Free Markets, Free People

House of Representatives


The impact of the census on House seats for 2012

We’ve all been wondering how it would shake out. Jamie Dupree (if you’re not following him in Twitter, you should) just tweeted:

BOTTOM LINE – New York & Ohio lose 2 seats; IA, IL, LA, MA, MI, MO, NJ and PA lose one House seat.

Interesting stuff. Those are the losers. Who picks them up?

GA picks up one as does SC, AZ, UT, NV and WA. FL picks up 2 and TX picks up 4.

So … the south picks up 7 seats (-1 in LA, remember?), the west 4 and the northeast and midwest lose 11.

Suddenly we’ve got a little different ballgame in 2012. Why?

Don’t forget, the change in House seats also changes Electoral Votes for President in 2012.

That’s why.

~McQ


Good news–GOP to “upend” spending process

One bit of advice I’ve been consistently throwing out there for the incoming GOP House majority is to act on those things that lead to less spending and smaller less costly government.  If they sit back and complain that even if they pass these things the Senate will vote it down or, if by chance, it gets past the Senate, President Obama will veto it, they’re gone in 2012.

So I was rather pleased to see that they intend to do exactly that in a POLITICO article today:

On some level, their plans may create a sense of organized chaos on the House floor — picture dozens of votes on dozens of federal program cuts and likely gridlock on spending bills. And don’t forget that a lot of these efforts will die with a Democratic-led Senate and a Democrat in the White House.

But the intent is to force debate as much as to actually legislate — and make Old Guard Republicans and Democrats uncomfortable with a new way of thinking about the size and scope of government.

For every action, however, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  And, per POLITICO, that opposite reaction is going to come from the “Old Guard” Republicans and Democrats who feel they’ve earned their power via seniority and don’t want to see it threatened or disrupted.

Insiders who have made a living under the old system are sure to push back, and many fear that Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) may not understand what he is doing.

“John should talk with the professional appropriators about the complexities, rather than talk off the top of his head. His plans would take a huge amount of the House’s time, but what would it accomplish?” said a dubious former House Republican member of the Appropriations Committee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A former Democratic appropriator also was skeptical about describing prospective changes at that committee, which has a strong tradition of producing 12 bills every year from 12 subcommittees run by 12 very powerful Appropriations “cardinals.”

“On the practical side, it has to be nuts. Given the difficulty in passing the current bills, adding these changes would be a dream world. … There could be a revolt by members, who will want to get home and campaign.”

What is Boehner’s heresy? 

The plans include slicing and dicing appropriations bills into dozens of smaller, bite-size pieces — making it easier to kill or slash unpopular agencies. Other proposals include statutory spending caps, weekly votes on spending cuts and other reforms to ensure spending bills aren’t sneakily passed under special rules.

Yup … real change comes hard.  The “cardinals” want their power to be undiminished.  There’s a shock.  So let’s attempt to answer the question of the “dubious former House Republican member of the Appropriations Committee” shall we?

What would it accomplish?

Well, let’s see – one, if it took more time, it would be more time spent on bringing sanity to the appropriations process – a vital job of the House – and less time celebrating such things as the Smackover Arkansas junior league squash team’s championship or recognizing National Skunk Ranchers day.

Secondly, it would take a serious look at the appropriations process in detail.  Understandable, “bite-size pieces” that one can wrap their head around and vote down if the spending can’t be justified vs. huge omnibus bills so large and complex that it is difficult for anyone to understand what they’re voting for.

Third, as the paragraph states, doing it that way would “ensure spending bills aren’t sneakily passed under special rules.”  Or said another way – actual debate would be encouraged, not avoided.

And frankly, I like this idea as well – for the “detailed look” and context it would bring to the process:

Perhaps the most dramatic change is Boehner’s planned Appropriations Committee overhaul to require funding on a department-by-department basis, first reported by POLITICO on Wednesday. His proposal would subdivide the dozen current appropriations bills so that funding for each major federal agency would require a separate House vote.

