Entries Tagged as 'government shutdown'

When the Senate Functioned

October 19th, 2011 at 11:59 pm 46 Comments

Once upon a time, seek legend has it, health the United States Senate could work.  While lost in the mists of time, sovaldi the exact way the Senate worked apparently had to do with something called, “regular order.”

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Who Broke the Government?

David Frum September 26th, 2011 at 11:06 am 186 Comments

In my column for CNN, I explain why government institutions are failing:

Under the old rules, there were certain things that political parties did not do — even though theoretically they could. If one party controlled the Senate and another party controlled the presidency, the Senate party did not reject all the president’s nominees. The party that controlled the House did not refuse to schedule votes on the president’s budgets. Individual senators did not use secret holds to sway national policy. The filibuster was reserved for rare circumstances — not as a routine 60-vote requirement on every Senate vote.

It’s incredible to look back now on how the Reagan tax cut passed the Democratic House in 1981. The Democratic House leaderships could have refused to schedule votes on Reagan’s tax plans. Instead, they not only allowed the tax plan to proceed — but they allowed 48 of 243 Democrats to break ranks on the key procedural vote without negative consequences to their careers in the Democratic party. (Rep. Dan Glickman of Kansas, for example, who voted for the tax cuts would rise to become Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton.)

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Government Shutdown: Again?

September 26th, 2011 at 11:01 am 61 Comments

Einstein gets credit for many things, diagnosis including his definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again, ampoule and expecting different results.”

Next to that quote should be the official photos of the 112th Congress.

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Lobbyists Drive the Shutdown

April 8th, 2011 at 2:58 am 25 Comments

With fights over budget policy riders threatening to shut down the government, it’s interesting to take a look at what types of policy changes the House GOP is trying to extract through the budget process. Luckily, OMB Watch, a decidedly competent left-of-center regulatory watchdog that happens to have its offices just a few doors down from mine, has put together a very good list of the budget riders that Republicans have attached to their spending plan.

A few observations:

1. The media-popular idea idea that the budget fight is driven by the GOP’s cultural-conservative wing seems overblown. There are three provisions (out of nearly 100) that relate to abortion: one applies only the District of Columbia, one only to international organizations, and one only to Planned Parenthood. (And, given a federal court ruling that a more-or-less identical law about ACORN was unconstitutional, the last won’t stand up in court.)  I’m pro-life myself and honestly I can’t see much of a reason to get excited about any of these provisions. There’s nothing in the proposal, best as I can tell, that impacts gays, marriage, gambling, or booze.

2. The proposed healthcare policy riders are so broad that if implemented, they would amount to an outright repeal of the healthcare bill. They offer so little wiggle-room that President Obama can’t, as a political mater, agree to even a single one of them as written.

3. For all the wish-list-making involved in the health care fight, the much longer list of environment-related riders looks like it was written almost entirely by specific industry lobbyists who have good relationships with certain members of Congress. Although there are some very broad efforts that would end virtually every climate-change or carbon-regulation program in the government, most of the environmental efforts are very narrow and, one assumes, serve a very few interests.

Among other things, there are specific provisions that suspend a very particular rule related to cement making, end an obscure wetlands conservation program, change the treatment of coal ash as a pollutant, and end funding for a particular dam removal study in California. These are the stuff of typical budget riders and whether they are good or bad policy, it’s hard to see most of the bill’s non-climate change environmental provisions as anything other than the result of very narrow interest-group politics.

4. A few riders don’t appear to have been written by people who didn’t know what they were doing. For example, there’s a ban on aid to Saudi Arabia even though the U.S. doesn’t provide any (the U.S. provides some training assistance to the Saudis to help them fight terrorists but doesn’t actually send any aid checks), two separate provisions ending the “Climate Change Czar,” a restriction on Congress spending money on committee room renovations (which, since Congress itself has to appropriate the money and can’t bar itself from doing so in the future, is utterly meaningless), and a ban on funding for the White House “Fairness Doctrine Czar” which, best as I can tell, is a position that doesn’t exist and never has existed. (There’s a longstanding, somewhat silly sounding FCC position that the bill’s authors may be aiming for there.)

The Tea Party Must Learn it Doesn’t Run the Country

April 4th, 2011 at 12:15 am 59 Comments

The next deadline for Congressional action on a comprehensive appropriations bill for the remainder of the current fiscal year is fast approaching. A bill has to be passed and signed by midnight Friday to avoid a shutdown of the Federal government. The fact remains that a deal will be made either before Congress jumps off the looming cliff or after.

