Congress

Lugar Sounds the Alarm against GOP Extremism

(Flickr/ kennethkonica)
There's been a lot of talk about how veteran Senator Dick Lugar could have salvaged his campaign . The Indiana Republican was soundly defeated by nearly 20 points yesterday in primary race against a Tea Party-backed challenger. He lost amid criticisms that he's too close to Obama and not dogmatic enough for the GOP. Many of those criticisms came from outside groups, including Grover Norquist's Club for Growth and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, which poured money into the effort to defeat the well-liked senator. In the end, Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock won the primary—and in response, Dick Lugar sounded a call of alarm for Republicans about the fate of the party. Lugar noted his own Republican bona fides , including that he'd voted with Reagan more than any other senator. Then he went after Mourdock, the Tea Party, and the general intractability that's taken hold of his party: If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated...

Non-Partisans Finally Agree With What Partisans Have Been Saying

Flickr/K P Tripathi
The most talked-about op-ed over the weekend was "Let's Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem," a piece in The Washington Post by DC eminence grises Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. They're both not only deeply respected but known as non-partisan Congress-watchers (Ornstein even works at the conservative American Enterprise Institute), which is why the piece will get more attention. But should that matter? Either they're right or they're wrong, and the fact that they are who they are ought not make any difference. And if you look at their argument, it's nothing that you couldn't have found in magazines like The Prospect and a hundred other places many times over the past two years. I feel like I've written versions of Mann and Ornstein's piece a dozen times myself (see here , or here, or here ). Mann and Ornstein's reputations do make it harder for Republicans to dismiss them as just liberal partisans, but that doesn't mean they're going to have some kind of seriously difficult...

Romney vs. Congressional Republicans

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
President Obama was prepared to spend his week contrasting himself with Republicans on students loans, but Mitt Romney deflated that argument yesterday afternoon. The 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act lowered the interest rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent for federal student loans, but comes with an expiration date: this July. A one-year extension would cost just $6 billion dollars, but would benefit over 7 million young people with student loans. The Obama campaign has highlighted the lack of action from congressional Republicans on the issue, and the president will speak at three college campuses today and tomorrow. He can’t use this against Romney, though, after the presumptive Republican nominee came out in support of the extension yesterday. Romney’s pivot to the center doesn’t mean the issue is settled. This marks the first point of disagreement between Romney and his party since he cleared the primary competition. How congressional Republicans respond over the...

President Romney and the Republican Congress

The Congressional Tea Party Caucus. In the rear, Rep. Louie Gohmert appears to be about to swallow a small child whole.
As we've discussed here many times, there a number of factors that make it more likely than not that Barack Obama will win re-election in November. But it's also quite possible that Obama will lose, and Mitt Romney will become president in January. If Romney does win, chances are that he'll come into office with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress. That's because whatever conditions produce a Republican win at the top will also probably allow Republicans to hold on to the House and take the Senate. It's even possible that Obama could win and Republicans wind up with both houses, since Democrats right now hold only a 53-47 lead in the upper chamber, and they are defending 23 seats in this year's election, while Republicans are defending only ten. There's an outside chance that a big Obama win could allow Democrats to hold the Senate and take back the house, but for now let's focus on the possibility of a Romney win, which will probably leave him with the benefit of total...

They're Just Not That into Romney

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Yeeesh, what does Mitt Romney have to do to drum up a bit of enthusiasm from his party? Sure, he's got to be feeling pretty content as each day brings another Republican casting aside the somehow-still-going campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to accept the inevitable proposition that Romney will be the party's nominee. Yet few can seem to offer an explanation for why they like Romney beyond the fact that they’re stuck with him. Shortly after I noted John Boehner’s lackluster endorsement yesterday, reporters asked Mitch McConnell for his take on Romney and were given the same nod-and-sigh routine : “Yeah, I support Governor Romney for president of the United States,” Mr. McConnell said. “And he is going to be the nominee. And as you have noticed, the party is in the process of unifying behind him. And I think it’s going to be an incredibly close, hard-fought race. Everybody is banding — bandying polls around, but just look at the Gallup tracking poll yesterday actually had...

