“Districts in which one or more minority racial or ethnic groups constitute a majority of the population now make up nearly one-third of all House seats. Correspondingly, the number of representatives who identify as Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, American Indian and/or Alaska Native has also increased. Around 7 in 10 of these members hail from majority-minority seats, indicative of these seats’ importance in ensuring representation for minority groups. At the same time, people of color are winning more majority-white seats than in the past. Success in those sorts of districts has increased as our politics have grown more partisan, as voters are increasingly likely to back their party regardless of the candidate their party nominates.”
“after the 2020 round of redistricting, majority-Black constituencies were roughly halved while seats that were 40 to 50 percent Black nearly tripled. Slow population growth in Northern states led to lost seats in reapportionment, which notably increased each state’s population per district and complicated drawing seats with Black majorities. For instance, New York’s three majority-Black districts in New York City became plurality-Black seats as the state lost a seat and the average number of people per district grew by about 60,000. Lines drawn by partisan mapmakers or independent redistricting commissions also affected the number of majority-Black seats. Florida, for example, drew two fewer majority-Black seats after the 2020 census (although those seats remained solidly majority-minority overall) and controversially unwound one plurality-Black seat; the latter move faces continued litigation.
Black representation, like that of other groups, also intersects with our sharply polarized politics. Because voters of color tend to lean Democratic — Black voters overwhelmingly so — concentrating voters of color in one district can make surrounding seats more Republican. As a result, recent redistricting conflicts have largely centered on GOP attempts to pack more Black voters in majority-Black districts to make nearby seats redder and Democrats’ efforts to unpack heavily Black districts to add Democratic-leaning voters to surrounding districts. Lublin’s research shows that Black candidates (again usually Democrats) can regularly win seats that are 40 to 50 percent Black, depending in part on the share of white voters in the seat and how Republican-leaning they are.”
“Fitch Ratings..downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating due in part to Congress’ erosion in governance. Indeed, year after year, we see the same political theater unfold: last-minute deals, deficits, and, all too often, the passage of gigantic omnibus spending bills without proper scrutiny, along with repeated debt ceiling fights and threats of shutdown.
But these are just symptoms of a budget-making process that remains in desperate need of reform. With legislators chronically delinquent about following their own rules, the change may need to be as much cultural as procedural. No matter how good the rules are, they’re useless if politicians ignore them. And in a world where politicians are rarely told no when it comes to creating or expanding programs, most simply refuse to have their hands tied or behave as responsible stewards of your dollars.”
“What we need is a comprehensive budget process under which programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are no longer permitted to grow without meaningful oversight. Combined with other mandatory, more-or-less automatic spending items, they make up more than 70 percent of the budget. Thus, they must be included in the regular budget process and subjected to regular review. Only then will our elected representatives be forced to stop ignoring the side of the budget that requires their attention the most.”
“Enter a “Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC)”-style fiscal commission, an idea promoted by the Cato Institute’s Romina Boccia. This commission would be staffed with independent experts appointed by the president. It would be “tasked with a clear and attainable objective, such as stabilizing the growth in the debt at no more than the GDP of the country, and empowered with fast-track authority, such that its recommendations become self-executing upon presidential approval, without Congress having to affirmatively vote on their enactment,” Boccia explains.
I’m uneasy about delegating the president power to appoint “experts.” Unfortunately, Congress has proven they will never seriously address the problem unless forced to. The idea is not unprecedented. Congress has already delegated a lot of its legislative power to administrative agencies and the executive branch. It’s also how the political class dealt with the closures of military facilities after the Cold War—another set of hard choices they refused to make on their own.
What’s more, Congress would retain some veto power. If they disapprove of the proposal, the House and Senate can reject it through a joint resolution within a specified period. Whether it’s the best solution to address our fiscal problems remains to be seen, but it’s worth considering.”
“Making continuing appropriations automatic in case of a lapse could remove the threat of shutdowns.”
“First passed in 2003 under President George W. Bush, PEPFAR is a vehicle for distributing HIV/AIDS drugs to people in poor countries who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them. It has been astonishingly effective: The most recent US government estimates suggest it has saved as many as 25 million lives since its enactment. It is currently supporting treatment for over 20 million people who depend on the program for continued access to medication.
