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Senate Confirms Trump Attorney General Pick

President Trump has a new attorney general.

 

By a vote of 54 to 45, senators confirmed Bill Barr as attorney general on Thursday. Barr, a former attorney general under George H. W. Bush from 1991 to 1991, is the second attorney general to serve under President Trump.

 

His first, Jeff Sessions, resigned last year. President Trump had criticized Sessions numerous times for recusing himself from overseeing the investigation into possible illegal activities undertaken by the Trump campaign. Some Senate Democrats had voiced concern that Barr will not allow this investigation to continue.

 

Every Senate Republican supported Barr’s nomination except one, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. He expressed concerns about Barr’s support of warrantless wiretapping and opposition to criminal justice reform. Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Kristyn Sinema of Arizona broke with Senate Democrats by voting “yes” on the Barr nomination.

 

Do you support Senate confirmation of Bill Barr to be attorney general?

Trump Declares Emergency to Build Border Wall

There’s an emergency at the national border – at least that’s what President Trump thinks. He said today that he plans to use his powers under a 1976 law to declare an emergency and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

The National Emergency Act of 1976 gives the president broad authority to declare an emergency, which frees up his power to make decisions and spend money in ways that have not been approved by Congress. Previous presidents have used this power a number of times, although this is likely to be the most high-profile and controversial use.

 

President Trump campaigned on the promise of building a wall on the southern border, but has not bene able to convince Congress to fund it. He said that he would sign legislation that would keep the government open and allocate money for some border security, but would pair that action with an emergency declaration that lets him build the wall. The president says that the humanitarian crisis at the border justifies such an action.

 

This has prompted a backlash from Democrats and some conservatives. They argue that there is no real emergency at the border. Instead, they say the president is misusing his powers in order to bypass Congress, not using his power to combat an unexpected crisis.

 

Under the emergency legislation, a majority in each house of Congress can pass a resolution to revoke an emergency declaration. The president would likely veto such a resolution, meaning that 2/3 of Congress would have to override it. Democrats have vowed to introduce and pass such a resolution in the House of Representatives. Besides this resolution, there will also be lawsuits against the president’s actions.

 

Do you support President Trump’s emergency declaration to bypass Congress and build a border wall?

Border Security Deal May Avert Government Shutdown

Democrats and Republicans in Congress have agreed on principles of a border security package that would pave the way for bipartisan support for a bill that would fund the federal government. This would stop a looming government shutdown and provide the government with money to operate through the end of the fiscal year. The only question that remains is if President Trump will support it.

 

Under the proposal, the funding bill will contain $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border fencing and over 40,000 slots in immigrant detention facilities. There is also another $1.7 billion for other border security measures. Democrats had been pressing for a cap on slots in interior immigration detention facilities, but this did not make the final cut.

 

President Trump has pushed for $5 billion in funding for a wall or other border barrier. While this deal does not contain full funding for the president’s request, it does contain funding to begin construction.

 

Currently, the federal government is staying open because Congress passed a temporary funding measure that the president signed. That funding runs out on February 15. Congress has time to work out the details and pass a long-term funding measure prior to this date. If the president vetoes it, however, that would possibly lead to another government shutdown unless Congress overrode his veto.

 

Do you support the plan to fund 55 miles in border fencing? Do you think that President Trump should veto the bill because it does not contain full funding for his border wall?

Senate Reauthorizes Israel Aid, Rebukes Trump Syria Policy

This week the U.S. Senate passed S. 1, legislation that dealt with military aid to both Israel and Jordan.

 

Here is how VoteSpotter describes that bill:

 

Reauthorize military aid to Israel and Jordan

To reauthorize military assistance and arm sales to Israel and Jordan. The bill also authorizes state and local governments to pass measures to remove investments from entities that boycott or sanction Israel.

 

Senators supported it by a vote of 77-23.

 

As part of that bill, senators incorporated this amendment offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

 

Oppose troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan

To amend a Middle East defense bill express the sense of the Senate that there continues to be terrorism threats in Syria and Afghanistan and that the sudden withdrawal of U.S. troops from those nations will put U.S. national security at risk.

