Sunday, November 19, 2017

Evolving Changes In "Regular Order" Need Fixing

At a press briefing on November 17, Kevin Hassett, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers explained what the President and Administration believe are the many benefits of either the House or Senate tax “reform” bill.  He made several special points to note the President’s strong support for “regular order”:

 “. . . the President has supported, from the beginning, regular order because he doesn’t think that we have to wait until the thing becomes law to learn what's in it; that the right thing to do is to expose the bills to scrutiny and debate. . .

“The President supports regular order because that's really how deals get made and how bills become law. . . And we encourage them to pursue regular order because they need to listen to everybody and get the votes they need to make this law. . .

“The fact is that they're finding the coalitions that they need to pass the bills in the House and the Senate. And we support that process. We support regular order. We support the transparency that leading debate about issues like this.”(WH press statement, Nov. 17)


On November 13, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, discussing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), said he had learned from the health care fiasco and said this time Republicans were utilizing “regular order.”

“We’re doing this the right way. We’re doing this the regular order way,” Ryan said Thursday at his weekly news conference. “It takes time, but trust me, we’re going to get this over the finish line.” (Roll Call, Nov. 13)

On November 13, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), announced the Senate markup bill for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. A product produced in a backroom, suddenly launched onto the public stage. Like Paul Ryan, Hatch claims that the bill is the result of a long process of political compromise.

“Today’s markup is the culmination of a years-long tax reform effort.  On this committee, both parties have been engaged in this endeavor, which has included the work of multiple chairmen – from both sides of the dais – and almost every member.”(Hatch news release, Nov 13)

So the President, the House and the Senate are all claiming that they are using the “regular order” process to develop and pass their major tax reform proposal. Let’s examine that premise.

Remember back on July 26, 2017, at the height of the Health Care debate, following months of angst by Republicans and their failed attempts to fulfill their promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare? At that point, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), returned to the Senate after brain cancer surgery and delivered a lengthy and emotional statement scolding the Senate and leaders on the process that had lead to the health care debacle and the embarrassment of not being able to pass meaningful legislation. He said the Party needed to go back to the days of "regular order."

“Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.
“That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today. . .
“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.
“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.
We’re getting nothing done. . .
“Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let’s return to regular order
“Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.
What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart.(The Hill, Jul. 25, emphasis added)
Senator McCain’s request was noble and reflects on a past period where politics were robust but maintained at least a modicum of decency. His comments also reflected the will of most Americans.

Most people and businesses long for more stable, balanced legislative process that results in laws that will last with periodic updates over time. They want laws that they can count on and plan on for the future.

A March 2017, CNN/ORC poll found that 72% (+/- 3%) would like to see Donald Trump attempt to reach a bipartisan compromise on bills that he tries to get through Congress. 25% indicated it was okay to pass laws without Democratic support. In the same poll, 69% said Democrats in Congress should attempt to reach bipartisan compromise on bills that Donald Trump tries to get through Congress. (CNN/ORC poll)

Likewise, a No Labels/Hudson Pacific poll in January 2017 found that on the issue of Healthcare; 73% of Republicans and 87% of Democrats want a bipartisan approach to reform. The poll also found that 83% of the American public thinks laws are more effective when parties compromise and arrive at a bipartisan solution.(No Labels/Hudson Pacific poll)

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll conducted October 14-23, 2017 found that 62 percent of Americans want former President Barack Obama’s healthcare law to be maintained, and about half – including 51 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans – want “a bipartisan group” rather than just members of their own parties to improve the healthcare system. (Reuters/Ipsos poll)

Despite these overwhelming indicators of public desires (and there are many), Washington politics have devolved into a tribalistic, deviant political system that is so distorted that politicians frequently act contrary to their own sense of right and wrong or their political principles, simply to win a point or gain a "victory."

