, without any legislative history whatsoever.”

Legal funds, for example, could potentially be spent in any number of ways — and as yet, campaign finance lawyers don’t have ready answers. The new rules specify that parties may raise additional funds in accounts “to defray expenses incurred with respect to the preparation for and the conduct of election recounts and contests and other legal proceedings.”

But what is meant by legal proceedings? Could it, for example, be interpreted to include the Republican Party’s legal challenge to the Obama administration’s alleged abuses of executive power? Or to help pay for additional legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act?

“I don’t know,” said Trevor Potter, another former chairman of the FEC and president of the Campaign Legal Center. “None of us know.” He added, “I haven’t seen any legislative history. I’ve just seen these provisions. They’re pretty broadly drafted.”

It falls naturally to the FEC to step in and help answer the many regulatory questions raised by the new party fundraising rules. But the commission, divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats, has stalemated repeatedly on key policy matters in recent years. And few expect the FEC, which helped usher in the first round of soft money, to offer party officials much guidance.

In the meantime, even experts who applaud the infusion of fresh funds into the political parties have little doubt the parties will leverage them to the fullest. Lenhard noted, “I think politics is very entrepreneurial. And history has shown us that people are very creative and thoughtful in looking for ways they can succeed in a competitive environment.”

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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January 5, 2015

Opening Day Hoopla Sets Optimistic Tone | Procedural Politics

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If the tone set on opening day could determine the success of Congress over the next two years, the scaffolding now encasing the Capitol dome would become a magical power grid of peace and harmony generating a steady source of national policy solutions.

When the opening bell summons the new Congress into session at noon, the House chamber vibrates with electricity as multitudes of members meld in a frenzy of hugs, handshakes, backslaps and laughter. The camaraderie and exchange of verbal olive branches between the speaker and minority leader can only instill hope in the scores of constituents cramming the galleries to watch their newly elected representatives be sworn in. Surely, they think, this portends a new day in our nation’s history. And they’re right: Each new Congress is a blank slate on which it can write its own history of successes and failures.

While this glorious spectacle of democratic renewal is always heartening, the tone set on opening day should not be mistaken for the tune that will eventually play-out. Yes, the founders called it a Congress, meaning “a coming together,” but they fully understood it would not be a harmonic convergence of views, goals and policies. Not only did they grasp that any democratically-elected institution would produce a clashing of interests, they purposely divided responsibilities among the branches to prevent a concentration of power in any one place. As Madison put it in Federalist 51, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

The framers did not fully appreciate that in addition to the Constitution’s separation of powers and attendant checks and balances, political parties would emerge as an additional check on action. That has been especially evident under divided party government which has been the norm for 40 of the last 60 years.

Notwithstanding all the upbeat opening day bonhomie and hoopla, the parties go their separate ways on the two most important votes members will cast: the election of Speaker and the adoption of House rules for the new Congress. The former vote is a recognition that the Speaker, while historically serving as the neutral presiding officer of the House, has also been the majority party’s leader almost since parties first emerged.

The latter vote is a recognition that the majority party fashions rules that allow the will of a House majority eventually to prevail on legislation. Translated, that usually means the rules are designed to expedite consideration and adoption of the majority party’s legislative agenda.

Ironically, the debate on adopting rules for the new House has become a perfunctory slam-dunk, subject to just one-hour of debate and no amendments unless the minority happens to prevail on a procedural vote to commit the resolution with instructions to amend – which it never does.

George B. Galloway, in his 1962 Legislative Reference Service history of the House, recounts how, in the years after the Civil War, it was not unusual for a new House to spend several days debating and amending the rules package recommended by the Rules Committee. In that way, new members could learn the work ways of the institution while senior members could take their measure. That changed with the emergence of party governance in the 1890s and the takeover of the rules origination process by the majority party caucus before a Rules Committee is even appointed.

Those following opening day proceedings on C-SPAN may be baffled that the House chamber and galleries empty immediately after members are sworn-in by the Speaker. The extra television lights are extinguished, and only a handful of members remain in the dimly lit chamber to present and debate the resolution adopting rules for the new Congress. Everyone else has retreated to swearing-in receptions in members’ offices.

It is little consolation to know that the rules from the previous Congress are being re-adopted by reference in the rules resolution with just a few new tweaks. Even though those rules, developed over decades, provide for a “regular order” process of thoughtful, fair and orderly consideration of legislation, they are not self-executing. Instead they have been openly flouted for years through leadership-driven procedural suspensions, interventions and circumventions.