 

Senators supported it by a vote of 70-26. It was a clear rebuke of President Trump’s recent announcement that he would withdraw troops from Syria. While this may be a significant symbolic vote, it was merely a “senate of the Senate” vote that had no force of law.

 

Do you approve of the Senate voting to reauthorize military aid to Israel and Jordan? Do you support President Trump’s removal of troops from Syria?

Trump Talks Immigration, Unity in State of the Union Address

President Trump delivered his second State of the Union address last night, sounding familiar themes on immigration, among other issues. He also used the occasion to tout bipartisanship, talking about ways he has worked with Democrats in the past and wishes to work with them in the future.

 

According to the president, “The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well-being of all Americans.” He reiterated his call to build a wall on the southern border, saying, “I’m asking you to defend are very dangerous southern border out of love and devotion to our fellow citizens and our country.”

 

While there has been discussion of the president using emergency powers to build the border wall, during this address he did not say that he would do so. Instead, he asked Congress to support his proposal for “a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier — not just a simple concrete wall.”

 

Currently, funding to keep the federal government open lasts until February 15. Congress must pass a new spending bill before then to avoid another government shutdown. If the president’s border wall plan is not part of this spending bill, he may veto it, triggering a shutdown.

 

Republicans at the speech reacted favorably to the call for a wall, but Democrats were unenthusiastic. However, the president did talk about bipartisan initiatives he supported, such as criminal justice reform. He also said, “Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure” and discussed efforts to lower drug prices. These are issues that Democrats may find common ground with Republicans.

 

What did you think of President Trump’s State of the Union address? Do you support President Trump’s call to build a border wall? Do you think that Democrats and Republicans should work together on infrastructure and drug prices?

Trump Judicial Pick Neomi Rao under Scrutiny Today

President Trump has made judicial appointments a top priority. That has not escaped the notice of Senate Democrats and liberal activists, who have mobilized to oppose many of them. This battle over the fate of the federal judiciary is once again on display today as Neomi Rao faces senators in the Judiciary Committee.

 

The president has nominated Rao to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The seat has been left empty with the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Rao is currently Administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

 

The president and many legal commentators have praised Rao for her background. They point out that as head of an agency that specializes in regulatory affairs, she is well suited to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court, which handles many regulatory and administrative matters.

 

Opponents counter that she has never served as a litigator. They also say that, while she was in college, she wrote troubling things about women and rape.

 

With Republicans in control of the Senate, Rao’s path to confirmation seems assured. What remains to be seen is if she will pick up any Democratic support in the final Senate vote.

 

Do you think that Neomi Rao should be confirmed as a federal judge? Do you think that someone’s writings during college should be held against them decades later?

Democratic Tax Proposals Target the Rich

The Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nod are betting that the road to the White House is paved with high tax rates for the wealthy. At least, that is how they are designing their presidential campaigns.

 

With high-profile Democrats beginning to announce their candidacies or explore the option of running for president, there is competition to design a plan to tax the rich that will make a candidate stand out in the Democratic primaries.

 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants a “wealth tax” on households with a net worth over $50 million. Sen. Kamala Harris wants to target the rich for higher taxes to pay for a tax credit for households making less than $100,000 a year. Sen. Bernie Sanders would hike the estate tax and lower the number of people who are exempt from it. All three of these senators are running or expected to run for president.

 

This desire to impose high taxes on the rich is not limited to presidential aspirants. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also said that she wants to see a 70% marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million.

 

While each give differing justifications for their proposals, in general they support these taxes on the rich as a way to reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. They say that tax policy should break up this concentrated wealth and use the revenue to fund programs, especially services for the lower and middle classes.

 

Opponents counter that these proposals are simply class warfare. They say that hiking taxes in this way would discourage work and wealth creation, which would hurt the economy and kill jobs.

 

These tax plans are designed to appeal to the more liberal part of the Democratic coalition. It remains to be seen if they will have broader appeal as the Democratic primaries approach next year.

 

Do you think that the federal government should dramatically increase tax rates on wealthy Americans?

House of Representatives Votes to Hike Federal Employee Pay


With federal employees returning to work this week after the partial government shutdown, the House of Representatives passed legislation to increase their pay.

Here is the description from VoteSpotter:

 

HB 790

Increase federal employee pay

To increase the base rate of pay for most federal civilian employees by 2.6%. This pay raise would not apply to the vice president or most appointees made by the president.