Republicans, who now control the power in Washington have not heeded Senator McCain’s advice. They have not attempted to alter the futile process that led to a complete failure to deal with the issue of health care. Instead, they have doubled down on their hopeless and arrogant process by side-stepping a successful bipartisan effort by Senators Alexander (R-TN) & Murray (D-OR) to provide a fix (at least temporary) for the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare).

And now they are attempting to emphasize that they are utilizing the “regular order” process. Ryan's claim that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) was developed by "regular order" is a farce. The bill was "fast tracked" through the Ways & Means Committee where Republicans out number Democrats 24-16. There were no Subcommittee or Committee hearings to discuss or debate the bill. There were no expert witnesses called or public hearings held.

The 447 page bill was drafted in secret, introduced November 2, marked up and reported out November 9, and passed the House on  November 16 (227-205, with all Republican votes (13 Republicans joined 192 Democrats voting against). (H.R. 1)

In 16 days, from introduction to passage, House Republicans cheered and applauded themselves for passing their one-sided solution to tax reform. Democrats called the bill a “canard.” The President called Democrats “obstructionists” and congratulated Republicans on a “GREAT tax bill.”

From the start it was designed to be passed with strictly Republican votes. At the one mark-up meeting of the Committee, Democrats offered numerous amendments, "to make this legislation less disastrous for middle-class families,” and more acceptable to their Party". However, every one was voted down on strict Party lines.

THIS IS NOT REGULAR ORDER. This is not what Senator McCain was talking about. Far from it, it's another attempt to force one-sided solutions to complex problems on the American public which is destined to failure either now or the next time the political power changes in Washington, DC. So don't count on any long term effects from this charade.

While you might want to think that the U.S. Senate, “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” would be more sophisticated in its approach and exercise more decorum; forget it! They have chosen the similar dead-end process – only worse!

Senator Hatch’s statement, like Ryan’s, is totally deceptive. The Republicans have no intention of working with Democrats to achieve passage of “their” tax bill. And that is no secret because they have chosen up front to utilize the reconciliation process, which is widely known as the most partisan process in Washington and requires only a majority (51 votes) to pass and would not require any Democratic votes.

Additionally, this major and incredibly important bill will be subject to no public hearings or expert witness testimony. And, like the House bill, it is expected to be considered on the Senate Floor in about 2 weeks (the week after Thanksgiving).

And when you thought the process could not be more distorted, on November 14, the Senate leadership indicated it had authorized adding to the bill a repeal of the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

First of all, this is one of Congress’s worst tricks of gridlock and deception – i.e. tacking on “unrelated bills and riders” to important legislation. Secondly, the proposal will “save” or “hijack” (depending on your perspective) $338 billion in revenue that would have been used to lower insurance premiums for low and middle class individuals.

Senate Republicans said the measure had widespread support among their members. The Congressional Budget Office said the measure would increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 13 million by 2027 (4 million in 2019) and raise ACA insurance rates by 10% annually over the next decade. (Reuters, Nov. 14)

Following the announcement of this “modified Chairman’s mark” of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR) said:

“This does not resemble, no matter how much my colleagues on the other side say otherwise, the regular order in the Finance Committee. This is reckless haste.” (Wyden release, Nov. 14)

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told reporters:

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful and that’s obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well.” (Reuters, Nov. 14)

Similar to the consideration in the House, the Senate Finance Committee, which consists of 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats, held markup meetings. In all, some 355 amendments were considered with those proposed by Democrats being voted down along party lines or considered non-germane. Like the House, Democrats have no power on any Committees because they are outnumbered in the Committee membership.

So despite the fact that the House tax reform plan is widely unpopular and the Senate plan, now with the inclusion of the ACA amendment is unlikely to pass, we are left with another dead-end on tax reform. While the House bill passed with all Republican votes, the Senate bill will probably not gain the required 51 votes from Republicans (two have already announced their opposition).

While it’s possible that further modifications might achieve narrow passage in the Senate, we will be left with a bill that can only receive the narrowest of support from the Republicans in power and no support from the other half of the country that has different ideas.

