The Big Lobotomy: How Republicans Made Congress Stupid
A quick refresher: In 1995, after winning a majority in the House for the first time in forty years, one of the first things the new Republican House leadership did was gut Congress’s workforce. They cut the “professional staff” (the lawyers, economists, and investigators who work for committees rather than individual members) by a third. They reduced the “legislative support staff” (the auditors, analysts, and subject-matter experts at the Government Accountability Office [GAO], the Congressional Research Service [CRS], and so on) by a third, too, and killed off the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) entirely. And they fundamentally dismantled the old committee structure, centralizing power in the House speaker’s office and discouraging members and their staff from performing their own policy research. (The Republicans who took over the Senate in 1995 were less draconian, cutting committee staff by about 16 percent and leaving the committee system largely in place.) Today, the GAO and the CRS, which serve both House and Senate, are each operating at about 80 percent of their 1979 capacity. While Senate committee staffs have rebounded somewhat under Democratic control, every single House standing committee had fewer staffers in 2009 than in 1994. Since 2011, with a Tea Party-radicalized GOP back in control of the House, Congress has cut its budget by a whopping 20 percent, a far higher ratio than any other federal agency, leading, predictably, to staff layoffs, hiring and salary freezes, and drooping morale.
The unexpected death of U.S. Representative Edgar Englewright (VA-14) launches the beginning of a whirlwind morning for Chief of Staff, Elliott Clarice, and his
happy band of misfits. [more inside]
Although ranked tenth in "America's Favorite Architecture," compiled by the American Institute of Architects, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - sometimes referred to as simply 'The Wall' - was the at the center of political and artistic controversy and opposition from the time of its announcement in 1981. The Wall, situated in Constitution Gardens adjacent to the National Mall, is "...often referred to as the veterans 3rd battle. The 1st being survival in Vietnam. The 2nd, was dealing with the rejection experienced upon returning home from war. And, the 3rd, building the Wall." [more inside]
The November 6th elections saw a lot of historic decisions made in the United States -- the first black president re-elected, marijuana legalized for the first time in two states, gay marriage affirmed by the voters in four, and even the first openly gay senator. But perhaps the most underreported result yesterday came from outside the country altogether: in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a solid majority voted to reject the island's current status and join America as the long-fabled 51st state. How the bid might fare in Congress is an open question, but both President Obama and Republican leaders have vowed support for the statehood movement if it proves successful at the ballot box (while D.C. officials ponder a two-fer gambit to grease the wheels). Though it would be the poorest state, joining the Union might bring economic benefits to both sides [PDF]. And politically, some argue the island might prove to be a reliably red state, despite the Hispanic population, although arch-conservative governor and Romney ally Luis Fortuño appears headed toward a narrow loss. But the most important question here, as always, is: how to redesign the flag? (Puerto Rican statehood discussed previously.)
The mayor of Washington DC has been arrested, along with 6 of the 12 members of its city council, during a protest today near a US Senate office building, objecting to the city's use as a bargaining chip while negotiating the 7th Continuing Resolution to avoid a government shutdown last Friday. The bill prohibits the District of Columbia from locally funding abortion services, and imposes a locally-unpopular school voucher program. Had the government shutdown taken place, the DC government would have also had to suspend most of its operations including trash pickup. For those of you keeping track, Vince Gray is the 3rd (of 6) DC mayor to be arrested while in office. [more inside]
Who is the mysterious Shadow Candidate for Shadow Senator of the District of Columbia? Marx Cafe Bartender Damien Ober, kind of. Ober wrote a series of campaign ads (which can alternate between provocative, sophomoric, and simply creepy, depending on your point of view) in response to D.C.'s lack of congressional representation, and hired an actor to sit in the darkness portraying his unnamed candidate. After viewing the videos on youtube, however, the D.C. Libertarian Party has decided to give him a for-real shot at the for-fake position.
"Hey, darling. Love you. Need your vote." Politics without presidents: a soulful portrait of former DC mayor Marion Barry. I was really impressed by the dog in the left-hand corner of the picture. (registration required)
Don't blame me, I voted for Vermin Supreme! While the D.C. Primary hasn't attracted the same level of attention as the Iowa Caucus, one candidate continues to fight for what is right. Mr. Supreme understands the REAL threat facing our great nation -- poor dental hygeine.
What You See May Not Be . . . A memo, telling lobbyists to "dress down" as "real workers" for GOP photo op, provides rare window into a common practice on Capitol Hill. Both Republicans and Democrats go to great lengths to assemble average Americans who can convey the appropriate political message, and when they can't find any, they simply trade in their white collars for hard hats themselves