It’s unusual for Congress to plan in advance, but House Republicans have pushed through a bill to establish a process for considering comprehensive tax reform next year. Don Wolfensberger writes that the process is aimed more at blasting Senate obstruction and appealing to this fall’s electorate than to making a serious commitment to tax reform.
While the House and Senate appropriations committees were off to a good start this spring in reporting most of their 12 money bills, the process slowed down considerably this summer with a raft of floor amendments. This portends a repeat of last year with no bills enacted by the start of the fiscal year and an omnibus bill wrapping things up well past the deadline, writes Don Wolfensberger in his Procedural Politics column.
While House Democrats charged Republicans with playing politics by forcing a contempt of Congress vote against Attorney General Eric Holder, and some Republican Members seemed too anxious to punish the Attorney General by pushing Speaker John Boehner for an earlier vote, Wolfensberger points out that neither party nor branch of government stands to gain politically from what is a complex interbranch dispute over documents related to the government’s botched Fast and Furious gun-walking operation in the southwest U.S.
Two prominent political scientists claim Republicans are principally to blame for Washington’s dysfunction because they are more extreme and less inclined to compromise. In this article, Don Wolfensberger notes Congress has been just as dysfunctional under Democratic majorities and the fault lies in the increasing polarization between the parties and the imperatives of “the permanent campaign” to hold on to power by shaping legislation for political purposes rather than finding common ground in the national interest.
A recent study credits Congresses of the last decade as being more civil than their predecessors in the 1990s. However, the study is based on the narrow metric of how often House Members are called to order for uttering unparliamentary language questioning the character of a colleague. Wolfensberger maintains that such acts of incivility may be down but the “uncivility” of depersonalizing and ignoring Members of the other party is on the upswing.
Wolfensberger praises the Stennis Center’s Congressional Fellows Program that has trained some 240 senior staff over the last two decades, for personifying the extraordinary quality and character of the young people who assist House and Senate Members in carrying out their duties.
The dispute this spring between the House and Senate over whether a congressional budget resolution is even necessary this year highlights difficulties down the road as the two houses weigh-in with widely divergent spending numbers writes Don Wolfensberger in Roll Call.
The retirement of House Parliamentarian John Sullivan drew tributes from both House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on the importance of the Office of Parliamentarian in holding the House together, and the special qualities required for the postion, chief among them, the ability to withstand extreme pressures in one of politics’ biggest pressure cookers.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Wilson Center) sponsored a congressional study trip to Ghana and Liberia from March 20 to March 26, 2011. It was organized by Wilson Center on the Hill and the Africa Program at the Wilson Center. This trip was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
I am often asked about the differences between the House and Senate. Sometimes I jokingly respond, “Do you have another hour?” However, some political scientists make the case that the two bodies have become more alike.