Category Archives: House of Representatives

A June to Remember/Fear?

There are times when, through the normal cycle, and discretionary decisions, events start to come in rapid procession.  June is shaping up to be one of those month between elections (both in the U.S. and abroad), the end of the Supreme Court term, and the matters currently on the plate of Congress.  We have already had the first major event of June — the decision by the Trump Administration to make America weaker by playing to his misinformed base on climate change and withdrawing from the Paris Accords.  It’s almost impossible to count the reasons why this decision is wrong,  here are a few:  1) the agreement was non-binding; 2) being a signator gave us a seat at the table in future discussions; 3) withdrawing makes China and the European Union more powerful; 4) state laws requiring an increasing percent of energy to come from renewal sources are still in effect and will contribute to the U.S. meeting its pledge anyway; 5) the federal courts have held that greenhouse gases are a pollutant requiring federal action under the Clean Air Act (even though the precise terms of the regulations to reduce greenhouse gases are not yet final) which means that we may have to meet or exceed the pledge anyway.

Moving to the Supreme Court, June is looking like immigration month.  May ended with a decision in the first of four immigration cases heard this term.  The case involved what types of sexual offenses against a child trigger deportation hearings for authorized immigrants (e.g., permanent residents).  The Supreme Court narrowly interpreted the statute, meaning that — for some sexual offenses (those that can be committed against a 16 or 17-year old — the first offense will not trigger deportation.  Two of the other three also directly or indirectly concern deportation.  In addition, with the lower courts having barred enforcement of the travel ban, the Trump Administration is asking the Supreme Court to stay those injunctions.  (The real issue is the enforcement of the restrictions on visas and entry.  It is likely that the Supreme Court will grant relief to some overbroad language in those bars that could be read as suggesting that the Trump Administration can’t begin work on revisions to the vetting process.)  There are 22 other cases to be decided this month, so immigration will not be the only big news this month.  And, even aside from the decisions in cases already argued, the Supreme Court will be deciding what cases to take next term and there are some potentially major issues that could be on the agenda for 2017-18.

Moving to U.S. elections, there are still three special elections — all of which will occur this month.  Two — in Georgia and South Carolina — involve vacancies created by the Trump cabinet appointment.  The other — California — arose from a vacancy created by filling the vacancy in the California Attorney General position created when the former AG won the U.S. Senate election last fall.  Because California uses a “jungle primary” (i.e.  one in which all candidates from all parties run in one primary with the top two advancing to the general election), we already know that the Democrats will keep this seat and the only question on Tuesday is which Democrat will be elected.  For the most part, both parties in choosing members of Congress to fill vacancies have followed the rule of only choosing people from “safe” seats.  As such, while the Democrats have so far — in the first round in California and in Montana and Kansas — run around 10% ahead of 2018, this success has not changed the winner of any seat.

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Special Elections — Kansas Edition

As I write this post, the results are coming in for the special election in the Fourth District of Kansas.  While the election has been close all night, it now appears that, by a very narrow majority, the Republicans will keep this seat.   This seat is the first of four special elections to fill vacancies in seats formally held by Republicans who are now serving in the Trump Administration.  (There is also a special election to fill a Democratic seat formerly held by the new Attorney General of California — who was appointed to that office after the previous A.G. won the U.S. Senate seat last fall.  The primary for that seat was held earlier and two Democrats advanced to the runoff.)

It is hard to tell whether this seat was close because of the unpopularity of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback — a stellar example of why the Freedom Caucus’s plan for government is a roadmap for a complete disaster — or the unpopularity of President Trump.  The Republican candidate is the current State Treasurer and as such is unable to avoid association with Governor Brownback’s reckless scheme to bankrupt Kansas.  And Donald Trump will probably claim that his assistance via a last minute robocall saved this seat.

The bigger question is what this close race means going forward.  In the last two elections, the Republicans won this seat by 30%.  This race looks like a final margin between 4-8%.  That type of swing if replicated across the country would lead to a Democratic majority in the next Congress.  In the shorter term, the question is whether this result can be replicated in next week’s special election in Georgia or the upcoming elections in May and June in South Carolina and Montana.  With the exception of the Georgia seat, even if a Democrat wins the special election, these seats are going to be difficult for a Democrat to hold in 2018.  Having a Democratic incumbent in these seats would, however, require the Republicans to devote a significant level of resources to get them back, making it easier for us to pick up seats elsewhere.  More importantly, if the Democrats can keep these races close and even win some, it is going to increase the jitters of Republicans in lean Republican seats.  During the Obama Administration, it was easy for Republicans to just say no and not have to accept responsibility for the gridlock in D.C.  The Republicans are now fully in charge and are responsible for getting things done.  The problem for Republicans in Congress is that the American people do not want what the Republican Party wants — even the voters in Republican seats do not want what the Republican Party wants.  That puts Republican Representatives on the hot seat.  They can either tell their Republican colleagues to slow down and take a second look at things or they can follow Speaker Ryan and President Trump like lemmings to their downfall in the 2018 election.  My hunch is that, like most politicians, the Republican members of Congress are tuned into their own survival.  The warning signs from the 4th district of Kansas this week and the 6th district of Georgia next week is going to make it very difficult for President Trump and Speaker Ryan to get their plans through Congress.

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The Week in Review

There is an old saying that a week is a lifetime in politics.  In most weeks, there is a lot happening either behind the scenes or at lower levels (e.g., committee hearings and markups on bills that nobody is watching).  It is the rare week, however, that so much is taking place front and center competing for the attention of the American public.

The big story of the week was the non-vote on and the collapse of the Republican effort at major health care reform — the so-called Affordable Health Care Act (a name that in itself was an attack on the bill that it was trying to “repeal and replace,” the Affordable Care Act.   There are several significant aspects to this non-event.

First, despite their efforts, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan could not get the sizable Republican majority in the House to pass a bill (forget the exact details of the last version of the bill, they could not get a majority behind any version) on one of the top Republican priorities of the past seven years.  While Trump may have been a great negotiator, it is very easy to reach a two-sided deal.  (Of course, it’s possible that Trump’s belief in his negotiating skill may be one of his great delusions.  He may have just been offering the right deal at the right time and actually have been taken to the cleaners in his business negotiations.)When you have three or more sides to a deal, however, it becomes very difficult to keep everybody on board.  This problem is particularly true in politics — when one faction thinks that a bill is too conservative and the other faction thinks that the bill is too liberal, there really isn’t any change that could make both sides happy.  At that point, it’s not really about negotiating but selling.

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Easier Said than Done

While November was disappointing, the Democrats did gain seats in the Senate.  As a result, the Republicans only hold a 52-48 majority.  If three Republican Senators vote no on any confirmation or bill, it fails.  We are already seeing signs that the next two years could get very interesting — even if the Democrats are more responsible in using the filibuster than Republicans were.

Right now, the Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  The Republicans have never been able to exactly what they don’t like about the Affordable Care Act other than that it was passed by a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress.   For seven years, the Republicans have been asserting the need to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  While the Republicans have been relatively unified on their desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they have never been able to reach a consensus on how to replace it.

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Protecting Democracy

democracy-header1Every day, more nominees. I never thought I’d actually be rooting for Mittens so there will be at least one adult in the room.

If you’d told me that “President of these United States” was an entry-level elected position, I would have laughed.

Who could have predicted that the Weekly World News would have gotten more right over its years of publication than what is shown on most news stations. (At the very end of this post is the best story EVER about the Weekly World News.)

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Election 2016 — Missouri and Kansas

mo-sealBy the time that this posts, there will be one week to go until the end of voting.  For a variety of reasons, the national campaign has been even more negative than is normal (although nowhere near the most negative presidential campaign in US history, the campaigns of the 1800s were routinely negative with lots of slanderous accusations).  More importantly, the daily release of a new piece of negative information about the presidential candidates have sucked up a lot of the oxygen from state and local races.

While the news media focuses on the national race for president, the reality is that even, for president, there is not a national election.  The race for president is actually 51 local races (one in each state and in the District of Columbia).  Senate control will be decided by 34 local elections, and control of the House will be decided by 435 local races.  It’s impossible for anyone person to know the lay of the land in all of the races (one reason why polling exists), but each of us have some idea of what is happening where we live.  Here is what things are looking like in Missouri and Kansas.

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Primary Season

Now that the two national conventions are done, the next significant political events are primary elections across the country for offices ranging from the U.S. Senate to local offices and party committee people.  As with presidential primaries, each state legislature gets to choose the date for their primary.  Twenty states conserve money by holding their federal primary (and if they have state elections in an even year, their state offices primary) on the same date as their presidential primary.  Ten states hold their non-presidential primary in May or June.  (In addition, you have two weird states.  New York holds three separate primaries — a presidential primary in April, a federal offices primary in June, and a state primary in September.  Louisiana does not hold a separate primary, allowing all candidates to run in the general and using a run-off if nobody gets a majority.)

That leaves eighteen  states that hold their non-presidential primary in August and September.  Four states (Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington) hold their primary on August 2.  Tennessee holds its primary on August 4.   Four states (Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) hold their primary on August 9.  Hawaii holds its primary on August 13.  Alaska and Wyoming hold their primary on August 16.  Arizona and Florida hold their primary on August 30.  Massachusetts holds its primary on September 8.  The last three states (Delaware, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island) hold their primary on September 13.

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Taking Back the House: Mike Parrish for PA 6

Mike ParrishWe spend a lot of time thinking about the presidential race, but we should remember that the House and its 435 seats are also on this November’s ballot. Here in Pennsylvania’s 6th CD, we have an opportunity to capture the seat because we’re running a strong candidate with a great biography against a first term Republican who’s been committed to voting the GOP line since he got to DC. I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with Mike Parrish, Democrat for Congress and you can read all about his background and his stand on the issues. 

Mike was graduated from West Point in 1985, and then served as an Army Aviator for 14 years. Upon leaving active duty, he transitioned to the Army Reserves where he continues to serve today as a Colonel. Mike received a Master’s in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Stanford University, and an MBA with honors from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He then worked for GE, which brought him to Malvern in 2001. He is the father of three children.

While at GE, Mike worked in the fields of logistics and infrastructure. After leaving GE, he founded an environmental services company which dealt with water treatment. It turns out that over 85% of the freshwater in the United States is used for business uses mainly in the power and agricultural industries. When water treatment fails, things like Legionnaire’s disease outbreaks, and Flint, Michigan disasters occur. Mike’s company worked to overcome potential chemical failures and insure safe water as well as help clean up legacy industrial sites.

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Catching Up

I haven’t posted in several weeks as I ended up getting actual Influenza A (and yes, I took the vaccine). I’m not saying it was rough, but I didn’t even care that there were primaries and caucuses because I couldn’t raise my head. For those of you who know me personally, you’ll understand how low I was when I mention that for more than two weeks, I didn’t have even a sip of coffee.

There is so much to catch up on. First, Bernie is on a roll, and I have received a lot of emails and texts asking whether or not he can actually get the nomination. The answer is a full maybe. First off, those pledged delegates from the caucus states can move, as they did last Saturday as the process moves from election day to the county, district and state conventions. The split in Nevada has so far moved from 20 – 15 Clinton to 18 – 17 Clinton, but there are 8 additional delegates to allocate and the State convention in May. Maine is another state that could reallocate delegates. Will it be enough? Amazingly, it will depend on places like New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and California which are normally non-starters in the primary race.

While everyone (including DCW) looks at the full delegate total, including Super Delegates, my math is a little different.

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Equal Representation and the Supreme Court

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments in Evanwel vs. AbbottThe issue in this case is how to measure population for the purposes of determining if districts have roughly equal population.  The challengers are asserting that population should be based on voters rather than the total population.  The State of Texas is claiming that each state gets to choose the appropriate measure of population.  This case involves both theoretical discussion of the nature of representation as well as very serious political impact.  The decision could vastly alter the politics of the U.S.

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