Tuesday 9th of August 2022

eye watering enough for congress' tears to fill five olympic swimming pools...


Despite party control of Congress and the presidency, Democrats are still struggling to enact their agenda. The ballyhooed bipartisan infrastructure deal is stuck in the House, and the sweeping $3.5 trillion reconciliation package has been the source of bitter disputes among party members.

The Biden administration set out with hopes for big, bold change — “transformational” was the word in the winter and into spring. But in autumn, “disarray” is ubiquitous.


BY James M. Curry


We are not surprised that one-party control has not enabled Democrats to swiftly or easily move their agenda. Our research shows that parties with unified control in Washington routinely fail to enact many of their highest priorities. They are typically forced to accept significant compromises to pass any of their agenda items.

That has been true in every recent case when a party held unified control of government. In 2017, a Republican failure to reach intraparty consensus resulted in a striking collapse — punctuated by John McCain’s thumbs-down — of the party’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. Later that year, Republican leaders had to scale back their visions for tax reform to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. In 2010, significant disagreements within the Democratic Party undermined and ultimately dashed their plans for a cap-and-trade program to combat climate change. To get the Affordable Care Act across the finish line, many Democrats had to accept a bill that fell short of their aspirations — the failure to establish a public insurance option still stings many liberals.


Why do unified majorities in Washington struggle and often fail to enact their agendas? In our research, we tracked the successes and failures of majority parties in Congress on their policy goals from 1985 through 2018 (265 agenda items in total). The study covers the last several periods of unified party government in Washington — those that occurred during the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

We find that parties with unified control in Washington since the Clinton years have struggled for two reasons.

The filibuster explains some of the majority parties’ struggles. Senate rules require most legislation to obtain 60 votes to advance to passage. As a result, minority parties have a chance to either veto or reshape most legislation. Still, even though it’s a constant source of discussion and debate in today’s Washington, we find the filibuster was the cause of only one-third of failed attempts by majority parties to enact their priorities during unified government since 1993.

The second reason is less well appreciated but accounts for the other two-thirds — a large majority — of failures. Both parties have been, and remain, internally divided on many issues. Parties are often able to hide their disagreements by simply not taking up legislation on issues that evoke significant fissures. But when those issues reflect their campaign promises, majority parties will often forge ahead even in the absence of internal consensus on a plan.

Whether Democratic or Republican, the party with unified control in Washington in recent years has failed on one or more of its highest-priority agenda items because of insufficient unity within its own ranks. In 2017, Republicans failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act because of the opposition of three Senate Republicans (Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mr. McCain). In 2009-10, Democrats failed to enact a cap-and-trade policy because of spats between coastal Democrats and those representing the interior of the country. In 2005, Republicans failed to reform Social Security despite President Bush making it his top domestic legislative priority because of a lack of consensus in the party about how to proceed. In Mr. Clinton’s first term, Democrats were never able to unify behind a single plan to enact comprehensive health care reform despite relatively large majorities in both chambers.


What Democrats are trying to do with their Build Back Better effort today is even more difficult than usual. Congress has rarely tried to pass more than one budget reconciliation bill across a two-year Congress. In March, Democrats used reconciliation to pass the American Rescue Plan on straight party-line votes; there’s no precedent for successfully enacting two such ambitious partisan reconciliation bills within a single year. To pass a second sweeping package with razor-thin majorities should be seen as a long shot. The fact that the party is furiously negotiating a pared-down version suggests how much importance it has attached to its success — for both electoral and policy reasons.

Parties campaign on ambitious policy proposals. But it’s much easier to agree to a campaign plank than to rally behind specific legislation. The devil is in the details. If Democrats somehow avoid large-scale agenda failure and pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and a sweeping reconciliation bill, they will have done something rare — they will have outdone all the other recent episodes of single-party control of national government.


James M. Curry, an associate political science professor at the University of Utah, and Frances E. Lee, a professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton, are the authors of “The Limits of Party: Congress and Lawmaking in a Polarized Era.”


Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/13/opinion/democrats-control-congress.html



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the budgetary process...


BY George Liebmann


The current budget reconciliation bill is a travesty of what was intended when Congress enacted the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, in the hope of limiting budget deficits and fostering surpluses—in the language of its preamble, “to assure effective congressional control over the budgetary process” and “to establish national budget priorities.”

