Grand bargain or grand illusion?

Featured image The word from Capitol Hill is that Speaker Boehner wants to resolve the current stalemate over the CR and the impending stalemate over the debt ceiling through a “grand bargain” on fiscal issues. Boehner reportedly has long wanted such a bargain. And now, according to NRO’s Bob Costa, “the House GOP’s most influential fiscal strategists, Dave Camp and Paul Ryan, are privately reassuring nervous Republicans that. . .a budget deal »

James Madison on the Budget Impasse

Featured image It’s a favorite parlor game: what would the Founders think of our current government, and in particular, the current budget showdown.  Jacob Heilbrunn, in typical liberal derision of the institutions of limited self-government, thinks we should abolish Congress. More likely, James Madison would not be at all surprised at what is going on.  As he wrote in Federalist #37: “It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures »

Why Obama is unlikely to compromise

Featured image President Obama has thus far refused to entertain the idea of a compromise with House Republicans that would avoid a government shutdown. From all that appears, he won’t even negotiate. The primary reason for his refusal is political. He believes that the public will place primary blame on Republicans, thereby giving his presidency and his Party some needed much needed momentum. Frankly, I think Obama is probably right about this. »

Congress: Overdrawn at the Bank of Public Opinion, Again

Featured image Last week a student presented himself in my office with a series of questions going back to the 1990s, with one in particular standing out: how the heck did Ross Perot emerge in 1992, and whatever happened to him and the populist mood he tapped into?  Realize that today’s students were barely or not yet born in 1992, so this is distant history.  The Tea Party phenomenon, of course, can »

What never? Well, hardly never

Featured image On September 18, President Obama told the Business Roundtable: You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt used to extort a president of a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt. Obama was referring to Republican attempts to use the debt »

Syria debate jeopardizes immigration reform

Featured image Several readers have asked me what effect the House’s consideration of the Syria resolution will have on immigration reform. Clearly, the Syria debate will push back House deliberation on immigration reform. But does it jeopardize, ultimately, the enactment of an immigration bill? Citing a piece in the New York Times called “Immigration Reform Falls to the Back of the Line,” Mark Krikorian argues that the Syria debate has significantly decreased »

Obama’s syria resolution faces uphill battle in House

Featured image Last night, I watched the backend of the House Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Syria resolution. It provided a sample, albeit a small one (around 15 congressmen), of the views of House members. If the sample is representative — it may not be because it was weighted in favor of newer members who tend to be less inclined to intervene — then the administration’s resolution will not pass. Indeed, »

What if the Senate and House disagree about Syria?

Featured image Suppose the Senate approves a resolution authorizing an attack against the Assad regime, but the House disapproves. This a plausible scenario; indeed, it may be the most likely one. In that event, President Obama might well proceed with an attack, reasoning this way: I consulted with, and fully engaged, both chambers of Congress. The Senate thought I should launch an attack; the House thought I shouldn’t. I concur with the »

Final impressions of the Syria hearing

Featured image If the three witnesses were the Marx Brothers, John Kerry would be Groucho (they are both world class scenery chewers), Gen. Dempsey would be Chico, and Chuck Hagel (who barely spoke) would be Harpo. As the silent partner, Hagel has found his highest and best use. In fairness to Kerry, he presented a forceful case, and made plenty of good points. It’s possible, however, that his at times strident and »

Live blogging the Syria hearing [UPDATED and Fixed]

Featured image I’m waiting for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to begin its hearing on Syria. In the meantime, Nancy Pelosi is holding forth on CSPAN. She denies that she will “whip” House Democrats on the Syria vote; she says she’s merely going to “discuss” the matter with her caucus. In other words, she will “whip” them. I hope she has more success whipping her members than she had whipping her five-year-old »

Why did Obama go to Congress? [UPDATED]

Featured image Theories abound as to why President Obama put to Congress the question of military intervention in Syria. One theory is that Obama decided he didn’t really to want to intervene militarily and hopes Congress will bail him out. Another is that he wants to be able to shift blame to Congress if intervention doesn’t turn out well. A third theory is that Obama wanted to buy time in order, perhaps, »

The raised stakes in the debate over bombing Syria

Featured image In a sense, there is less than meets the eye to the debate over whether President Obama should take military action against Syria. Obama has made it clear that he does not intend to commit ground troops in Syria and that the air attack he contemplates is “limited.” Thus, there is very little risk associated with the kind of action Obama wants to take. But by the same token, there »

Who will make Obama’s case for attacking Syria?

Featured image Jonathan Strong at NRO questions whether the House will authorize a strike against Syria. He finds it unlikely that Speaker Boehner will “whip” support for authorization; nor should Boehner do so. As Strong notes, this is a “conscience” vote, and members shouldn’t be pressured to vote one way or the other. Members of Congress tend to be influenced by the views of their constituents. Attacking Syria isn’t a terribly popular »

Obama seeks congressional authorization to strike Syria [Updated]

Featured image President Obama surprised me today by announcing that he is asking Congress to authorize an attack on Syria. Going to Congress on this matter is the right thing to do, even if one believes — as Obama says he does — that he has the power to strike without congressional approval. By going to Congress, Obama pushes back the time table for a strike. He claimed, however, that the military »

House of Commons rejects intervention in Syria; where does Congress stand?

Featured image The British House of Commons today defeated a motion by the government to take military action against Syria “if necessary.” The motion was watered down to provide for another vote, pending findings by the U.N., before Britain would take part in direct military action. It still failed by a vote of 285-272. This result is a major embarrassment of British Prime Minister David Cameron. He, after all, has played a »

Avoiding the “comprehensiveness” trap

Featured image Yesterday, I argued that public consensus exists regarding the two major non-budgetary legislative issues of the day, immigration and guns. I added, however, that political consensus may be thwarted due to the use of “comprehensive” legislation to address these issues. This raises the question of why Congress should tackle issues “comprehensively.” As a friend — a high-level congressional staffer and experienced Washington hand — recently wrote to me: Nothing good »