“The last time the U.S. had a full House — with all 435 of its voting representatives seated — was nearly three and a half years ago. And even then, it wasn’t full for long. When Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy resigned on Sept. 23, 2019, to care for his newborn baby with a heart defect, he left a House that had had 435 members for all of six days. In the 1,261 days since, there’s been at least one empty seat in the House.”
“The Dickey Amendment, first attached to the 1996 omnibus spending bill, for example, famously prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding gun violence studies for decades. A new interpretation of that amendment in 2018 changed that, but Dickey wasn’t the only thing making it hard to study gun violence.
Instead, the researchers told me, the biggest impediment to demonstrating whether gun control policies work is the way politicians have intentionally blocked access to the data that would be necessary to do that research.”
“As the White House gears up for the end of one Trump-era border policy this spring, it has its sights set on resurrecting a version of another much-maligned immigration program put in place under the previous administration.
The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice on Tuesday announced a proposed rule that will bar some migrants from applying for asylum in the U.S. if they cross the border illegally or fail to first apply for safe harbor in another country. The rule was previewed by President Joe Biden in January. Following a 30-day public comment period, it will be implemented upon the May 11 end of the Covid public health emergency, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters.
May 11 is also the end date of the Title 42 public health order currently being used to bar entry to most migrants at the southern border. The rule announced on Tuesday would stay in place for two years following its effective date.”
“Administration officials also used Tuesday’s announcement to criticize Congress, arguing that the White House has been left to roll out new policies to fill the “void” left by inaction on the Hill.
“To be clear, this was not our first preference or even our second. From day one, President Biden has urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and border security measures to ensure orderly, safe and humane processing of migrants at our border,” a senior administration official said.”
“Congress in December passed the Respect for Marriage Act, granting formal federal recognition to same-sex and interracial marriages. President Joe Biden quickly signed the bill into law.
While both types of marriages were already protected under federal law, that protection was afforded by the Supreme Court, not Congress. In the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the 2022 case in which the Supreme Court overturned the federal abortion protection established by its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, supporters of gay marriage worried that the Court might also revisit that subject.”
“The Respect for Marriage Act does not require states to legalize same-sex marriage. Many states still have bans on the books. If the Supreme Court ever decides to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision mandating legal recognition of gay marriages, those bans could take effect again.
The new law does require states to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. While that provision may seem contrary to federalist principles, states historically have recognized marriages performed in other states with different rules (regarding minimum ages or marriages of cousins, for example). Although the courts have not yet resolved the issue, such accommodation is arguably mandatory under the Constitution’s requirement that “full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.”
The Respect for Marriage Act says houses of worship, religious groups, and faith-based social agencies “shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.” It adds that “any refusal under this subsection to provide such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.””
“Greater reliance on green energy also requires a stupendous increase in mineral extraction to provide the needed materials. Even if the world unquestionably possessed the mineral capacity necessary for the global energy transformation envisioned by President Joe Biden, Democrats in practice are enemies of mining. The U.S. Mining Association estimates that the country has $6.2 trillion of recoverable mineral resources like copper and zinc available for mining on millions of acres of federal, state, and private lands. Unfortunately, our labor, health, and climate regulations often make it practically impossible to profitably mine. As a result, these precious resources stay in the ground, which explains why the United States went from being the world’s No. 1 producer of minerals in 1990 to seventh place today.
Democrats committed to a green energy transition should make it a priority to reform counterproductive regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and to implement other permitting reforms. Yet for the most part they won’t do so, as we saw when they helped strike down the permitting deal cut last year between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.).”
“One-third or so of species in the US are threatened with extinction, according to the Nature Conservancy. Think about that: One in three species could disappear for good. That includes things like owls, salamanders, fish, and plants, each of which contributes some function to ecosystems that we depend on.
Thankfully, there’s such a thing as conservation, and in the US, much of it is done by state wildlife agencies. Fish and game departments have a range of programs to monitor and manage species that include reintroducing locally extinct animals and setting regulations for hunting and fishing.
heir work, however, faces a couple of big problems.
The first is that states don’t have enough money. Roughly 80 percent of funding for state-led conservation comes from selling hunting and fishing licenses, in addition to federal excise taxes on related gear, such as guns and ammo. These activities aren’t as popular as they once were. “That results in less conservation work getting done,” Andrew Rypel, a freshwater ecologist at the University of California Davis, told Vox in August.
Another challenge is that states spend virtually all the money they do raise on managing animals that people like to hunt or fish, such as elk and trout. “At the state level, there’s been almost zero focus on non-game fish and wildlife,” Daniel Rohlf, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, said in August. That leaves out many species — including, say, kinds of freshwater mussels — that play incredibly important roles in our ecosystems.
RAWA could be a fix. The bill would provide state wildlife agencies a total of $1.3 billion a year by 2026, based on the state’s size, human population, and the number of federally threatened species. RAWA also includes nearly $100 million for the nation’s Native American tribes, who own or help manage nearly 140 million acres of land in the US (equal to about 7 percent of the continental US).
One feature of RAWA that makes it so useful, according to environmental advocates, is that it requires states to protect animals that are imperiled, whether or not they’re targeted by hunters and fishers. “That’s funding that doesn’t exist right now,” Rohlf said.”
“After RAWA passed the House last summer, lawmakers turned to the bill’s tallest hurdle: the “pay-for,” a.k.a. how to cover the cost of the legislation, without having to raise the deficit.
Negotiations carried on throughout the fall, and legislators put forward a number of different proposals. In the final weeks of the congressional term, it looked as though the government would pay for RAWA by closing a tax loophole related to cryptocurrency, as E&E News’s Emma Dumain reported.
Ultimately, lawmakers couldn’t agree on the details. That’s why RAWA got cut from the omnibus bill.”
“By Thanksgiving 2014, Fleming and a handful of other members were at their wits’ end, so they decided to form their own group. In early 2015, the Freedom Caucus was born. It was designed to be very selective about its closed, sometimes secretive membership — only ultraconservatives allowed — in order to serve as what Fleming calls the conservative “anchor” of the GOP in the House. Its members would attempt to tow the party toward the right, and once they staked out a position, they wouldn’t budge.
While the Freedom Caucus had policy goals in mind, most of its work has focused on disrupting and altering the internal workings of the House. If it could wrest away some of the speaker’s power, the thinking went, more conservative legislation might have a better shot at passing. One early and consistent way the Freedom Caucus did this was by voting against House rules, slowing down the legislative process and making it harder for bills that the caucus wasn’t happy with to come up for a vote. But it also took some bigger swings. While the Freedom Caucus didn’t agree to former Rep. Mark Meadows’s decision to file a motion to vacate the chair in the summer of 2015 in an effort to oust Boehner, it backed him after the fact, and that consensus was part of what led Boehner to resign as speaker.
Part of what makes the Freedom Caucus a unique intraparty faction is also its greatest strength. If 80 percent of its members agree to a position or action, everyone has to be on board. That’s different from other groups throughout American history, according to Matthew Green, a professor of politics at The Catholic University of America and the author of a book about the Freedom Caucus. It isn’t just a group of likeminded members; it’s also an effective, disruptive voting bloc that stands together. Members are willing to do this because in order to get to that 80 percent threshold, there’s a lot of debate and persuading internally, according to former Rep. Raúl Labrador, one of the founding members of the Freedom Caucus and now Idaho’s attorney general. “The best debates I ever had in Washington, D.C., were in the Freedom Caucus,” Labrador said.
Another difference is the caucus’s willingness to buck the speaker and establishment — a disposition that can come with political consequences, which is why intraparty factions have historically avoided such sparring.
“That’s a big ask. That’s a risky thing to do,” Green said. “The speaker is powerful, the speaker has powerful friends and you’re risking your committee assignments. You could put your fundraising abilities in danger.”
These differences are part of how the Freedom Caucus has leveraged its relatively small size (it’s estimated to have around 40 members currently, though exact membership numbers are not public) to have outsized impact. Perhaps most notably, it aligned behind former President Donald Trump more resolutely than the Republican Party establishment, gaining access and influence through the White House. (To wit: Many former Freedom Caucus members, including Meadows and Fleming, went on to hold positions in Trump’s administration.)
Now, with the GOP holding just a narrow majority in the House, the Freedom Caucus can wield its unity and antagonism to even sharper effect. As the vote for speaker demonstrated, a group even half the size of the Freedom Caucus can hold the chamber hostage for days. So when fully unified, just imagine what it might unleash.”
“The Freedom Caucus’s obsession with smaller government can border on indifference toward any governing at all. Its members used to prioritize fiscal conservatism, but recently they’ve been criticized for obstructing just for obstructionism’s sake. In Boehner’s words, “They can’t tell you what they’re for. They can tell you everything they’re against.””
“Two polls found that a plurality of Americans thought that the drama surrounding the speaker election hurt the GOP. According to a HarrisX/Deseret News poll conducted right after McCarthy’s election, 41 percent of registered voters felt that the Republican Party was weaker after the speaker election, and only 23 percent thought it was stronger. In addition, 43 percent of registered voters told HarrisX/the Deseret News that the ordeal made them trust the Republican Party less. Meanwhile, 34 percent of respondents told Ipsos that the drama weakened the Republican Party, and only 19 percent said it strengthened the party.
In reality, these poll questions don’t tell us that much. We’ve written previously about the dangers of pollsters asking whether a given event makes people more or less likely to vote for a candidate or party. Asking whether the speaker election made people trust the GOP less falls into the same trap. The question allows people to express dissatisfaction with the election without considering where their feelings started on the issue. (For example, quite a few of those people — i.e., Democrats — probably had little or no trust for the GOP to begin with.)
And asking Americans to be pundits and assess whether the GOP is weaker in the wake of the speaker vote is less informative than just looking at the GOP’s actual standing. Several polls have shown that the Republican Party’s brand hasn’t changed since the disharmony. It was damaged before the speaker vote, and it’s still damaged after it”