President Obama is asking Congress to renew a fast-track government reorganization process that expired in 1984. He would first use the process to submit a plan to consolidate various trade-related agencies and functions in a newly name and reconfigured Commerce Department. Congress is leery of giving presidents carte blanch authority to get an up-or-down vote on their plans, especially under divided party government. There is nothing to prevent Congress from using the normal legislative process to deliberate and amend the president’s reorganization proposals.
President Barack Obama made a controversial move in early January by making four recess appointments to fill vacancies in top government positions, even though Congress was intentionally avoiding long recesses to block such a move. While the recess ploy may score political points by highlighting Senate delays in approving nominations, it is straining constitutional bounds and inter-branch relations.
The House of Representatives is considering a spurt of budget process reform bills this month. While it has been pegged by House Republican leaders to the Democratic Senate’s failure to produce a budget resolution over the last three years, it is also a useful exercise in better educating Members on the process—even if the pieces don’t all fit together at this point.
Congress completed work on an important piece of legislation Dec. 23 after most Members had already left town for the holidays. In his column, Don Wolfensberger describes this immaculate conception of a public law as a temporary Christmas miracle with a very short half-life since it will have to be revisited in February.
While there has been a lot of finger-pointing in Congress over who is to blame for the failure of the joint committee on deficit reduction, the American people are ultimately to blame for their ambivalence about increasing taxes and lowering government entitlement benefits. That mood is reflected in the stalemate among parties and Members over how to tackle the debt problem. Congress is a representative body and right now it is representing the reluctance of the people they represent to elevate deficit reduction over jobs and the economy. Read more from Don Wolfensberger's latest article from Roll Call's Procedural Politics column.
Part of the debt limit deal last August was a provision mandating that both Houses vote on an amendment to the Constitution to require a balanced budget each year. When the House Judiciary Committee reported a version that required a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, House Republicans reversed the committee in favor a simple majority vote to attract Democrats. In this article from Roll Call's Procedural Politics column, Don Wolfensberger comments that while the procedural acrobatics to make this change were complicated, they still left the amendment short of the two-thirds vote needed for constitutional amendments.
The President and Congress may agree the message should be “jobs, jobs, jobs,” but how they actually translate that into workable legislative programs is another matter. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even conducted a procedural nuclear test to block Senate Republicans from forcing an early and predictably embarrassing vote on the President’s jobs package.
Hopeful budget watchers predicted that Congress would have fairly smooth fiscal sailing now that statutory spending caps are in place. That obviously underestimates the ability of Members to whip up their own squalls.
Congress will not celebrate fiscal new year’s eve Sept. 30. That’s because: (a) it will not be in town; and (b) it will have nothing to celebrate.
If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, is a duck-billed platypus a duck conceived by a bipartisan, joint committee of Congress? We may soon know, as the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction is mandated to report additional budget savings of at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade by Nov. 23.