Unfortunately, most members today were not around three and four decades ago when the regular order was regularly observed. However, even if they remained in the chamber for the rules debate they would learn nothing about the old rules being brought forward. Most of the debate will focus instead on the minor new tweaks.

The House would be far better off to postpone consideration of the rules package until day two when all members can participate in an extended discussion of just what the regular order of rules is and why it is so important to learn and adhere to. Obviously, that will require a leadership led effort of reeducation and rededication of the House to a deliberative lawmaking process. But, in the final analysis, it may have as much to do with the reputation and legacy of the 114th Congress as the legislation it enacts.

Don Wolfensberger is a resident scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and former staff director of the House Rules Committee.

December 24, 2014

North Carolina Twitter Data Offers Campaign Lessons

Tillis will be sworn in on Jan. 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Tillis will be sworn in on Jan. 6. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It was neck-and-neck to the bitter end, the dollars flowing freely into harsh television attack ads with a price tag topping $81.6 million, the most expensive Senate race in 2014.

Yet the battle in North Carolina may well have been won — and lost — on Twitter.

Polls showed Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in the lead up to Election Day, but social conversations on Twitter told a different story.

Full story

December 23, 2014

K Street Files: Steve McBee on Leaving His Shop (Updated)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated Dec. 26, 11:40 a.m. | Steve McBee never was your typical K Street character.

So perhaps it should not have come as a shock when the 46-year-old founder of McBee Strategic took a most unconventional career path, ditching his business to become CEO of NRG Home, a $6 billion energy concern with 5,000 employees. Full story

Cruz Move Misses Its Constitutional Mark | Procedural Politics

Sen Ted Cruz's antics may have missed the mark as a credible points of order. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz’s antics may have missed the mark as a credible points of order. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On Saturday, Dec. 13, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attempted to block funding for the president’s executive order on immigration by raising what he called “constitutional point of order” against the homeland security portion of the cromnibus appropriations bill. It was a clever eleventh hour gambit to dramatize the issue. However, it completely missed the mark as a credible point of order because it did not cite any provision of the bill as directly violating the Constitution.

Instead, Cruz reeled off provisions he said the president’s executive order contravened. The bill itself neither authorized, condoned or condemned the president’s action. The Homeland Security portion targeted by Cruz simply funds the department and its myriad of activities and responsibilities through next February. Whether the president uses the funds to implement his order is a future contingency beyond the immediate reach of the Senate absent an amendment prohibiting their use for that purpose. That option was precluded by the majority leader’s filling the amendment tree, thereby blocking any amendments to the cromnibus.

Rather than being an assault on the Constitution, the bill belatedly fulfills one of Congress’s most important responsibilities: to make appropriations by law for the operation of the government. Moreover, Divison L of the bill funding the Department of Homeland Security appropriates money for carrying out Congress’s enumerated power “to establish an uniform rule of naturalization,” and with it the implied powers to regulate immigration and protect the borders.

All that is not to say that constitutional objections cannot be raised against certain legislation or amendments. Former Parliamentarian Floyd Riddick’s “Senate Procedure” makes clear that, “Under the uniform practices of the Senate, whenever a question of constitutionality is raised, the Chair submits the question to the Senate for decision.” Unlike on other points of order, the presiding officer does not make a determination either sustaining or overruling the point of order. Thus, on the Cruz point of order, the chair explained, “Under the precedents and practices of the Senate, the Chair has no power or authority to pass on such a point of order,” and “submits the question to the Senate, Is the point of order well taken?” Following the roll call, the chair announced, “On this vote the yeas are 22, the nays are 74. The point of order is not well taken.”

Most of the Senate precedents on constitutional points of order have been over the constitutional question of whether a Senate-originated measure or provision is in violation of the House’s constitutional privilege with respect to originating revenue legislation. The House, on the other hand, has a slightly different way of handling the matter since under House precedents the chair does not construe constitutional points of order nor put the question directly to the House. The chair simply refuses to recognize someone attempting to raise the point of order –a refusal that cannot be appealed and overturned.

Instead, the House may send a Senate-originated revenue measure back to the other body by adopting a so-called “blue slip” resolution, offered by any member, raising a question of the constitutional privileges of the House. By extension, the same method can be used to send a Senate-originated appropriations measure back to the Senate which by precedent must also originate in the House.

The angry backlash in the Senate over Sen. Cruz’s point of order was due in part to its disruptive effect on a weekend senators were promised would be free. But it was also occasioned by the recognition that the point of order was beyond clearly delineated bounds for such an objection. As the Majority Leader Harry Reid explained just before the vote: “The House of Representatives passed this legislation before us in an exercise of its powers under article I of the United States Constitution,” and “this bill has thus, originated in the House within the meaning of the origination clause of the Constitution.”

Reid concluded, in exasperation, “The Constitution(al) objection is completely –completely –without merit and should be rejected.” The Senate overwhelmingly agreed with Reid’s assessment, keeping its powder dry and the government open, at least until next Feb. 27 when the homeland security CR in the bill expires.

Don Wolfensberger is a resident scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and former staff director of the House Rules Committee.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

December 19, 2014

Bill O’Neill, Jerry Hogan: 2 Friends Taken in 2 Days

Friends of O'Neill will gather at the Tune Inn Friday to toast their late friend. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Friends of O’Neill will gather at the Tune Inn Friday to toast their late friend. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The low odds of two friends in the same tight-knit community on Capitol Hill dying on consecutive days were mercilessly defied last week, as a sad 24 hours rocked the tech and telecom lobbying world — along with numerous other universes both inside politics and out.

News traveled fast on Dec. 8 that Jerry Hogan, 64, an assistant vice president of federal relations at AT&T, had died after a years-long battle with cancer. Given their close relationship, friends and colleagues of Bill O’Neill, 52, a principal at Ogilvy Government Relations, weren’t terribly surprised that day when he didn’t respond to their phone calls, emails and text messages, and never showed up to work. Full story

December 18, 2014

Jim Gerlach Exits Congress, Enters Venable | Downtown Moves

(Scott J. Ferrell/ CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Scott J. Ferrell/ CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Retiring Rep. Jim Gerlach is heading to Venable LLP, where the Pennsylvania Republican will join other former lawmakers such as Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Ind., in the legislative and government affairs firm.

Gerlach joined the Ways and Means Committee in 2011, and served on the Select Revenue and Health Subcommittees during that time. With tax reform possibly high on the agenda in the 114th Congress, and Republicans in charge of both chambers, Gerlach’s experience could come in handy at Venable.  Full story

December 16, 2014

Scott Weaver to Head Public Policy Practice at Wiley Rein | Downtown Moves

Weaver, center, back in the day when he first came to the Hill to work for Sullivan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Weaver, center, back in the day when he first came to the Hill to work for Sullivan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Scott Weaver has been promoted to lead the day-to-day operations of the Public Policy Practice at Wiley Rein LLP. Weaver previously served as the firm’s senior public policy adviser and will serve as co-chair of the Practice Group along with ex-Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., who joined the firm in 2009.

Weaver said the firm has traditional strengths in government contracts, trade, health care, telecommunications and insurance. “We hope to add additional capabilities in the national security, energy, tax, oversight and investigations, and transportation sectors, as well as foreign affairs,” he said in an email to CQ Roll Call. Full story

December 9, 2014

The Year in Government Ethics | A Question of Ethics

the trial and convictions of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, stood out among the biggest ethics stories of the year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The trial and convictions of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, stood out among the biggest ethics stories of the year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As long as there are governments, there will be government corruption. The temptations to abuse power are never going away, and neither is human frailty, which means government ethics will remain an important issue for, well, forever.

A look back on 2014 reveals yet another year of explosive government ethics stories, scandals and legal developments. As has been the custom for the year’s final column, I asked several of the top practitioners in the field to name the biggest government ethics stories of the year. Full story

Democrats Resurrect Call for Remote Voting | Procedural Politics

Some members were outraged Duckworth was denied a proxy vote. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Some members were outraged Duckworth was denied a proxy vote. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans may think they put proxy voting in its grave when they changed House rules in 1995 to ban it in committees. But the issue resurfaced last month when a dispute arose in the Democratic Caucus over Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s request to vote by proxy in caucus elections because she was about to give birth to her first child.

Three months ago another Democrat, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California urged the Rules Committee to put forward a new House rule permitting members to cast their floor votes electronically from their districts on non-controversial bills early in the week.

Some younger members are so attuned to high-tech solutions in their daily lives that they are beginning to think democratic decision-making can be carried-out more efficiently using electronic joy sticks. Why should elected representatives need to be in a particular place at a certain time to vote when they can more easily decide the matter remotely? What better way to eliminate hyper-partisan debates than to keep members out of each others’ faces? Full story

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