Passed 259-161 on January 30

 

Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, sponsored this legislation. All the Democrats voting supported it, while the majority of Republicans opossed it. It remains to be seen if the Republican-controlled Senate will consider it.

 

Do you support federal employees receiving a 2.6% pay raise?

Estate Tax Repeal Introduced in Senate

Some call it the estate tax. Others label it the death tax. Whatever name it goes by, the federal tax levied on the transfer of someone’s estate after death a popular topic of discussion in Congress. There has long been a move to repeal it, and legislation will continue that effort during the new session of Congress.

 

Senator John Thune (R-SD) has introduced S. 215, a bill to repeal the estate tax. Twenty-eight senators, all Republicans, have cosponsored it. The current estate tax rate is 40%. The 2017 tax cut legislation raised the amount of an estate that is exempt from this tax to $11.4 million for individuals.

 

When Republicans took control of Congress after the 1994 election, repeal of the estate tax (which they labeled as the “death tax”) was a top priority. The tax cut legislation signed into law by George W. Bush phased out the estate tax, and eliminated it entirely for one year. When those tax cuts expired, however, the federal estate tax came back, too. Farmers have pushed hard for a repeal, saying that the estate tax forces them to break up their farms or go through costly planning to structure their farms to avoid the tax.

 

Supporters of repealing the estate tax point to studies showing that it harms economic growth. They note that it taxes income twice – once when it’s earned and again when it is passed to heirs. They also contend that the tax is easily avoided if people structure their estates in the right way, but that this avoidance is costly and harmful to the economy. Opponents of a repeal say that it helps stop the accumulation of wealth from being passed from generation to generation, something that entrenches income inequality.

 

Do you think that the estate tax should be repealed?

Senate Votes Fail to End Government Shutdown

Senators considered dueling plans to end the partial government shutdown on Thursday. Republicans offered President Trump’s path to re-open the government while Democrats presented their proposal. Neither side received enough votes to pass the legislation, leaving negotiations between Senate leaders ongoing.

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered an amendment that would have provided $5.7 billion for a border wall and extended protections for illegal immigrants covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Senate voted 50-47 to invoke cloture, or end debate, on this proposal. The measure needed 60 votes to move to a final vote, so it failed. Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mike Lee of Utah joined the Democrats in voting “no.”

 

After the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the Republican measure, it considered a Democratic plan to re-open the government through February 8th. This proposal did not have funding for a border wall. The Senate vote of 52-44 also failed to reach the 60-vote threshold to close debate. Republicans Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah joined the Democrats in voting for this proposal.

 

Senator McConnell continues to meet with Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the minority leader, to negotiate a deal that would re-open the federal government and gain enough bipartisan support to pass the Senate.

 

Do you think that members of Congress should re-open the government temporarily while Congress and the president negotiate over a border wall? Or should the government remain shut down until the border wall is funded?

Family Leave Tops Gillibrand’s Presidential Platform

Kristen Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator, is running for president. She is betting that paid federal family leave is her key to gaining the White House.

 

Getting ready to announce her candidacy on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert,” Sen. Gillibrand previewed her campaign platform. One of her highest priorities is a federal policy of mandatory paid family leave, something that she has championed while in the Senate.

 

Under Sen. Gillibrand’s proposal, a new federal program would pay workers who take up to 12 weeks of family leave in a year. This leave could be used to deal with health conditions, pregnancy or childbirth, and caring for family members. The federal government would pay 66% of the parent’s monthly wages, financed by a tax on both individuals and businesses. A new federal agency, the Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave, would be created to administer the program.

 

Supporters of this idea argue that this would promote people entering the workforce who are of child-bearing age, since they would be guaranteed income if they have children. They also note that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without such a leave guarantee, so it is time that we join the rest of the world in helping working parents. Opponents point out that this would involve a large tax hike on both workers and businesses. They also say that it would hurt smaller businesses who would lose employees when they are needed for work.

 

Sen. Gillibrand’s family leave legislation never received a hearing in the Senate when she introduced it in the previous session of Congress.

 

Do you think the federal government should impose a tax on employees and employers to pay for a federal paid family leave program?

