This Document Reveals Why The House Of Representatives Is In Complete Chaos

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MANUEL BALCE CENETA Congressman David Brat, a key member of the House Freedom Caucus

The House of Representative is in chaos. John Boehner announced his intention to step down as Speaker at the end of the month. There doesn’t appear to be anyone to take his place. The leading candidate, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, abruptly withdrew from the race yesterday. Another popular choice, Paul Ryan, says he’s not interested.What happened? How did we get to this point? One document, produced by the House Freedom Caucus, holds all the answers. Framed as a “questionnaire” the document effectively makes it impossible for any candidate to both: (1) Get elected speaker, and (2) Not send the entire country (and maybe the world) over a cliff.

Why the Freedom Caucus has so much power

The House Freedom Caucus, a relatively new group of about 40 Republicans loosely associated with the Tea Party, has an extraordinary amount of power in this process. Any potential speaker needs the support of 218 Republicans on the floor of the House. There are currently 247 Republicans in the House. That’s a large majority but without the Freedom Caucus, no candidate can get to 218.

What the Freedom Caucus says they want

The Freedom Caucus says they are just fighting for arcane rule changes that will enhance “democracy” in the House. On CNN yesterday, David Brat, a prominent member of the Freedom Caucus outlined his criteria for a new speaker. (You may remember Brat for his surprise victory over Eric Cantor, the man many assumed would replace Boehner as speaker.)

Anyone that ensures a fair process for all sides. That’s what we are all looking for, right… We’ve shown principle. We are waiting for leadership candidates to put in writing moves that ensure you have a democratic process within our own conference. That is what everyone is waiting to see. And it’s got to be in writing, ahead of time for that to be credible.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?

What the Freedom Caucus actually wants

Yesterday, Politico published the House Freedom Caucus “questionnairewhich it described as pushing for “House rule changes.” The document does do that. But it also does a lot more. It seeks substantive commitments from the next speaker that would effectively send the entire country into a tailspin.

For example, the document seeks a commitment from the next speaker to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

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The United States will reach the debt limit on November 5. If the limit is not raised prior to that point, the United States could default on its obligations. This could have disasterous effects on the economy of the United States and the entire world. In 2013, a Treasury Department report found “default could result in recession comparable to or worse than 2008 financial crisis.”

Cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is extremely unpopular, even among Republicans. These programs are sacrosanct to most Democratic members of Congress. There is effectively no chance that President Obama or Senate Democrats — both of whom would need to support such legislation — would agree to “structural entitlement reforms” in the next month under these kind of conditions.

The House Freedom Caucus essentially wants to make it impossible for the next speaker to raise the debt ceiling. But that is just the beginning.

The House Freedom Caucus also wants the next speaker to commit to numerous conditions on any agreement to avoid a government shutdown:

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The government will run out of money on December 11. Unless additional funding is approved before that date, the government will shut down.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to not funding the government at all unless President Obama (and Senate Democrats) agree to defund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and a host of other priorities. This is essentially the Ted Cruz strategy which prompted at 16-day shutdown in 2013. They’re demanding to have this now be enshrined as the official policy of the Speaker of The House.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to oppose any “omnibus” bill that would keep the government running. Rather, funding for each aspect of government could only be approved by separate bills. This would allow the Republicans to attempt to finance certain favored aspects of government (the military), while shuttering ones they view as largely unnecessary (education, health).

Why McCarthy thinks the House might be ungovernable

For McCarthy, the document helps explain why he dropped out of the race. If he doesn’t agree to the demands of the House Freedom Caucus, he cannot secure enough votes to become speaker. But if he does agree to their demands, he will unable to pass legislation that is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences for the country.

McCarthy said that, even if he managed to get elected speaker, he doesn’t see how he would be able to have enough votes to extend the debt ceiling and keep the government open.

Asked by the National Review if he thought the House was governable, McCarthy said, “I don’t know. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom.”

Why no one wants to be speaker

Top Republicans are calling Paul Ryan and begging him to be speaker. But thus far, he hasn’t agreed to run. None of the candidates currently running appear to have substantial support.

The agenda of the House Freedom Caucus makes a difficult job effectively impossible. Agreeing to their demands means presiding over a period of unprecedented dysfunction in the United States.

Even if a candidate was able to become speaker without formally agreeing to the Freedom Caucus’ most extreme requirements, one would still have to deal with the group — and a larger group of House Republicans sympathetic to them — in order to get anything done.

This is why Boehner wanted out and why no one really wants to take his place.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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Congress’ Tax Agenda: Businesses Before Working Families

— by Alexandra Thornton and Samuel Rubinstein

As Congress digs into its fall legislative agenda, one important item of business it faces is which expiring tax provisions to extend and for how long. So far, the Senate has managed to sidestep this question by approving a bill that extends many already expired provisions for two years. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, has passed bills that make selected expiring provisions permanent. Unfortunately, these bills strongly favor businesses at the expense of working families.

