- Trump Quote of the Day
- Playing the Expectations Game in New Hampshire
- The Latest on Wonk Wire
- How Valuable Is Your Primary Vote?
- Putting New Hampshire in Perspective
The Republicans’ House majority, 246 strong, is the biggest the GOP has enjoyed since 1929. But House Republican aides stand apart from their counterparts in the Democratic Party and in the Senate in their skepticism about party leaders, a new CQ Roll Call survey of Hill staff members shows. Full story
Last year in this space, I wrote about House discharge petitions as “useful minority tools,” even though they seldom gain the requisite 218 signatures to force floor consideration of the targeted legislation. The subject of that column was the Democrats’ attempt to force consideration of a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. That effort had stalled at 197 signatures (all Democrats) when the clock ran out on the 113th Congress.
In this Congress, a different phenomenon is unfolding: A discharge petition launched by 42 majority party members on Oct. 9 hit the 218 signature mark that same day, thanks to 176 Democratic co-signers. This year, the subject of the discharge petition is a five-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. (On July 1, it lost its authority to make new loans to companies to finance the export of U.S. products abroad.)
The leader of the discharge effort is Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, a third-term Republican from Memphis who sits halfway down the roster of 34 Republicans on the Financial Services Committee to which his bill was referred. Fincher introduced his bill on Jan. 28, just 14 legislative days into the new Congress. He was joined by 61 co-sponsors — all but one of whom are Republicans, though only six sit on Financial Services. And therein lies the rub: The committee’s chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas vehemently opposes the bill, as does House Republican leadership.
Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposes the bank. However, as part of a deal to pass Trade Promotion Authority, McConnell promised Ex-Im supporters a later floor vote on their issue. That promise was fulfilled when an amendment by Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois extending the Ex-Im bank was added to the three-year highway funding reauthorization on July 27 by a vote of 64 to 29. The popular highway bill went on to pass by a comparable margin. Nevertheless, McConnell has since vowed he will not take up a separate Ex-Im bank bill, such as the Fincher measure.
What was especially adroit about the Fincher pincer was its orchestration to achieve victory on the same day the motion was filed. That precluded any attempts by GOP leaders to pressure Republican colleagues to remove their names from the petition. It was a done deal. But Fincher also had the foresight to file his motion on a special rule providing for consideration of his Ex-Im bill. That has two advantages. First, the effort cannot be halted if Financial Services subsequently reports the bill. You cannot discharge a bill from a committee once it has reported it.
Secondly, the special rule provides for tight consideration: It self-executes the adoption of language from a substitute bill Fincher introduced in September that brings it into line with the Senate-passed language. And the rule prohibits any amendments. An open rule could have subjected the measure to a filibuster by amendment. The rule does preserve the right to offer a motion to recommit, with or without instructions (a final amendment). Whether Democrats should qualify to offer a final amendment in a motion to recommit is a morally murky question given their support for the bill. However, they are still entitled under the rules to do so as the minority party so long as the person offering the motion affirms opposition to the measure.
Under the discharge rule, the motion is eligible for consideration on the second or fourth Monday of the month after it has been pending on the discharge calendar for seven legislative days. In this case, that date fell on Oct. 26. Suffice to say, the House Freedom Caucus, which opposes the Ex-Im Bank, is not happy about the quickie bank job pulled by another 40-something member rump group inside the GOP conference. Nevertheless, the development has sparked an interesting internal debate about the founders’ notion of majority rule in a democratic republic.
Correction 8:35 p.m.
A previous version of this column misstated the day on which the discharge motion would be called up.
Don Wolfensberger is a resident scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a congressional fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and former staff director of the House Rules Committee.
There used to be a radio-TV series called “The Life of Riley,” in which the lead character, Chester A. Riley (played by William Bendix), would cry out in each episode, “What a revoltin’ development this is.” It always produced uproarious laughter from the (canned?) studio audience.
The House Republican Conference on the other hand, which has a history of revolting developments, isn’t exactly rolling in the aisles (let alone across the aisle) over its latest internal eruptions culminating in the resignation of Speaker John A. Boehner, effective at the end of this month (or when a successor is chosen). Party leadership shakeups are unsettling enough at the beginning of a Congress, but can be downright disruptive when they occur mid-session.