Donald Trump will likely sign any bill that makes it to his desk and claim that it will be the BEST, MOST MASSIVE, GREATEST tax reform in history because of his leadership.

However, the new law would only be in place until the next Party power change in Washington. So small businesses, major corporations and individuals would be ill-advised to make any long term plans based on whatever may be approved.

So what is this regular order process that Senator McCain remembers? -- the “old way” where members “accepted the necessity of compromise.” Where there was “humility” and a “need to cooperate.” Where they “trust each other” and work “together to find solutions.” As we can see from above, there are some different views on what constitutes regular order.

Well, not too long ago there was a better “regular order” process that had been used for years; it was founded in the committee review process. Subcommittee and committee reviews that included extensive expert testimony, public hearings, input and review, public comment periods, fair and reasoned deliberation and debate of ideas and amendments before final approvals.

However, there was a fundamental flaw even in the old regular order process that Senator McCain remembers. In past times, when political polarization was not as intense and tribalistic as it is today, this flaw was often worked around with now foreign concepts of civility, cooperation, fairness and professional courtesy.

The flaw is based on the erroneous concept that if one Party wins a majority in the House or Senate, or the Presidency for that matter (even by the narrowest of margins), that they then have a mandate to carry out their agenda and can ignore the views of the other half of the country and develop and approve legislation that reflects only their views. 

The flaw is the Party representation ratio within individual committees and subcommittees. As indicated above, the House Ways & Means Committee contains 24 Republicans and 16 Democrats. Similarly, the Senate Finance Committee consists of 14 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

With this Party power control, Republicans were able to completely control the committee review process, ignoring any alternative bills, shutting down subcommittee review, debate, public hearings, expert testimony and voting down or procedurally disapproving any Democratic amendments.

In older times when there was greater respect for the process and more statesmanship among members, there was greater cooperation among committee and subcommittee members and thus the unequal representation had a diminished impact. Even with the lopsided majority Party representation, the commitment to follow the regular order process through subcommittee, committee, public hearings, expert testimony, reduced the impact of the majority Party control. Expert testimony, public hearings and related media coverage, as well as the length of the process, would often expose political shenanigans, deception or fake claims before final considerations.

However, in today’s highly charged political environment the Parties have seized on this advantage to exercise absolute control of the process in pursuit of their perceived “mandate” and their ideological agenda. The result is reckless, short-sighted legislative solutions to complex issues and problems jammed into a politically charged, drama-filled two or three week process. Political leaders of the party in power emerge from their dark backroom with their divinely inspired solution, which is then frantically hustled with little review and last minute deals to the Floor for final approval.

The transition from the old, systematic regular order where legislation evolved from a methodical, bottom up process (i.e. subcommittee to Floor vote) to the new altered top down process (i.e. leadership proposal to Floor vote) has occurred subtly over the last couple of decades.

Senator Wyden recently commented on the Committee’s markup meeting indicating:

“This is not a real, honest-to-God attempt to have a full bipartisan debate on tax reform that gives everybody a chance to get ahead. . . Colleagues, this is nothing like the thoughtful, measured bipartisan approach that defines Reagan-style tax reform. This is not a process that brings together the best ideas from both sides. This is an exercise in legislating with reckless haste. . .” (Wyden release, Nov. 16)

A couple of major reforms could vastly improve the legislative development process and go a long way toward achieving more bipartisan proposals and lasting solutions to the complex problems and issues in the country.

1.) A simple agreement between the two Parties to utilize the full and complete committee process of old. Perhaps there would need to be a clear definition of the process but it would definitely include: Subcommittee and committee reviews that included public meetings with extensive alternative expert testimony, public hearings, input and review, public comment periods and fair and reasoned deliberation and debate with respect and consideration of competing points of view before final approvals.

2.) As long as the country remains narrowly divided between Republican and Democratic ideologies Congress must learn to respect this difference and understand that one-sided solutions are not the answer and will not provide long term solutions to the nation's problems. Until there is a recognition of this fact Congressional approval ratings will remain in the range of 10-20%.

In some way the power dominance of the controlling Party must be overcome or at least reckoned with. I have written extensively on the concept of “shared legislative power” and “shared committee power” as the solution to this linchpin issue that has led to the current gridlock and dysfunction in Congress. I am not going to repeat that discussion here and refer readers to my many previous blog posts.

I have also presented examples and extensive testimony of where shared legislative and committee power has been utilized with amazing results. Again, I refer readers to previous blog posts; however, because the testimony is so powerful (26 statements) I am including one statement here from both a Democrat and a Republican.

  • (Democrat): “The best part of shared power, for me as well as many others, was the fact that relationships from both sides of the aisle improved on a personal as well as on the professional level. . . Having been in the majority and the minority, the people of the state of Michigan would be best served if each party was equally represented.”

  • (Republican): “Shared power works because it encourages each party to act like a responsible majority. . . Seize the moment. Have the vision. Change what it means to be a member of a legislative body. Make history.” [Note: this Representative presented a proposal to the co-Speakers to perpetuate the agreement into the future as an historic opportunity to move “politics not just in Michigan but nationally past sheer partisanship. . .”
 #BetterGovmt




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Republicans Can Choose Between Right & Wrong

[Update October 25, 2017: Two months later, it's all the same -- just worse! See updated references below]

A month ago I did a post entitled, Donald The Muddler & The Ones That Know Better. Well, it’s time for a major update, but again the emphasis must not be on the most disgraceful, dishonest President ever to occupy the White House, it must be on the Ones That Know Better.

Following the catastrophic display of racism in Charlottesville and the President’s appalling response which has emboldened the extreme alt-right movement, he has now doubled down on his real values and granted a pardon to an overt bigot and racist.

Despite his insincere and disingenuous statements to the contrary, there can be no doubt that the President is fanning the flames of hatred and intolerance in America. In his totally inappropriate campaign-style rally in Phoenix following the tragedy in Charlottesville, he even mocked his own late admonishment of racism while attempting to defend his actions, saying flippantly:

"We will defend or protect the sacred rights of all Americans. . . I said everything. I hit [‘em] with neo-Nazi. I hit them with everything. I got the white supremacists, the neo-Nazi. I got them all in there, let's say. KKK, we have KKK. I got them all. . .”

Further teasing and encouraging his fan base, Trump asked, pretending earnestness:

“By the way, I'm just curious. Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe? (APPLAUSE) So, was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? That's why... (APPLAUSE) He should have had a jury, but you know what? I'll make a prediction. I think he's going to be just fine, OK? (APPLAUSE) But -- but I won't do it tonight, because I don't want to cause any controversy. Is that OK? All right? (APPLAUSE)

So, a few days later, on a Friday night, as hurricane Harvey was barreling down on the fourth largest U.S. city as a category 4 storm, the President granted a pardon for the convicted criminal bigot that terrorized the Phoenix area Latino community for years.

Considering his already exposed pre-presidential actions relating to race issues, and now his latest reactions, can there be any doubt where the President of the United States stands on racism, hate and bigotry?

I have been very critical of the lack of intervention of the top two Republican leaders – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan – to exercise their “check and balance” responsibilities and call out the President directly for his reckless, reprehensible and irresponsible actions. I would add to the list many others in GOP leadership roles in Federal, State and local government.

These are the “ones that know better” and the only people that can put an end to the abhorrent and outrageous behavior of this President that is tearing at the very fabric of everything that America stands for, exacerbating the divisions within the citizenry and resulting in shameful embarrassment in the eyes of our allies and the free world.

These are the ones who can distance themselves and their Republican Party from the hideous and despicable transformation taking place under the Trump leadership. These are the ones that must answer to their children and grandchildren when they ask “how could you let this happen?”

Some recent reports suggest that they (the ones that know better) may be beginning to see that the damage of a Trump presidency may be outweighing their zeal and passion for Republican Party supremacy.


·        McConnell, in Private, Doubts if Trump Can Save Presidency, 8/22/17, New York Times

But almost as soon as that news broke, the leadership began to walk back the notion that they are questioning Trump’s presidential capabilities. Both McConnell and Ryan have issued new statements indicating that they can continue to work with the President to advance their ideological agenda. Apparently they are having trouble letting go of the zeal and passion.

So why won’t Republicans, en masse, call out Donald Trump? I hear two primary excuses from the media and pundits. (1) They still believe they can pass health care, tax reform and infrastructure legislation while they control Congress and the White House; and (2) they are fearful that their home constituency (their political base) is more supportive of Trump than of them.

Let’s take a look at each of those excuses, but first I should recognize the few GOP mavericks that have spoken out against Trump including Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Additionally, Ohio Governor John Kasich has been outspoken in criticizing many of the President's actions.

But most notably, a generally recognized “non-maverick”, Republican leader Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued perhaps the most resolute critique on August 17, saying:  (https://goo.gl/pzDpTs).

“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. . .  He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today. . . And he’s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that.  And without the things that I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril. . . We’re at a point where there needs to be radical changes taking place at the White House itself. It has to happen. I think the president needs to take stock of the role he plays in our nation and move beyond himself — move way beyond himself and move to a place where daily, he’s waking up thinking about what is best for our nation.”

So, why isn’t there massive and decisive disdain for President Trump from elected GOP members? The first excuse: They believe they can advance their agenda. We have had a first hand look at the GOP-controlled House and Senate ability to advance their 7-year diatribe of “repeal & replace” Obamacare. It failed miserably and revealed irreconcilable differences between various extreme factions of conservatives and moderates within the Party and no Democratic support. Additionally, President Trump’s on-again, off-again involvement in the process proved more detrimental than constructive.

The Problem Solvers caucus, led by Tom Reed (R-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), has attempted to formulate a bipartisan effort to address the health care crisis; however, the Republican leadership does not appear willing to seriously pursue that effort.

The future of health care remains in crisis, with serious implications and problems developing over the next few months. With no viable solution at hand, the President and GOP leadership appear to be willing to leave the issue unaddressed and are talking about moving on to a completely different subject -- tax reform.

In the meantime, when Congress returns following Labor Day they must immediately deal with highly contentious budget and debt ceiling issues, not to mention billions and billions of dollars of historic hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. While these complex and critically important issues are looming, our mindless President has threatened in a child-like manner, a government shutdown if he can’t get his way in funding his 2,000 mile imaginary wall which he promised would be paid for by Mexico. Imagine a government shutdown in the middle of the hurricane Harvey recovery.

Revealing that he has no clue how the budgetary process or government processes work, the President indicated at an August 28, press conference that a government shutdown and hurricane recovery efforts are two separate issues and "everybody" agrees with him that the recovery efforts will be dealt with very quickly.
“I think you [Texas] you'll be up and running very, very quickly.  Really, very quickly.  So, yeah, I think you're going to be in fantastic shape. . . I think it [government shutdown] has nothing to do with it [recovery efforts], really.  I think this is separate. This is going to go really very, very quickly.  Again, I have spoken to many of the people we're talking about, and everybody feels the same way I do.” *[press conference transcript]
So without a plan to overcome the demonstrated inability of the Republican Party to address critical legislative priorities with generally acceptable solutions, it does not seem that the excuse of advancing their ideological agenda is viable.

The second excuse, uncertain support from their political base, is even more disturbing. The Republican Party appears to be at a crucial decision point.

Heretofore, the Republican Party has not been in favor of giving encouragement to white supremacists, neo-Nazis, or the KKK. The Party historically has not supported continuous and documented lying and distortion of facts regarding information presented to the public. The Party has not previously supported systematic attacks on the freedom of the press which the President decries as “fake news” whenever it challenges his beliefs. The Republican Party has also generally regarded Russia as a serious threat to national security and institutional stability and a foreign power to be dealt with, with extreme caution.