Given its success, PEPFAR has historically enjoyed bipartisan support. In 2018, Congress reauthorized PEPFAR for another five years without a fuss. But this time around, things look different. Some House Republicans, prodded by an array of influential groups, are threatening to block another five-year reauthorization. Their argument is pure culture war: that PEPFAR has become a vehicle for promoting abortion.
In reality, PEPFAR is legally prohibited from funding abortion services, and the argument against the program on anti-abortion grounds is very thin. But in today’s political climate, where the culture war reigns supreme on the right, this is enough to jeopardize the continued good functioning of a program that the Republican Party used to champion.”
“The lesson for Kevin McCarthy is pretty clear. Once impeached — or, in this case, twice — a president cannot be unimpeached. The original act lives on in public memory — through news articles, history books and, now, criminal proceedings. But one suspects Kevin McCarthy already knows this. A vote to expunge Trump’s impeachments from the record solves a short-term political problem. It does nothing to address the underlying challenges that led to the impeachments in the first place.”
“House Republicans narrowly passed their version of an annual defense bill 219–210, after stacking it with controversial amendments on social issues that are dead on arrival in the Senate.
The debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, or the NDAA for short, now heads to the Democrat-controlled upper chamber, which is set to consider its own take on the bill later this month. Eventually, the two chambers will work to reconcile their differences between the two in the hope of finding a compromise.
The NDAA, one of Congress’s must-pass bills, effectively lays out what the military’s budget could look like for the next year and which programs will be funded. This year’s House bill authorizes $886 billion in funding, including a 5.2 percent pay raise for service members and the appointment of an inspector general to oversee Ukraine funding.
Much like the debt ceiling legislation and annual spending bills, the NDAA is a prime opportunity for lawmakers to add unrelated amendments making policy changes to pet issues, since it has to pass every year. This week, Republicans capitalized on this opportunity to put forth controversial amendments favored by their right flank, including restrictions on abortion and LGBTQ rights. It’s a move that’s meant to send a message about their position on social issues, and it’s also one that makes what was a bipartisan bill much more contentious.”
“Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville has held up the confirmation of more than 260 generals for new command posts — including members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of the Marine Corps — over his objections to the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
Tuberville, a former football coach who is closely allied with former President Donald Trump, has refused to go forward with the routine confirmations and is essentially using defense policy as leverage to promote his cultural ideology. But the Department of Defense has repeatedly warned that holding up the confirmations is damaging the military’s chain of command at the highest levels, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff — especially concerning amid a time of increasing tension between the US and China, and as the US supports Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
“These are our nominees who have incredibly important jobs all around the world, who are working with our partners and allies,” Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said in an interview with Fox News Thursday. “And it sends a message to our adversaries.”
Any senator can hold up these confirmations, even if the other 99 wish to move forward with them, because of the Senate concept of unanimous consent, which is not a formal Senate rule but allows the body to make changes to regular order to expedite legislating such as allowing batch confirmations. Unanimous consent can apply to all different parts of the Senate’s legislative process — everything from limiting debates and amendments to scheduling votes — and essentially means that the body has decided to dispense with the Senate’s usual procedures in the interests of moving business forward. It’s not always part of the legislative process, but it’s used so often that there are rules and precedents surrounding it.
The Senate has long relied on unanimous consent to promote military personnel through batch confirmations, but with Tuberville’s hold, the only way to move the confirmations forward would be to vote on them one by one, through regular order. Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Associated Press that doing so would take up to 84 days with the chamber working regular, eight-hour days, or 27 days if they worked “around the clock.”
Tuberville’s hold, which could affect 650 military promotions by the year’s end, is based on a misrepresentation of how the Pentagon’s abortion policy works. And he isn’t the only Republican using legislation related to the military to force right-wing policies into defense policy. House Freedom Caucus members scored a victory this week when the House passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that included amendments limiting abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, and diversity, equality, and inclusion programs. “This bill has been transformed into an extremist manifesto,” House Minority Whip Katherine Clark told CNN after the bill passed.
In a macro sense, right-wing Republicans’ push to undo progress in the DoD both echoes and foreshadows their intent to halt the business of governing to try to codify policies that many Americans don’t support. And on a more specific scale, it affects the overall functioning of the military — everything from funding, to the chain of command, down to military families trying to plan moves to new bases. Tuberville and House Freedom Caucus members are also breaking with decades of Republican tradition by failing to support the military and military policy.”