Last May, in a rare display of bipartisanship, the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a congressional review process for the Iran nuclear agreement — a process President Barack Obama initially said he didn’t want and didn’t need.
This is the quadrennial Republican silly season, when candidates without a prayer of election get their moments in the limelight, sometimes topping the polls before crashing.
After adopting crazy enthusiasms — Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Pat Robertson, Michele Bachman, Herman Cain and the ever-present Mike Huckabee — the party almost always ends up nominating its most electable candidate. The process is often ruinous, of course, forcing the nominee to adopt positions in the primaries that render him unable to win the general. Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” position on immigration in 2012 is the best example.
It is often noted there are two kinds of members in Congress: the showhorses and the workhorses. That’s probably an oversimplification, since most members consider themselves workhorses, but with a flair for show. Politics, after all, is a lot like show business, with public attention and appreciation focused on those actors who are able to entertain and project their roles in a convincing and effective manner. On Broadway, the payoff is in audience acclaim and good reviews. In Congress, it is in media attention and re-election.
However, it seems that more and more members are opting for the show ring over the work plough as Congress becomes increasingly polarized and legislative work is less valued and rewarded. This becomes more evident as presidential and congressional elections loom and members ramp up their publicity machines, both on and off the Hill, to set themselves apart from the rest. Frequently this involves running for Congress by running against it, especially when the public mood is strongly anti-Washington, as is now the case. It’s an old incumbent trick for hanging onto incumbency.
By Matt Walter
In last week’s Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg waded into the critically important, yet under-reported topic of state and local elections (“RSLC Presents GOP State Level Gains Out of Context,” Roll Call, April 8). It’s exciting to see a well-respected federal elections analyst give attention to the levels of government that have the most pointed impact on people’s homes, jobs, roads and children’s education. Unfortunately, Rothenberg’s analysis of two recent local Republican victories in Democratic territory fundamentally misses current state-level trends and is simply inaccurate when it refers to these races as taking place in “competitive or even Republican-leaning districts.”
In Pennsylvania, Rothenberg misunderstood Martina White’s victory to become the second House Republican from Philadelphia when he attributed it in part to a “split in the Democratic Party.” In truth, this talented 26-year-old financial adviser ran a better campaign and won because she was the right candidate, with a clear vision for a better future for her district. White brought together an unexpected coalition of voters from both sides of the political aisle to carry her to victory in a district President Barack Obama won by nearly 15 points.
Her win was neither easy nor insignificant. A Republican has not won the 170th District seat since George W. Bush was in the White House in 2006 when Democratic voter registration outweighed Republicans 53 percent to 39 percent. Following almost 10 years of growing registration on the Democratic side and redistricting, White took the seat back for our party this year when Democratic registration now outweighs Republicans by 30 points.
In California, Rothenberg correctly noted Andrew Do’s race saw “enthusiastic support” from his former boss, current state Sen. Janet Nguyen who previously held Do’s Board of Supervisors seat. Having the support of Nguyen — who won her senate race last November by 16 points in a district Obama carried by nearly 9 points — is welcome when trying to keep a supervisors’ seat in a district where registered Democrats outweigh Republicans. Do campaigned tirelessly and fought for the votes of those in his community by sharing his message of open and innovative governing. In the end, he turned out enough voters in an extremely close race to beat a better-known, formerly-elected Democrat. The Democrat he beat even held this same supervisor seat immediately before Nguyen.
Rothenberg also missed the broad impact of Nguyen’s story: Her recent election to the state senate made her the country’s first Vietnamese-American woman state legislator and was one of the key wins that broke the Democratic super-majority in the California Senate. She won by sharing a deep commitment to delivering results on state and local issues in an era when Americans are supporting responsive local government.
These wins are significant as the latest in a trend in our party that began when Obama controlled a completely Democratic federal government in 2008, leading to unchecked growth in government, federal overreach into the states and the passage of Obamacare. Voters rejected that old top-down, one-size-fits-all Democratic approach and have since welcomed the bottom-up, innovative and open solutions being implemented by state and local Republicans. Voters embraced a new type of Republican candidate — like White, Do and Nguyen — running different kinds of races for a better type of government.