Trump Pushes for Wall During Oval Office Address

Saying there was “a growing humanitarian and security crisis,” President Donald Trump used a televised speech from the Oval Office to call for Democrats in Congress to support funding for a border wall. Democratic leaders, however, said that the president was pushing “misinformation” and “malice.”

 

President Trump and Democrats in Congress are at odds over $5 billion in funding for portions of a wall that the president wants built on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has refused to sign legislation that would fund parts of the federal government because it did not contain this funding. This has led to a partial government shutdown that is going into its third week.

 

Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi appeared on television after President Trump to dismiss his call for a wall and instead urge him to sign legislation to re-open the government. They say that the president is manufacturing a crisis for political gain.

 

According to President Trump, the lack of a wall has led to undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. and committing a range of crimes. He focused on some of these crimes during his address. He said that the U.S. will be safer with a wall to stop criminals and drug smugglers from entering the nation. Critics dispute the president’s characterization of the situation, noting that illegal immigration is down from historic highs and that undocumented immigrants do not disproportionately commit violent crimes.

 

The president has been considering using his powers to declare a national emergency in order to use military construction funding to build a wall. He did not take this step during his address, instead he urged people to contact Congress in support of a border wall. It remains unclear what steps he will take if Congress refuses to consider such funding.

 

Do you support a border wall? Should the president sign legislation to re-open parts of the federal government even if he doesn’t receive his wall funds?

Trump Mulls Declaring Emergency to Build Border Wall

President Trump wants a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Congress does not want to appropriate money for it. So the president is considering doing an end-run around the legislative branch by declaring an emergency, enabling the military to use its funds to build the wall. If he does that, say some observers, it could prompt a constitutional crisis.

 

The issue of the border wall is one that then-candidate Trump campaigned on from the day he announced his candidacy for president. Once elected, he has pushed Congress to provide money for it. While spending bills have contained money for border security, there has been no decision to allocate money to build the wall as envisioned by the president.

 

The government is currently undergoing a partial shutdown because President Trump has refused to sign a spending bill to keep it open unless that bill has $5 billion in it to construct roughly 200 miles of a border wall. Democrats in Congress have refused to go along with this demand, and neither side seems willing to shift from its positions.

 

Since he cannot get the money from Congress, President Trump is now considering another route. Under this scenario, he would use provisions of a 1978 law to declare a national emergency. That would give him leeway to use some military funding to build the wall. Under this law, however, Congress could pass a resolution that would disapprove of his action. There are also legal scholars who dispute that the president would be able to declare an emergency over the situation at the border. They say that this action would not survive legal challenge and would be unconstitutional.

 

President Trump will discuss this issue during a televised address tonight.

 

Do you think that President Trump should declare a national emergency to bypass Congress and build a border wall?

Ocasio-Cortez Wants Tax Hike to Fund “Green New Deal”

She’s only a freshman member of Congress, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already spurring a national debate over tax rates and environmental spending. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez recently proposed increasing the top marginal tax rate to 70% in order to pay for a variety of environmental programs known as the “Green New Deal.”

 

While there is no formal proposal, this Green New Deal is a concept that has been discussed over the past few years in liberal and progressive circles. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is supporting a plan that would transition the U.S. to an economy that stops using carbon-based energy (such as oil, natural gas, and coal), spend trillions of dollars, guarantees federal jobs, and addresses inequality. These are goals, not policy proposals. She has called for House leadership to form a select committee to study the issue and develop legislation.

 

In order to pay for this plan, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has said that the tax rates on wealthy individuals should be increased to 70%. She has floated the idea that on income of $10 million or above, that this rate should apply. She argues that marginal tax rates in the past were much higher, so this idea has already been tried. In her view, the wealthy should pay their “fair share,” which means taxing $10 million in income at a much higher rate than it is taxed today.

 

This idea was immediately attacked by critics who said that it would be a massive tax hike, putting the U.S. rates far above other nations’ tax rates. This would discourage work and encourage tax avoidance. These critics pointed out that while high marginal tax rates existed in the past, there were also many more loopholes for high-income taxpayers.

 

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has also said that taxes may not need to be raised to pay for environmental programs. She argues that other measures, such as tax cuts and military spending increases, are paid for by deficit spending, so the Green New Deal could be funded in that way, too.

 

Do you support increasing the tax rate to 70% on incomes over $10 million? Should the federal government spend trillions of dollars on new environmental programs?

Democrats Tee Up Campaign Finance & Ethics Bill

On their first day in control of the House of Representatives, Democrats plan on tackling two issues that they think will be winners for them: campaign finance reform and stricter ethics rules. They know that their legislation has no chance of becoming law, but they think its passage will send a message that they plan on doing things differently.

 

In the weeks after the 2018 elections when voters elected a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi announced that the first legislation the House would vote on in January would be a sweeping set of campaign and ethics reforms. This has been introduced as HR 1. Among other things, this bill would:

  • Establish a voluntary system of campaign matching funds at a rate of 6-1 for small donations to qualifying candidates
  • Mandate that certain nonprofits engaged in public policy debate report their donors to the government
  • Mandate that social media companies disclose to the government the source of money being spent on political advocacy ads
  • Require that the president disclose his or her tax returns
  • End the practice where members of Congress can use office funds to pay for sexual harassment suits
  • Prohibit office funds from being used to purchase first-class plane tickets
  • Impose a new ethics code on the Supreme Court
  • Enact a national system of automatic voter registration
  • Prohibit states from removing certain names from their voting rolls

 

The Democrats pushing this legislation argue that it is needed to restore trust in government and end practices that have allowed politicians to game the system. They say that it will open the door for more people to vote and to curb the influence of big money in politics. Opponents counter that it would enlarge the power of the federal government over elections, something that the Constitution largely gives to states. They also say that this will lead to more government control over what people can say during elections and is an infringement upon the First Amendment.

 

The House of Representatives plans to vote on this after new members are sworn in on January 3. The Senate is unlikely to consider the legislation if it passes the House.

 

Do you think that the federal government should enact automatic voter registration in every state? Should nonprofits that engage in political advocacy have to report their donors’ names to the government? Do you support a program that gives federal matching funds to candidates for small political donations?

 

Border Wall Divides Trump, Congress

Whether or not the government stays open could depend on the fate of President Trump’s border wall.

 

In a familiar dispute, the president has said he will not sign any bill that would keep the government open unless such legislation has money for a border wall. While Republicans largely agree with this position, the president needs Democratic votes in order to make it happen. So far, Senate Democrats are refusing to go along with funding a border wall. This had led the government to the brink of a shutdown.

 

The border wall was a key plank in Donald Trump’s platform during the 2016 campaign. At that time, he said that Mexico would pay for it. Today, however, the dispute is whether or not Congress will put money for a wall in their annual spending bills. Opposition from Democrats has prevented this from happening so far during President Trump’s term.

 

While Congress has passed appropriations bills to fund some parts of the federal government, it has not yet passed legislation to fund the entire government through the end of the fiscal year. Currently, the government is staying open due to short-term funding measures. The president has said he will refuse to sign any further short-term spending bills until he gets money for his wall.

 

Do you support President Trump’s refusal to sign legislation to keep the federal government open if Congress does not provide funding for a border wall?

Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform

Something rare happened in the U.S. Senate last night – major legislation advances with overwhelming bipartisan support. While Democrats and Republicans disagree on many things, it appears that overhauling the federal criminal justice system is not one of them.

 

The First Step Act passed by a vote of 87-12. It had broad support across the political spectrum, with liberal groups focused on justice reform allying themselves with libertarians like the Koch brothers and conservative religious groups to support it. President Donald Trump also urged Congress to pass it.

 

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) led the opposition to the bill. He said that it would release potentially violent criminals from federal custody. He argued that it was a return to the “soft on crime” policies of the past. Sen. Cotton and other senators who shared his concerns offered a series of amendments that would made the bill tougher on federal inmates, but these amendments failed to pass.

 

Among other things, this bill would:

  • Prohibit the shackling of pregnant inmates while giving birth
  • Apply changes that removed the disparities between penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine retroactively
  • Require that prisoners be incarcerated within 500 miles of their families
  • Provide incentives for prisoners to undertake job training and rehabilitation programs
  • Reduce the “three strikes and you’re out” penalty for drug trafficking to 25 years (instead of life)

 

The House of Representatives passed a different version of this legislation earlier this year by a vote of 360-59. However, that body is expected to endorse the Senate’s version and pass it later this week. If it does so, the bill will head to President Trump for his signature.