Although misuse of the new procedure originally arose from its use to authorize tax cuts, it now has become a “log-rolling” device. The federal constitution, unlike those of many of the states, contains no provision limiting appropriation bills to a single subject or object, and the procedure has become a method not of limiting appropriations to revenues but of aggrandizing the size of government by creating new programs, many of which could not secure enactment on their own, even if they were exempt from the Senate filibuster rule.

In protesting the actions of Republicans in Congress in 2004, Senator Robert Byrd declared: “the majority party takes advantage of the limitations on amendment and debate allowed by the Budget Act to shelter controversial legislation from public discussion. I helped to craft the Budget Act of 1974 and I can tell Senators that we never contemplated that reconciliation would be used to shield from debate legislation that spends the Social Security surplus and increases deficits.”

The vice of this procedure is the aggravated clientelism it fosters. Legislation no longer fulfills the liberal ideal, espoused by Friedrich Hayek, of “uniform rules laid down in advance” and gaining their force from citizen activity in response to them; it now functions by allocating alms to special interest groups.

At one time, it was thought that it was wrong for Congress to allocate funds for use in particular localities or for the relief of particular individuals. It was thought that the national government lacked power to build roads except for military purposes. Although the early Democratic presidents regretted this lack of authority, they acknowledged it in a series of veto messages during the Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe administrations, culminating in President Jackson’s veto of the Maysville Road bill. Similarly, there was reluctance to make direct cash grants to individuals. Early rewards for veterans took the form of land grants requiring individual effort to exploit; even these were suspect, as was shown by President Buchanan’s veto of the original Homestead bill. The experience with veterans’ pensions after the Civil War, which exploded to be the major item in the national budget, led President Coolidge to forswear cash grants in relieving the Mississippi valley flood in the 1920s and to hostility toward veterans bonus payments by the Republican presidents of the 1920s and even by Franklin Roosevelt.

Inhibitions of this sort disappeared with the relief programs of the New Deal, partisan abuses of which gave rise to the Hatch Act. Increasingly, federal programs took the form not of acts uniformly addressed to all or wide classes of individuals—like the general corporation laws, the homestead acts, and the G.I. bill—but of appropriations and grants of wide discretionary powers to administrative agencies.

Although many of the New Deal programs expired with World War II and the return of prosperity, the Great Society programs of the 1960s more than took up the slack. I can recall an era in the late ’60s when a mid-level employee of a bank could rent an apartment directly opposite the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Today, even a multi-millionaire would be hard-pressed to do so in an area filled a mile deep with office buildings of the maximum allowable height, filled with lobbyists and law firms. The sycophants of Washington have caused it to resemble nothing so much as the last days of the Court of Versailles.

These developments have been the product of massive congressional abdications of authority in favor of the federal executive. Since the president now commands wide discretionary authority to reward or punish particular geographical constituencies, the independent judgment of congressmen has been impaired.

The last significant challenge to this tendency was the unanimous invalidation in the Schechtercase of 1935 of a statute authorizing the President to promulgate economic codes of conduct for all industries. This was, said the Court’s most liberal member, Justice Cardozo, “delegation run riot; no such plentitude of power is capable of transfer.”

The current reconciliation bill runs it close; the delegations in it are not in one easily focused on and invalidated section of the act, but in 15 or 20 sections of it. Under it, the federal executive, with little policy guidance, is given authority to erect whole new systems of preschool education, day care and elder care; to reconfigure the dental profession; and to make massive investments in housing, including reviving direct federal construction of the family housing developments that are the most spectacular features of inner-city slums.

The political regime it fosters and contemplates was that vividly described by the Cornell political scientist Theodore Lowi in his End of Liberalism, originally published in 1969: “a government that is unlimited in scope but formless in action, [that] can neither plan nor achieve justice because [interest-group] liberalism replaces planning with bargaining and creates a regime of policy without law, replac[ing] elected representatives with interest groups as proxies for citizen participation.”

The debate on the reconciliation bill has focused on raw numbers, not on the drastic policy changes it will foster in transferring primary responsibility for the care of the young and old from families to the national government and in destroying professional autonomy in several professions. The Biden administration is currently engaged in “buying off” the few declared Democratic opponents of these and other provisions of its bill, of which the public remains largely ignorant; thanks to past excesses, it has many tools with which to do so.