In the 2010 election cycle, Republicans flipped 21 state legislative chambers, taking control of more legislative seats than any time since 1928. In 2011 and 2012, Republicans again had a net gain in state legislative chambers. And for a third-straight cycle of expansion, Republicans in 2014 won control of more chambers than they have ever held in history — a super-majority of legislative majorities with 69 out of 99 state chambers. 23 of those majority chambers are in states Obama won twice.
Each race and each win matters and continues moving state and local governments toward effective and responsive governing that makes a tangible difference in people’s lives. Over the past three cycles, Republicans have netted more than 900 new legislative seats. New victories such as the recent wins in Philadelphia and California are a further progression of this six-year trend.
It’s easy to forget in Washington that effective politics results from the right leaders delivering the right policies that make people’s lives better. That’s how Republicans at the state level have reached historic highs across red, purple and even blue states. That’s how White, Do and Nguyen were elected. And as long as state and local Republicans continue delivering effective local leadership while the old, top-down Democratic bureaucracy reigns in Washington, Republican governing will continue to succeed and spread, one seat at a time.
Matt Walter is president of the Republican State Leadership Committee.
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.
The Arkansas Republican and his 46 Senate Republican co-signers have been accused of everything from trying to blow up the negotiations and undermining the president to giving aid and comfort to the enemy and betraying the national interest. Full story
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.
Instead, a more realistic escape route appeared out of nowhere — a rope ladder thrown down by a federal district court judge in Texas who stayed the president’s 2014 immigration action pending disposition of legal challenges to it by 26 states. Since judicial appeals from the dueling orders could take months, the judge’s injunction freed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to propose a compromise: a clean DHS funding bill in return for separate consideration of a bill rescinding the president’s 2014 immigration order.
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.
Identical House and Senate pipeline bills were introduced on the opening day of the new Congress by two North Dakota Republicans, Rep. Kevin Cramer and Sen. John Hoeven. Both measures were placed on a fast track to the floor the first week of the session. But that’s where the similarities ended. Full story
Walk through the Capitol South Metro station and you’ll pass SoftBank ads that festoon the walls — but you won’t see a campaign for the 3 million people hoping Congress will pass an unemployment insurance extension.
Business groups and most big-money lobbies that typically place such advertising to influence the people working in the Capitol either oppose extending jobless benefits, or they won’t take a position.
That leaves the unemployment extension lobbying mostly to people who are out of work themselves, along with an unusual collection of Washington allies: unions, religious organizations, anti-poverty and mental health groups. Full story
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss Tuesday shocked K Street and has left the business community without a crucial, well-placed ally in the ongoing battle between conservative and pro-business factions within the GOP.
The Virginia Republican’s defeat by a tea-party-backed political novice could deal a setback to the already toned-down summer agenda of the business community. In particular, business lobbyists working in support of the Export-Import Bank’s re-authorization by the Sept. 30 expiration say Cantor’s loss will only embolden the conservative Republicans who wish to block the bank.
“It is shocking,” said one business lobbyist speaking on the condition of anonymity. “As for policy, this completely kills any chance of immigration reform this year and surely imperils Ex-Im.” Full story
CQ Roll Call is excited to offer the first installment of a new video series, “Opinion Duel,” created by The Purple Network. Roll Call has partnered with National Review and The Nation to bring you in-depth discussions of top political issues with more discussion than a short cable news segment. Representing the left, right, and center, each Opinion Duel program will feature an intelligent debate on key legislative issues between The Nation on the left, National Review on the right, and CQ Roll Call editors playing the important role of moderator.
In this first installment of the Opinion Duel, Roll Call’s Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni moderated a discussion with Charles C. W. Cooke, from National Review and The Nation‘s Zoë Carpenter. Carpenter and Cooke discussed the interests surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and whether President Obama has been active on the climate change agenda. Bellantoni lead the discussion with questions that allowed Cooke and Carpenter to offer differing sides of the political spectrum concerning the Keystone XL pipeline and the administration’s current delay of any resolution to the hot-button issue.
The Purple Network is a partnership which strives to deliver content from all sides of the ideological divide to inform the whole spectrum of politically engaged thought leaders.
Watch the engaging discussion below: