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Fixing the 'Read the Bill' Rule

April 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

During the midterm campaigns, Republicans promised that if they took over the House they would end the practice of rushing legislation by requiring all bills to be publicly available for 72 hours before they can be voted on. However, when it came time for them to actually set the rules of the House, the 72-hour rule was changed to a three-calendar-day rule, which meant that a bill could be rushed to a vote after as little as 24 hours and 1 minute of public availability. This three-calendar-day rule has already been used three times this session to rush controversial bills to votes without an adequate period of public review.

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99er Advocates Meet With Republican Leadership

April 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Reps. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] and Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] -- the long-term unemployed's lead advocates in Congress -- managed to sit down with the Republican House leadership this morning to talk about their bill, H.R.589, to extend unemployment benefits for people who have been out of work for two years or longer. Just getting a meeting with the Republicans who control the legislative flow in the House is a big step forward for Lee and Scott. But, unfortunately, it does not sound like a lot of progress was made during the discussion.

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The Real Problem With Funding the Government

April 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After meeting late Wednesday night with House Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8], Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid [D, NV] took to the floor this morning and said that agreeing on a topline budget number isn't the thing blocking a deal on preventing a government shutdown Friday night, it's social policy. “Our differences are no longer over the savings we get on government spending, Reid said. “The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology.”

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When Failure's a Win, You Can't Lose

April 6, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

No matter where you stand on the government spending issue, you've got to be impressed by the Republicans' tenacity in the negotiations. They only control one chamber of Congress, but they've already secured the support of Senate Democrats and the Obama White House for $33 billion in cuts, which is more than the amount their leader, Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8], had originally proposed. Now, with support for that level secured and a few days remaining before a shutdown, they've moved their target further, demanding something more like $40 billion in cuts or no deal. As National Journal reports, the Democrats are now close to accepting the new target:

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On Monday I wrote about a provision in the Republicans' continuing resolution that would spend $450 million on a redundant DoD project that is and opposed by the Pentagon, but is included because, as it appears, it benefits defense contractors in House Speaker John Boehner's [R, OH-8] district. As long-time Appropriations Committee staffer Scott Lilly concluded, the provision "looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark." Remember, the Republicans claim to have banned earmarking this session. Thanks to Rep. Tom Rooney [R, FL-16], the provision has been removed from the bill, saving $450 this year from a bloated military budget that rarely scrutinized by members of Congress from either party.

 

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Boehner Gets His Earmark

February 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Amid all the cuts in the Republicans' continuing resolution is a provision that would spend millions on a program that nobody besides the defense contractors who benefit from it seems to want. Why? As Sott Lilly at CAP reports, "The item is a down payment that would obligate the federal government to future payments that could well be three or four times the increased spending added to this particular piece of legislation, with a big portion of the funds flowing to two cities in Ohio—Cincinnati, where Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) grew up, and Dayton, the largest city in his congressional district." That "looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark."

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House Republicans are backing away from controversial language in their No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act that would change a long-standing exemption in abortion laws that allows federal funds to be used for abortions in the case of rape or incest by requiring that a rape be "forcible" to qualify. According to Politico, the bill's author, Rep. Chris Smith [R, NJ-4], has agreed to amend the bill and remove the language after pro-choice groups and political commentators of all stripes expressed outrage.

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Redefining Rape

January 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Nick Baumann takes a look at the Republicans' bill to limit access to abortions, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, and finds an especially odious provision:

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.

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Is there hope for 99ers in the 112th Congress?

January 25, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The American 99ers Union, a coalition of groups advocating for people who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks, have announced that Rep. Barbara Lee [D, CA-9] will reintroduce her bill from the previous session of Congress to extend the total length of time a person can collect unemployment insurance by 14 weeks and provide the new benefits retroactively to people who have already exhausted all of their benefits. Now, the mere introduction of a bill is not in itself a newsworthy event, especially when it's being introduced by a liberal Democrat in a conservative, Republican-controlled chamber. But the 99ers Unions is suggesting that the new bill will be paid for, and, depending on the details, that could be enough to make it at least within the realm of possibility that it could see action this session.

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Later today, the House of Representatives will vote on a bill to repeal health care reform, and it is expected to pass (UPDATE: the repeal bill passed by a vote of 245-189). But don't be fooled -- it is purely symbolic and there is no chance that it will become law. Here are three reasons why.

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Repaying the Favor

October 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The real problem with too-big-to-fail is that in a post-Citizens United world there is virtually no limit to the amount of money these enormous companies can spend on making sure their favorite lawmakers get elected. Too big to fail is primarily a political problem. It's a self-perpetuating cycle whereby huge companies are allowed to grow indefinitely (i.e. not fail organically) because they have the financial muscle to buy-off the lawmakers in a position to protect them from regulation and bail them out when they get into trouble.

Not surprisingly, in this election cycle, companies that have taken money from the 2008 TARP bailout are focusing their political giving on candidates who support the bailout, oppose new financial regulations, and are most likely to be in positions of power in the next session of Congress.

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NRCC Falsifies Data to Smear Democratic Candidates

October 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The National Republican Congressional Committee is running an intentionally misleading national campaign designed to make conservative Democrats in Congress look like liberals. They need to be called out.

The NRCC is airing attack ads against dozens of the most conservative Democrats in the House, who tend to be from districts that are considered possible Republican pick-ups in the upcoming midterm elections. Their strategy is to link these conservative Dems to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8]. But the data they are using does not support their claims. Click through for an explanation of why these NRCC attack ads are unfair & unethical, and to find better, more empirically-justified ways of evaluating a member's ideological position in Congress.

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Another day, another battle over health care reform. A false claim made by Congressional Republicans that the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) will result in the hiring of 16,000-16,500 new IRS agents, who might possibly be armed, is receiving some high-profile and well-deserved pushback.

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Boehner Bashes Obama's Drilling Plan

March 31, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This is how you know for sure that the Republican strategy in Congress is to simply oppose anything Obama does. Following this morning's announcement that Obama is proposing opening up a huge amount of off-shore oil reserves to drilling for the first time ever, Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner's [R, OH-8] first response was, essentially, "no."

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Not Much of a Mandate

March 25, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Ezra Klein reminds us of a provision in the health care bill dating back to the Senate Finance Committee's work in October that is important, but largely forgotten. If you don't abide with the bill's requirement starting in 2014 that you have acceptable health coverage, you are supposed to pay a fine to the government. But, under the new bill, those who fail to get insurance and fail to pay the fine will pretty much get off scott free.

And what happens if you don't buy insurance and you don't pay the penalty? Well, not much. The law specifically says that no criminal action or liens can be imposed on people who don't pay the fine. If this actually leads to a world in which large numbers of people don't buy insurance and tell the IRS to stuff it, you could see that change. But for now, the penalties are low and the enforcement is non-existent.

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