The education and housing portions of the proposal are equally bad: allowing a generation of college students to welsh on student loans; reviving federally-built low income projects like the deservedly demolished Pruitt-Igoe project in St. Louis in partial place of the voucher system introduced by Secretary Carla Hills in the Nixon administration; failing to provide tax incentives for accessory apartments; and providing money for public schools without the four necessary reforms—repeal of federal restraints on school discipline, a building-level board for each school, abolition of education-methods course requirements for high school teachers, and extra pay for teachers in scarce science, language, and special education disciplines.

Enactment of the reconciliation bill in some destructive form can be prevented only by educating the grass roots of its policy implications and in appealing to the Democratic senators and congressmen who are about to retire, and who are keeping their heads down, not to further destroy the influence and power of the legislature of which they are a part. The wide delegations and lack of care for subsidiarity in society are bad enough; worse still is a mechanism making possible creation of programs for which there is no popular or political majority through a device fostering linkages and blackmail.



George Liebmann is the president of the Library Company of the Baltimore Bar and the author of numerous works on law and politics, most recently Vox Clamantis In Deserto: An Iconoclast Looks At Four Failed Administrations.


SEE MORE: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/budget-reconciliation-and-the-end-of-liberalism/




two joe freakin’ biden...

The sketch opened on the White House, where President Biden (now played by the rookie cast member James Austin Johnson) was with his press secretary, Jen Psaki (Chloe Fineman), lamenting his declining approval ratings.


Left alone onstage, Johnson said: “I don’t understand. People used to like me. The press would call me Uncle Joe. I miss the old me. Where the hell did that guy go?”

Enter Sudeikis as his energetic version of Biden, wearing a baseball cap, a windbreaker and aviator-frame eyeglasses.

When Johnson said he didn’t recognize him, Sudeikis reacted with shock.

“What do you mean, who am I?” Sudeikis said. “I’m you. I’m you from eight years ago, man. The ghost of Biden past.”

“How can you be me?” Johnson asked him. “You seem so happy. So carefree. So … what’s the word I’m looking for?”


Sudeikis answered, “Lucid.”

As the 2013 Biden, Sudeikis explained that, in his time, he was still the vice president, which was essentially the “easiest gig in the world — we’re like America’s wacky neighbor.” All he had to do, Sudeikis explained, was: “pop in with an ice cream cone, some aviator shades, do some finger guns. Shake a few hands, rub a few shoulders.”

Johnson said, “Well, you can’t do that anymore.”

“Which one?” asked Sudeikis. “Rubbing shoulders or shaking hands?

“Weirdly, both,” Johnson replied. He attempted to fill in Sudeikis on some other recent history, explaining that “the last president ruined everything — hung out with porn stars, served McDonald’s at the White House, got into a fight with the Pope.”

“Wow!” Sudeikis exclaimed. “Hillary got awesome.”

Before Sudeikis said he had to depart for a Psy concert, he offered this bit of motivational advice to Johnson.

“I want you to stand tall,” he said. “Flash those 100-percent-natural choppers we got. And remember, we may be from different eras. But at the end of the day, we’re both Joe freakin’ Biden.”


Read more:





I don’t think we needed a poll from CNBC to affirm what many of us already know: President Joe Biden is losing whatever support he once previously had as the country takes a turn for the worst on almost every major issue.

The poll released Thursday shows Biden’s approval rating at a dismal 41 %, while his disapproval rating has soared to 52 %, according to CNBC’s all American Economic Survey.  According to the report “inflation now ties with the coronavirus as the biggest concern for Americans, up 16 points from the prior survey.”


Just spend time in any grocery store and take a moment to talk to strangers they won’t hesitate to discuss how worried they are about the economy and soaring prices. As for his handling of the pandemic, well that’s taking a dive as well.


Read more:



See also: https://www.yourdemocracy.net.au/drupal/node/40665


The Washington Post earned US President Joe Biden little sympathy with a piece claiming that the increasing “vulgar taunts” are “on another level,” compared to the usual insults politicians face.

“The current eruption of anti-Biden signs and chants,” the Post’s piece claims, is “far more vulgar and widespread” than the heated responses recent presidents such as Donald Trump and Barack Obama have faced. 