Does Congress Even Need to Pass a Budget?

The last time the U.S. passed a real budget was in 1997. Does this mean we don't need one?

As much as the Internet might try to fool you, the 2012 political season is about more than just Etch A Sketches and sweater vests. We’re up crap creek in a leaky canoe when it comes to the economy, and as the country heads into the general election, the debt and budget will be at the fore of public debate. With competing budget proposals flying in from all sides, much of the political talk these days centers on the endless delays and extensions that Congress has thrown in the path of approving a long-term federal budget. Which might lead one to wonder: Would it matter if we never passed a budget plan ever again? What exactly is the federal budget? The federal budget is one big ’ol nasty bill thousands of pages long that determines the fiscal future of the country over the course of a year by allocating money to various programs like Medicare and Medicaid as well as to things like defense spending. When was the last time we had a budget bill that was approved? April of 2009. But...

Try Not to Get So Excited Boehner

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Mitt Romney had no trouble garnering more endorsements than his opponents during the Republican primaries, though a number of prominent figures held off from granting Romney their nod until his nomination was all but certain. John Boehner was one such politician—no huge surprise given his position in the party (then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi refrained from directly endorsing Obama in the 2008 primary though it was clear she supported him against Hillary Clinton). Now that Romney is the presumptive candidate Boehner is free to offer his support, but boy does he sound unexcited about the idea: “It’s clear now that Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee,” the Speaker told reporters after a House GOP conference meeting. “I think Mitt Romney has a set of economic policies that can put Americans back to work and contrast sharply with the failed economic policies of President Obama. And I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do everything I can to help him win.” This is just the latest in a...

Stop Blaming Dysfunction on "Both Sides"

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
For years, liberals have argued that polarization his little to do with the Democratic Party—which they see as largely centrist—and everything to do with a Republican Party, which has moved far to the right since the 1970s. Recent research from political scientists Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal, who have measured polarization and ideological shifts in Congress, confirms that theory. According to NPR , they’ve found that the GOP is more conservative now than it’s been in a century: The short version would be since the late 1970s starting with the 1976 election in the House the Republican caucus has steadily moved to the right ever since. It’s been a little more uneven in the Senate. The Senate caucuses have also moved to the right. Republicans are now furtherest to the right that they’ve been in 100 years. Moreover, Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats have to the left, and that goes a long way toward explaining the gridlock of the last three years, during...

Can Occupy Our Homes Move Congress?

A conversation with Representative Keith Ellison.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
With Occupy Our Homes—the growing movement to fight foreclosures and evictions—community organizations and Occupy activists have teamed up in cities throughout the country to defend at-risk homeowners, pressure banks to renegotiate mortgages, and keep families in their homes. This effort has resulted in some impressive local victories. At the same time, the scope of the foreclosure crisis calls out for federal remedies. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) has proposed one such remedy. In late February, Ellison released a statement with fellow Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) calling on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to write down mortgage principal amounts for homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The Prospect spoke with Ellison about debt forgiveness for struggling families and about how grassroots housing activism is affecting discussion in Congress. Could you elaborate on your proposal for principal reduction? Underwater mortgages are holding people in...

Republicans Invest in Senate Races

(Flickr/katieharbath)
There are a host of organizations that track congressional elections and offer lists of the most competitive Senate races. You can consult Real Clear Politics’ list , which is backed up by polling data, or peer into Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball for a political scientists’ perspective. But perhaps the best indicator for which elections are most competitive comes the parties themselves. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) committed itself to an early ad-buy this week, penciling in $25 million to spend on ads in six different Senate races. The blitz won’t start until after Labor Day, so the group still has time to cancel or reconfigure how that money is spent, but it provides an early glimpse at the seats at play. With the current breakdown in the Senate at a 53–47 advantage for Democrats, Republicans will need to swing four seats their way, or three seats if they win the presidency and the vice president’s tie-breaking vote. Here are the six races where the NRSC is...

Today in Looney Tea Party Theories

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
With Rick Santorum finally out of the picture, the Romney campaign is reportedly starting its VP hunt, but there's no announcement on the immediate horizon. Recent hire Ed Gillespie will lead the search, according to Buzzfeed, and it will likely be a long process to make sure the party doesn't repeat its 2008 mistake in selecting someone ill-prepared for the national spotlight. A freshman congressman seems unlikely to pass that muster, but Florida Representative Allen West has received a bit of buzz thanks to support from the far right wing of the Republican Party. Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, and Nikki Haley had previously touted him as a possible running mate. "He is well-spoken, he is direct, people in Florida love him, he has a huge following," Cain said in a radio interview. It could be the start of a groundswell of support to force Romney to select a more conservative running mate than he would naturally prefer. But it won't go anywhere when West goes around making claims like this...

Paul Ryan Wants Democratic Friends

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Paul Ryan's budget has become a rallying cry for Democrats, and President Obama's re-election in particular. Republicans have long expressed an antipathy for the general concept of government services, but these were often expressed in the abstract or lone exceptions, with the party generally focusing on the starve-the-beast philosophy of reducing taxes so that government outlays would eventually have to be reduced. Ryan's budget gets that down on paper in crystallized form, codifying those ideas into a specific vision for the future that would gut all government services except health spending, Social Security, and an increased budget for defense, discarding the rest of discretionary spending. Earlier this morning, Ryan told a group of reporters in New York that his budget wasn't actually all that extreme because an anonymous selection of a dozen Democrats have told him they love his bill. From Buzzfeed: "There are a number of democrats but I don’t want to name their names, because I...

Who Benefits From Paul Ryan's Tax Cuts?

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Via Ezra Klein, here are handful of charts from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that perfectly captures how Paul Ryan's budget would essentially wipe out all government services for those in need in order to fund a massive redistribution of wealth back up to those at the top of the income scale. Ryan's budget goes beyond the GOP regressive standard of turning all of the Bush tax cuts permanent and includes a number of other tax reductions that would benefit the wealthy. According to the Tax Policy Center that adds up to an extra $265,000 average windfall in fewer taxes that people earning over $1 million wouldn't have to pay each year. The total distribution of those tax cuts would tilt sharply toward the country's highest income bracket. It'd be one thing if this plan just represented the views of a lone congressman from Wisconsin, but the Ryan plan has become accepted dogma in the GOP. Only 10 House members broke ranks to vote against it last week, and the plan has a seal...

The Return of Earmarks

(William Joyce/Flickr)
For as distasteful as they might seem to the public, earmarks—when used in moderation—are an important part of the legislative process. They make compromise easier, and bolster the status of elected officials by giving them the ability to directly help their districts. Railing against earmarks makes for good politics, but as we’ve seen with congressional Republicans over the last year, it doesn’t actually improve governance. Which is why I’m glad to see that some Republicans are reconsidering their opposition: The huge federal transportation bill was in tatters in early March when Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama posed a heretical idea for breaking through gridlock in the House. […] Bring back earmarks, Rogers, who was first elected to Congress in 2002, told his colleagues. Few members of Congress have been bold enough to use the “e” word since both the House and Senate temporarily banned the practice last year after public outcries about Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” and other...

Paul Ryan No Longer Thinks the Military Is Lying

(Flickr/SpeakerBoehner)
Last Friday I noted Paul Ryan’s comments where he, in essence, accused the top military brass of lying to Congress to cover-up potential harm to the nation’s security in Obama’s proposed budget. To Ryan’s credit, he went on the Sunday shows to retract the claims. Per TPM : “I really misspoke,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union . “And I did not mean to impugn the integrity of the military in any way.” Asked whether he has apologized to Gen. Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ryan said, “Yeah, I called him and told him that.” It was not the impression I meant to give,” Ryan added on ABC’s This Week . “I talked to General Dempsey on it, and expressed that sentiment.” Calling his words “clumsy,” Ryan doubled down on his broader point that the Pentagon is conforming to adjusted military spending levels in President Obama’s budget, when he argues they should have put out their plan first. Good on Ryan for stepping back rather than going for the typical politician...

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