The House voted to make permanent two expiring provisions—known as the R&D credit and Section 179 expensing—that have obvious benefits for corporations and other businesses. However, 2009 changes to the existing Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit—which helped lift an additional 1.8 million Americans out of poverty and provided needed support for higher education—are all due to expire in 2017 unless Congress takes action. For roughly the same amount of money as the R&D credit and Section 179 extensions, Congress could permanently extend the 2009 temporary expansions of three tax provisions that benefit working families and their children.

Read more …


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Legislative Bill Tracking 101

— by Marla Turner, NSDP Secretary

With the new Congress sworn in and the Nevada Legislature set to start on February 4th, it’s a good time to refresh ourselves on how bills become law and how we can track their progress. At both the federal and state levels, the process of getting a bill signed into law is a complex one.

To start, you’ll want to set up your online legislative accounts and take some time to review the bill drafts that have been submitted. Then you can decide on which bills you want to track. When finished, you will receive email notifications about what’s happening to the items you’re interested in. This will help you determine which legislators you want to contact and when.

How a Bill Becomes Law
Federal – Every few years, the U,.S. government prints an updated version of “How Our Laws Are Made.” The 2007 version is a bit formal so you may wish to check out U.S. Government Info’s more concise version instead.

NevadaThe 2011 Legislative Manual describes in great detail how a bill works its way through the legislature.

Bill Drafts
The majority of Nevada’s bill draft requests (BDRs) have already been submitted. Each Assembly representative and Senator may submit a few more BDRs through the 8th day of Session and Standing Committees have until the 15th day of Session.
How to Track Bills
Congress
To follow the status of all Congressional bills and their incarnations, visit the Thomas Library. You can also track bills at GovTrack.US.  You can also track and send comments about various bills using POPvox. To be able to send comments regarding a bill being considered by congress, you’ll either need to register for a log-in or use a social media account to log into POPvox.  It does, however, come in handy to view what other people, groups, corporations are saying about any particular bill.

House of Representatives
Visit the Document Repository to see the bills waiting to be considered on the House floor.  You can also check roll call votes, status of  “discharge petitions,”  bill summaries and their status, bill text, and bills that have been passed into law at the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Senate
Track all Senate legislation, nominations, and votes here.

NV Legislature

  • Check out NELIS to get info on all the bills, committees and budget activity.

Tips for Contacting Your Legislator

There will be times when you want to let your elected officials know how you feel about a certain issue. It’s important to be judicious about this because you want to be as effective as possible. Think about which issues are truly important to you: if you contact your legislator about every issue all the time, you will not be taken seriously.

Here’s a list of helping Dos and Don’ts for contacting your legislator. Thank you to Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel for reviewing the following list and making some helpful suggestions.

DO…..

  • Be respectful and courteous. There are plenty of ways to adequately communicate your feelings on a subject without resorting to personal attacks or profanity.
  • Let them know if you are their constituent. As the session moves along, they will hear from more and more people. Those who are their constituents will get top priority.
  • If you are referring to a specific piece of pending legislation, cite both number and title.
  • Do your homework. Know your subject matter. You do not need to be an expert, just a reasonably informed and concerned citizen.
  • Tell your own personal story about why the issue is important to you. Make it a story they can repeat.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Keep your comments short. No one wants to read a whole page or more of single spaced diatribe.
  • Offer to get more involved (such as testifying at an appropriate hearing).Let them know you will help them.
  • Leave or send written materials that back up your position if possible.
  • Do the ASK. (1): Request their commitment to your philosophy. (2): Ask for a direct response.
  • Give your contact information so they can get back to you.
  • If meeting with them in person, send a written thank-you note for their time.
  • And remember to THANK THEM if they vote or act how you want them to. .

Remember, it is up to you to educate your legislator about why you support or object to certain legislation. Think of yourself as a kind of consultant: you have insights that will help the legislator better understand the ramifications of a bill or issue, so tell them how it will impact you in real, personal terms.

DON’T…..

  • Use a form letter. That defeats the purpose of all of the above.
  • Contact a legislator at odd hours and times – legislators are human and they need their sleep and family time.
  • Corner them at inappropriate times – church, dinner, at a red light, etc.
  • Address them incorrectly. Know their titles and use them accordingly. A U.S. Senator is not Mrs. Smith, but the Honorable Senator Smith.
  • Discuss multiple issues at the same time.
  • Guess or bluff the answer to a question if you don’t know. You will lose all credibility. Tell them honestly that you don’t know – but that you’ll find out and will get back to them. And then do it. Get back to them.
  • Cite references that you haven’t seen, don’t have tangible documentation, or that you have no first-hand knowledge of.
  • Be confrontational or threaten them in any way.
  • Burn your bridges with a legislator. While they may not support you today, you may need them tomorrow.

Happy legislating!