Earlier this week, when President Biden visited his hometown Scranton, Pa, he was greeted by a handmade sign: “F--- Joe Biden,” held by a woman standing on Biden Street. @AshleyRParker@CarissaWolf on the increasingly vulgar taunts directed at Biden: https://t.co/PdZuYXSyH4pic.twitter.com/PeXBKmLVQn

— Matt Viser (@mviser) October 23, 2021


The president has been greeted at multiple events by protesters sporting vulgar signs. ‘Let’s go, Brandon’ has also become a popular phrase, popping up in viral videos and at numerous sporting events – it began when a reporter misinterpreted “f**k Joe Biden” as “let’s go, Brandon” at a NASCAR event earlier this month.

The Post goes deeper than this, detailing the divisive response Biden recently faced when visiting his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was greeted by critics holding signs with messages like ‘F**k Joe Biden’ and ‘F**k you for voting for him’.


Read more:



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$3.5 trillion explained...

As conservative Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema imperil Democrats’ $3.5 trillion dollar infrastructure package, leading progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, held a virtual town hall on Oct. 20 pitching the historic spending plan that would increase spending on healthcare, climate protections, higher education, labor protections, healthcare, and more—spending that would directly impact the lives of American people. 

“We’re going to do away with the enormous amounts of tax breaks and avoidance that the wealthiest 1% of the billionaire class have experienced … You got the richest people in this country who, in a given year, pay zero in federal income tax.” 


Sanders stressed that the proposal would be paid for by taxing the rich.

“You know, we’re gonna pay for it, we’re going to do away with the enormous amounts of tax breaks and avoidance that the wealthiest 1% of the billionaire class have experienced,” he said. “You got the richest people in this country who, in a given year, pay zero in federal income tax.” 

The panelists called out the corporate media for focusing its coverage on the fight between progressives and conservative Democrats, often characterizing the former’s demands as too expensive or unreasonable, while giving little attention to what the bill actually contains and the tangible support it would provide to flesh-and-blood human beings.

“Oh, you know, these progressives and their pipe dreams of trying to expand Medicare, so that the elderly can be able to also get dental care, or vision, or hearing aids” said Ocasio-Cortez, sarcastically paraphrasing opponents. Pushing back against the notion that progressives are the ones being unreasonable by supporting provisions that would make good on Democrats’ campaign promises to voters, Ocasio-Cortez remarked, “It’s not crazy, and it’s not a pipe dream, and it’s not something that is … beyond the possible.”

The Democrat-controlled House passed the proposal, but despite Democrats’ narrow 51-50 majority in the Senate, Manchin and Sinema, who have received millions from the fossil fuel and pharmaceutical industries, have blocked passage of the bill, arguing it’s too expensive while failing to offer an alternative. 

President Biden is expected to pare down the bill by as much as half, to $1.75 trillion, the New York Times reported Wednesday. The $3.5 trillion plan (which amounts to $3.5 trillion spread out over 10 years) is an already pared-down version of the $6 trillion Biden originally proposed. 

Panelists urged the public to pressure Congress to not cut key components of the bill, stressing that the stakes could not be higher.

“This bill is about the trajectory of the country for the next 20 years… So young people need to be fully engaged, because if you lose this, it undermines the other things we need to do for the future. If you win this, it creates the stepping stone,” said Barber. He also noted the bill lacked a racial analysis. 

“This bill is about the trajectory of the country for the next 20 years… So young people need to be fully engaged, because if you lose this, it undermines the other things we need to do for the future. If you win this, it creates the stepping stone.”


“I would suggest a congressman, early next week, come out with a racial analysis; how does this impact Latinos? How does this bill impact Native Americans? How does this bill affect African Americans?” said Barber.

Polls show the majority of Americans and Democrats support President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. “Likely voters support the Investment Infrastructure and Jobs Act by a +47-point margin (69 percent support, 22 percent oppose). Support for this bill extends across self-identifying partisan lines, with Democrats, Independents, and Republicans backing the bill by margins of +70, +47, and +21 points, respectively,” said a Data for Progress poll released Sept. 1.

That poll also found all likely voters support the individual provisions of the $3.5 trillion dollar proposal, such as investments in long-term care, modernizing the electricity grid, modernizing K-12 schools, universal Pre-K, and more. 

“To me the truly radical thing to do on an issue like climate would be to do nothing,” said Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of Sunrise Movement. “Specifically on climate, if we can deliver on the kind of commitments that are in this bill, we can move this nation to decrease our missions and our mission as a nation, 50%, by 2030, and specifically we could do that by investing in jobs for young people, which could unlock potentially thousands or millions of jobs in the future.”


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