Congress Publications

Obama’s Reorganization Plan Faces Long Odds

Mar 08, 2012
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’s ‘Recess’ Picks Set Dangerous Path

Mar 01, 2012
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.

Flurry of Budget Process Reforms Blanket House

Feb 08, 2012
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 Left for Recess on Temporary Miracle

Jan 26, 2012
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.

Deficit Panel’s Failure Reflects Ambivalent Public Mood

Dec 14, 2011
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.

Balanced Budget Proposal Tilts on Procedure

Nov 29, 2011
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.

Harry Reid’s Nuclear Test Benefits President, for Now

Oct 27, 2011
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.

A Debate Worth Having on Emergency Offsets

Oct 14, 2011
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.

A Better Way to Fund the Government on Time

Sep 20, 2011
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.

Mixed Records of Success for Joint Committees

Sep 06, 2011
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.