Size and complexity are the enemy of good legislation and certainly sane appropriations.

“The [suggested] changes may be easier to follow and make more sense” than the existing practices, said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “As long as members can make a case for or against a particular program, they will have the basis for objective decisions.”

Precisely. And an objective process in which to identify and eliminate waste, fraud, abuse, parts of agencies (redundant) or entire agencies (unproductive bureaucracies)if the case could be made (and it can – the question is whether it will). But this sort of process at least is a step in the right direction of bringing fiscal sanity back to the appropriations process if it can be introduced and followed.

Of course we’re talking politics and vested interests here so you never know.  And, of course, the GOP members must “buy into” the new process to make it work.  That, of course is a leadership problem, and it will be among Boehner’s first tests if he and his leadership group truly hope to change the way the House does business and enact measures that will indeed reduce spending and dial back government’s size and cost.

~McQ


House Math

House math is decidedly more complex than Senate math if for no other reason than the number of House races.  All the seats are up for grabs every two years.

At present, the mix is 255/178 Dems (with two vacant I believe).  However, when you look at the races, and consider “safe seats”, the mix goes to 123/163 GOP.  That’s right, the GOP holds a 40 seat advantage in the “safe seat” category.

If we add “likely” for each of the parties, the mix becomes  148/176 GOP.  218 is the number needed for a majority.

That brings us to the “leans” either Dem or GOP category.  Assuming all those in the “likely” category  go to the designated party, “leans” is the first category where things could go either way.  While it is likely that it will go to the party in which the polls “lean”, it isn’t certain.

As it breaks down, there are 29 likely to go Dem and 48 likely to go GOP.  The difference is that of the 29 likely to go Dem, only 2 are seats presently held by Republicans.   However, on the other side, of the 48 seats leaning toward the GOP, 42 are seats presently held by Democrats – most of them Blue Dogs.

Here’s where you have to decide how many on each side will actually go to the party to which the district now leans.  In my case it comes down to a SWAG (Scientific Wild Assed Guess).  I’m saying 70% on each side.  That’s pretty conservative given the way I see this election shaping up.  However that brings our mix to 179/222 GOP (and a majority in the House for the Republicans).

That’s not even counting the 34 “toss up races”.  Of those 34 races, 32 involve incumbent Democrats while only 2 involve Republicans.   Again, going conservative, let’s say they split 50-50.   17 to each side.

The final mix?

196/239 GOP – a solid majority.  Not quite as robust as the existing Democratic majority now, but a huge swing.  And again, note that Republicans can win the majority in the House by winning 70% of the “lean GOP” races and without winning a single “toss up”.

So – my prediction? 

GOP picks up 61 seats.  That’s actually 6 more seats than I was figuring last week.

~McQ


House health care vote numbers

You can read any number of people about who is or isn’t leaning this way or that way on the House vote for the HCR bill, but what’s been fairly hard to find is anyone quoting numbers.

First a few important numbers to give the later numbers some context. At the moment there are 431 Representatives in Congress (due to some resignations and a death). That means to pass this bill Nancy Pelosi must have a simple majority – 216. Of the 431, 178 are Republicans none of which are planning on voting yes. 253 are Democrats. That means Pelosi can only lose 37 of the 253.

So where is she? According to David Dayen at Firedoglake the present “yes” vote is 189. So Pelosi is 27 votes short according to his count (much fewer votes than I thought she had). Here’s how they break down:

Definite YES:
189 Democrats.

Definite NO:
177 Republicans.

Definite NO:
25 Democrats.

18 Democrats who voted No in November:
Bobby Bright, Mike McIntyre, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Walt Minnick, Artur Davis, Chet Edwards, Frank Kratovil, Mike Ross, Dan Boren, Gene Taylor, Larry Kissell, Dennis Kucinich, Collin Peterson, Ike Skelton, Jim Marshall, Mike McMahon, Charlie Melancon, Tim Holden.

7 Democrats & Republicans who voted Yes in November (confirmed Stupak bloc):
Bart Stupak, Marion Berry, Dan Lipinski, Kathy Dahlkemper, Joe Donnelly, Joseph Cao (R), Steve Driehaus.

19 potential Democratic No-Yes flip votes:

14 possible:
Jason Altmire, Bart Gordon, Glenn Nye, Brian Baird, John Tanner, Rick Boucher, Allen Boyd, John Boccieri, Suzanne Kosmas, Betsy Markey, John Adler, Scott Murphy, Lincoln Davis, Jim Matheson.

6 less possible:
Travis Childers, Harry Teague, Heath Shuler (severe lean no), John Barrow, Tim Holden, Ben Chandler.

21 potential Yes-No flip votes:

4 additional Stupak bloc (rumored):
Charlie Wilson, Brad Ellsworth, Marcy Kaptur, Jerry Costello.

17 other wary Democrats:
Mike Arcuri, Zack Space, Chris Carney, Mike Doyle, Paul Kanjorski, Ann Kirkpatrick, Alan Mollohan, Nick Rahall, Dan Maffei, Bill Owens, John Spratt, Dennis Cardoza, James Oberstar, Baron Hill, Solomon Ortiz, Gabrielle Giffords, Earl Pomeroy.

Note that Republican Jospeh Cao is in the list. Cao has already stated categorically that he will vote against the bill thereby making the Republican count against 178.

Henry Waxman has said that the Democrats are going forward without worrying about the abortion language or the Stupak 12. That means the 27 votes have to come from 40 under the “19 potential Democratic No-Yes flip votes” and “21 potential Yes-No flip votes”. If what Waxmen said is true, then the “4 additional Stupak bloc” may or may not be targeted. If not, that leaves 36 of which 27 have to vote Pelosi’s way to make this happen.

At this point, the arm-twisting hasn’t begun in earnest. Pelosi has alreay shrugged off the March 18th date (which is an indicator that she hasn’t really begun trying to round up the votes but is aware she doesn’t have what she needs at this point – despite her knowingly disingenuous claims to the contrary.).

However, Pelosi knows that not being able to act before the Easter recess works against her agenda since it is during that recess that you can be assured Representatives are going to hear from their constituents via townhalls. And the message isn’t going to be pretty. It is also a time they’ll begin to gear up their campaign for re-election. So some pretty heavy political soul searching is going to be done prior to coming back and voting on HCR. So you can rest assured she is going to try to move heaven and earth to get this vote done before then.

With the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling yesterday, her job got even harder today. Watch for some intense pressure to be brought on those 40 I mentioned as well as the Stupak 12 (who, with yesterday’s Senate ruling, are even less likely to vote “yes” now) over the coming days and weeks. Pelosi is going to try to force a vote before the Easter recess. The question is will she be anywhere close enough to 216 by that point to do so?

~McQ


Health care reform status

A few points about the status of health care reform. First, if the votes were there for passage in the House, the bill would now be law. That should tell you all you need to know about the present status of the bill. The votes aren’t there.  The bottom line, however, is if the House manages to pass it, health care reform becomes law.  At that point, reconciliation is moot.  It will be part of the deal, but with or without reconciliation in the Senate, the bill is law.

President Obama has said he wants to sign the bill into law by March 18th – prior to his trip to Indonesia and Australia. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer refuse to sign on to that timeline. That should give you a good indication of the level of DEMOCRAT resistance to this bill. Again, I want to make the point that there are enough Democrats in the House right now to pass this bill into law without a single solitary Republican vote (and it appears if it does pass it will be without any GOP votes – something which also scares House Democrats, especially with November looming).

Yesterday the President was reduced to begging Congressional Democrats to pass the bill. He appealed to emotion claiming the fate of 31 million uninsured was in their hands and this bill was their only chance to get insurance (it’s not). And, of course, placing the future of his presidency second, claimed that it too was in their hands.

Heh … no pressure.  And it is the sort of appeal that many former “no” votes will have difficulty resisting (calling Mr. Stupak).

But here’s what you should take away from those meetings with liberal members of Congress, because it is important:

[Rep. Barbara] Lee said Obama said he still “strongly supports” a public option, but “the votes aren’t there.”

But, she said, Obama said the current healthcare legislation is a “foundation,” adding he “would work with us on the next effort.”

“I am going to keep hop[ing] for a public option,” Lee said. “And he said he’s going to work with us.”

The term “foundation” is the key.  From this bill the plan is to morph it into something that more closely resembles a single-payer system – something Obama has said any number of times he supports (prior to becoming president, of course, where he now claims it’s just not possible in America).  The public option is step in that direction and, as Lee is pointing out, passage of this bill allows them to build on the “foundation” at a later date with things like a public option.

One other point I want to make – the dog and pony show the President had the other day where he used doctors in white coats as props (you remember his health care summit rant about Republicans using the actual bill they were talking about as “props”?) was nothing more than propaganda. There is no “Obama bill”. His claim that all of those things that both sides agree on are in the bill is just not true. It was an attempt to claim bipartisanship and paint the GOP as unreasonable if they didn’t help pass the Senate version of the bill. There isn’t nor has there ever been any real attempt to include Republican ideas or at bipartisanship. The speech was transparent propaganda designed for a specific purpose – to justify ramming the bill through by any means necessary. It is the only thing which has been transparent in the entire process.

The next two weeks are going to be among the most interesting politically that I’ve seen in a while. The arm-twisting will be brutal and you can also expect the deals and pay-offs to be monumental (and all done with your money – in the real world we’d call them attempts to bribe a public official and jail those offering the bribe. In Congress, it’s business as usual.).

Will the administration win out in the end or will the people be properly served by the eventual defeat of the bloated, intrusive and costly monstrosity? Stay tuned.

~McQ


House “Jobs” Bills – Addiction To Pork Wins Over Fiscal Responsibility

You remember the headlines Senate Majority Leader Reid got last week when he threw out a bipartisan jobs bill effort crafted by Sen’s Baucus and Grassley with a price tag of about $100 billion for a very scaled down version costing$15 billion?

Not to worry – the House’s version of the job bill is much more like the Baucus/Grassley version than the Reid bill – and even more. In fact it comes in at 10x times the Reid bill and has the usual cornucopia of porky spending and subsidies for perpetual money losing programs we’ve all come to expect from our out-of-touch legislators. This list is classic – subsidies for programs of marginal worth with many completely unconnected with jobs or job creation as well as the usual unemployment benefit extensions. And don’t forget the Medicare “doc fix” – critical to creating jobs [/sarc] – which also finds its way into the bill. Here’s the list:

* $27.5 billion for roads and bridges
* $8.4 billion for public transit
* $800 million for Amtrak
* $500 million for airport improvement projects
* $100 million for maritime interests
* $2.1 billion in Clean Water funding
* $715 million for Army Corps of Engineers projects
* $2 billion in Energy Innovation Loans
* $4.1 billion in School Renovation Grants
* $1 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund
* $1 billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund
* $23 billion for an Education Jobs Fund for states
* $1.18 billion for law enforcement jobs
* $500 million for firefighters
* $200 million for AmeriCorps
* $500 million for Summer Youth Employment programs
* $300 million for the College Work Study program
* $270 million for Parks and Forestry Workers
* $750 million for competitive grants in “High Growth Fields”
* $41 billion to extend expanded jobless benefits for six months
* $12.3 billion to extend COBRA health insurance aid for jobless workers
* $354 million in Small Business Loans
* $2.3 billion in expanded Child Tax Credits
* $305 million to keep certain people eligible for federal aid programs
* $23.5 billion to extend a higher federal match for some Medicaid payments to doctors

If you carefully peruse the list you realize this is “Stimulus II” and will have just about the same effect “Stimulus I” – drive us into a deeper debt hole and create nothing in terms of jobs.  Small business creates about 80% of the jobs in America.  The $150 billion bill sets aside $354 million for Small Business Loans.  $354 million.  Even Summer Youth Employment programs got more.  Yup – a real “serious” jobs bill.

A poll today said that only 6% of Americans believe the $787 billion stimulus bill (which was promised to keep unemployment down to 8%) has had any positive effect whatsoever in creating jobs.  It should be clear that such messages from the unwashed masses has still yet to penetrate the “clueless bubble” many members of the House continue to live under inside the beltway.

~McQ


Podcast for 01 Nov 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the state of the economy, and the health care bill that came to the house floor this week.

The direct link to the podcast can be found at BlogtalkRadio.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.


Should House districts cross state lines?

That’s the solution that came to my mind when I read this piece in the New York Times.

I don’t think my suggestion would violate the important aspects of our constitutional design.

As attractive as the idea of having fewer constituents represented by each Representative may be, increasing the number of seats to around 1,000 would make the House unwieldy.  Dunbar’s number reflects the difficulty of becoming familiar with large numbers of other people, so in very large bodies, it becomes difficult for one “side” to get to know the other.  That increases the tendency toward misunderstanding and factionalism, with negotiations handled entirely by a relatively small number of leaders, whips, and committee chairs.

Then there are logistical issues involved with more than doubling the size of the House (where will they all sit?), and — this might be a minor issue, but — do we want to pay 1,000 Congressmen and their staffs?  Do we expect that Congress will produce better legislation with 1100 members than it does with 538?

But the status quo does seem flawed.  The Senate may be designed to give some people more representation than others, but that’s because the Senate traditionally was supposed to be the great protector of the states.  The House was intended from the start to represent the people directly rather than the people as represented by their states, so for one legislator to represent 958,000 people (Montana) while another represents 527,000 (Rhode Island) doesn’t seem quite right.

There are a number of places where it strikes me as natural that a House district would cross state lines, because the people on either side of the border have more in common with each other than they do with other people in their state.

If an agreeable method of choosing where those lines are drawn can be devised, I see only one major difficulty with this idea.  That is: how to treat electors for the Electoral College.  If a district straddles two states that vote differently for president, the solution I see is this:

  • Each state delivers its 2 base electoral votes to whoever wins the state.
  • Any district which doesn’t cross a state border delivers its elector to whoever won the state.
  • If a district straddles a state border where the states voted differently, its elector votes for whoever won the district.

That might actually improve the Electoral College.

But perhaps I’m missing some other important snag here.  Your thoughts?


Punish Joe Wilson Or The KKK Shall Ride Again!

You would think the Democrats would learn, but that seems to be something to which they’re immune. I’ve come to believe that overreaching is in their DNA.

As you know, they’ve tried everything they know to do to capitalize on the fact that Joe Wilson yelled “you lie” at Barack Obama during his speech before Congress last week. It was inappropriate. Everyone agrees. Wilson said so in his apology to President Obama. President Obama graciously accepted his apology.

End of story?

Of course not. The 5th graders who inhabit our Congress (and that’s true of both sides, but in this case it is decidedly about the Democrats) have decided that isn’t enough. So they’re now embroiled in a fight to pass a “resolution of disapproval” in the House because Wilson is of the opinion the apology he issued immediately after the event to the president was sufficient and he’s not about to repeat it on the floor of the House.

Not good enough, the Dems say. And to add fuel to the fire, we get this dopey statement from Georgia’s own Hank Johnson, who I once thought was a fairly sane replacement for Cynthia McKinney:

Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst last week is drawing new recriminations from his colleagues, with a member of the Congressional Black Caucus suggesting that a failure to rebuke Wilson is tantamount to supporting the most blatant form of organized racism in American history.

In an obvious reference to the KKK, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Tuesday that people will put on “white hoods and ride through the countryside” if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. He said Wilson must be disciplined as an example.

Ride through the countryside with white hoods? Good lord. The race card is again played – and badly.

Maybe it’s the water in the district, but he’s sounds as batty as McKinney right now. “White hoods” indeed.

~McQ


Podcast for 12 Jul 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the health care bill that will presented on the House floor.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.