My concern is less about the argument over how much to cut, prostate or even about where to cut (although I find the grandstanding attacks on the likes of Planned Parenthood and NPR to be somewhere on the spectrum between silly and outrageous), treat than it is about what I sense may be an underlying motive on the part of the Tea Party hardliners: they are not necessarily for a limited government, click but rather talk and act as if they want to so constrain the Federal government’s ability to function as to effectively do away with it. Think I am exaggerating?  What about efforts in several states to nullify Federal laws?

I am troubled, too by the continuing refrain “to take our government back” from those of us who voted a different way in 2008. The United States of America has a constitutional system that divides the government into three branches, and right now conservative Republicans control, as House Speaker John Boehner has acknowledged (but that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor doesn’t seem to comprehend), just one half of one of those three branches.

Ideologically, the American people are divided over the role, size and cost of government, and they are divided on how to and who should pay for it. I, for example, am willing to pay my share, but I’d really prefer to have GE pay its share as well. Like it or not Tea Partiers do not possess sole power to govern; you share it with the rest of us. I have also written before, twenty-plus million more people voted for Barack Obama in 2008 than voted for Congressional Republicans in 2010. Our votes–and our voices–still count and still matter, and they will do so as long as our constitutional republic exists. Sorry about that.

So, let’s deal. Let’s–and I know the word causes the more extreme elements of the Republican Party severe intestinal discomfort–compromise.  It is, after all, the American way!

GOP Gets Budget Cuts Even Without Shutdown

April 4th, 2011 at 12:00 am 20 Comments

Three quick thoughts about the possibility of a government shutdown which could happen on Friday if Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on a budget:

1. It’s probably not going to happen because neither side has a clear political advantage in forcing a shutdown. If anything, the calculus for a shutdown favors the Obama administration and they seem not be to raring for a fight right now.

2. Republicans have clearly won the debate over domestic discretionary spending and will get genuine cuts. This doesn’t really solve any underlying fiscal problems since domestic discretionary spending is only about 15 percent of the budget. So long as they get the direction of domestic spending pointing in the right direction (downward in absolute terms) the precise magnitude of the cuts isn’t that important. At some point, calling for more cuts is going to be a political liability with just about everyone since a fair number of popular, necessary-in-some-form services like courts, food inspection, air traffic control, and interstate highways are in the domestic discretionary budget.

3. If Republicans actually want to make a fiscal difference, they should agree to a longer-term continuing resolution or budget that might even throw a few bones to the Democrats. This will let energetic new GOP members turn their attention to the far more pressing issue of reforming the budget-busting defense and entitlement programs.

Are the GOP’s Budget Theatrics Unconstitutional?

April 1st, 2011 at 3:09 pm 15 Comments

The theatrics continue on the Hill this afternoon as the House votes on the ‘Government Shutdown Prevention Act’.  The Act would automatically pass House Rule 1 – the Republican’s full year continuing resolution act – into law if the Senate fails to pass a continuing resolution that would fund government for the rest of the year before April 6.

In other words, search if the Senate doesn’t pass a continuing resolution that lasts the rest of the year before April 6, click the House Republican continuing resolution becomes law.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is not going to pass the ‘Government Shutdown Prevention Act’, salve which would shackle them unnecessarily to the Republican plan and timeline. This is not even mentioning that President Obama would have to sign this bill. This makes the bill entirely symbolic.

There’s also an ironic aspect to this act for the constitutionally-oriented Republicans backing this bill: it may be unconstitutional, as it mandates lawmakers not be paid during a government shutdown.

The 27th amendment reads:

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

A whole host of Republican freshmen are co-sponsoring this Act, and Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor spoke on the House Floor this morning to support the measure.

One House aide informs FrumForum that Republican leadership has recommended Representatives vote ‘yea’ on the measure.

What Romney Should Learn From Gingrich

David Frum April 1st, 2011 at 2:19 pm 16 Comments

Benjy Sarlin has a post on the evolution of Newt Gingrich’s statements on the 1995 government shutdown. Where once Gingrich lamented the 1995 shutdown as “clearly wrong,” he now celebrates the shutdown as a “historic success.”

Compare and contrast Gingrich’s treatment of the shutdown with Mitt Romney’s treatment of his healthcare plan. In both cases, a major decision that looks unwise in retrospect to most Republicans. Romney has equivocated, hesitated, declined to defend his action. Gingrich has decided that a leader’s important past decisions cannot be disavowed, only defended. On the merits, Romney has a better case for his decision than Gingrich does – but on the politics, surely Gingrich has it right?