 

Do you support reform of the federal criminal justice system? Should pregnant prisoners be shackled during birth? Should inmates be housed within 500 miles of their families? Do you agree with inmates being released from prison early if they complete job training programs?

Congress Takes Aim at Google

As the lame duck Congress moves towards adjournment, members of Congress still have many unfinished issues. Grilling Google is one of them.

 

Lawmakers have concerns about a variety of issues, ranging from how Google treats conservatives to the company’s privacy protections, and they aired them at a House Judiciary Committee hearing today. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) chaired this hearing, which featured Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

 

There have been repeated complaints from President Trump and Republican elected officials that Google discriminates against conservative voices. This hearing offered Rep. Goodlatte and his colleagues an opportunity to air these concerns and Pichai to respond. “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” Pichai testified. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions — and we have no shortage of them among our own employees.”

 

Google is also under fire for a recent security breach that affected over 50 million users. In addition, the company is working with China to develop a search engine that complies with that country’s censorship. Both of these issues are troubling for some lawmakers.

 

This hearing was an opportunity for members of Congress to air their grievances against Google. What steps they may take in response is unclear, however. Some have floated the idea of treating social media companies like public utilities, subject to strict government rules on how they operate. Others have called for investigations.

 

When the new Congress convenes in January, there will likely be multiple bills filed that deal in some way with the issues raised in today’s hearing.

 

Do you think that the federal government should impose more regulations on Google and social media companies?

Former Michigan Congressman Calls for End to Senate

John Dingell represented Michigan in the U.S. House of Representatives for 59 years. Now he is calling for an end to the U.S. Senate.

 

In an op-ed published by the Atlantic, Rep. Dingell writes that the Senate enshrines minority rule:

 

California has almost 40 million people, while the 20 smallest states have a combined population totaling less than that. Yet because of an 18th-century political deal, those 20 states have 40 senators, while California has just two. These sparsely populated, usually conservative states can block legislation supported by a majority of the American people. That’s just plain crazy.

 

He proposes abolishing the Senate, or combining it in some way with the House of Representatives. This, he says, will be a way to stop ideas that are supported by a majority of Americans from being killed in the Senate.

 

Opponents of this idea note that the framers of the Constitution never intended the U.S. to be ruled strictly by a legislative majority. They point out that the Senate was designed specifically to be anti-majoritarian, leading to a check-and-balance on both the House of Representatives and the presidency.

 

This idea has been floated by other observers, who are frustrated that the Senate membership is comprised of two senators from every state. Population plays no part in determining the number of U.S. senators, something that gives more power to less-populated states in that chamber. The Founding Fathers designed the Senate to be a representative of state interests. Initially senators were chosen by state legislatures, but this was changed by constitutional amendment in the Progressive Era.

 

Article V of the Constitution states that “no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.” This would seem to preclude any changes made to the current makeup of the Senate without every state agreeing.

 

Do you support abolishing the U.S. Senate?

Government May Shut Down over Border Wall Dispute

In what is becoming a semi-regular situation, the nation is facing the possibility of a government shutdown. The issue that may hold up the passage of legislation to keep the government open is also a familiar one – a border wall with Mexico.

 

When the fiscal year ended on October 30, only a few of the necessary government funding bills had been passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. The remaining portions of the government, including the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and the Interior, are operating under short-term funding legislation that expires on December 7.

 

President Trump has said that he wants a long-term spending bill to include money for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Democrats are refusing to go along with this idea. Instead, they are supporting an additional $1.67 billion for border security measures.

 

If President Trump continues to insist that this is inadequate, he could veto legislation to keep the government open past December 7. That would lead to departments deemed “non-essential” to close. Any federal employees in these departments would be on leave without pay, although Congress usually appropriates back pay once the shutdown is over.

 

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and the incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, are scheduled to meet with the president on Tuesday. No Republican members of Congress have been invited. It is possible that this meeting will lead to a deal that would avoid a government shutdown.

 

Do you think that the President should veto any funding bill that would keep the government open but not fund a border wall?

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