Donald Trump has violated many of the core, fundamental underpinnings of the Republican Party, American democracy, and social and political norms held by a large majority of Americans. Polls have consistently shown that the President retains support from only 35-40 percent of overall electorate, but 70-80 percent support from the Republican base.

I applaud the Republicans who have had the courage to speak out directly and challenge the views and leadership of this President. There should be more – many more. Most of the American public knows instinctively that Donald Trump does not represent American values.

He was elected narrowly by a frustrated electorate in an election fraught with domestic and international interference on the belief that he would bring a new management style and ideas. In the first 7 months of office we have witnessed that new style and ideas. Many are offensive, embarrassing and indefensible.

Now that we know, there should be no excuses. Many of the actions and beliefs of Donald Trump must be rejected. The GOP leadership is the only check on his erratic and unacceptable behavior. Republican leaders should not equivocate in their rejection and try to rationalize this behavior based on the pursuit of an unrealistic legislative agenda.

As to their political base, Republicans must draw a line in favor of longstanding American beliefs and ideals over short term political ideology; or forever change the Party brand and identification. A point recently made by former Senator John Danforth (R-MO, 76-95) in a Washington Post op-ed: 
“[Trump] stands in opposition to the founding principle of our party. . . We cannot allow Donald Trump to redefine the Republican Party. That is what he is doing, as long as we give the impression by our silence that his words are our words and his actions are our actions. . .” *[complete op-ed]
As for Democrats; they are not without blame. While most Democrats have rebuked the abhorrent behavior of Donald Trump, they have done very little to articulate their Party brand and identification as an alternative to the GOP.

Why is this important? It is important because Democrats share in the responsibility of breaking the cycle of Congressional gridlock and the intense tribalism that has grown to be the American way. Democrats must participate in a constructive way to change the culture of D.C. politics and strive to reach a point where Congress can function and carry out its constitutionally-mandated responsibilities as one of three equal branches of government and its critical oversight of the Executive Branch. Dysfunction in Congress is a two-way street. I emphasized this point in a previous July 18 post -- Wake Up Democrats; Another Chance At Self-Identification.

In a country where the electorate is virtually divided 50-50, I have previously stressed that Congress, whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats, cannot continue to propose one-sided solutions to complex problems. I have advocated a solution consisting of “shared legislative power.” A solution that is counter to the political DNA of most Congressional members, but one that has a limited but highly encouraging track record. See my post: Shared Legislative Power: Inspiring, Refreshing, Encouraging, Promising.

The Problem Solvers caucus (mentioned above), which is attempting to address the health care issue, is a step in the right direction. It starts with the premise that politically acceptable solutions cannot be one-sided. The concept should be expanded and institutionalized in Congressional procedures.

The existing legislative process, called “regular order”, where one Party completely controls the agenda, funding, resources and votes does not work. There is no constitutional requirement for the regular order process; it is completely established by Congressional rules. It can be changed at any time – IF CONGRESS WANTS TO. There are better ways to govern and deliver the real bipartisan solutions that most Americans want.

The President’s approval is currently at 35% and the approval rating of Congress is at 10% (see Real Clear Politics). Republicans are currently in control and have the power to choose – right or wrong.


References & Information (Updated October 25, 2017)



· October 25: Touting 'lovefest', Trump claims no divisions in the GOP, CNN, https://goo.gl/vpgmg2

· October 24: Full text: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) speech on the Senate floor announcing his retirement http://politi.co/2i2bMJ7 
· October 24: Various statements of Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) on Donald Trump https://goo.gl/Rb7ZDZ

· October 19: Full text: George W. Bush speech on Trumpism delivered at the at the “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World" https://goo.gl/Uubzp6

· October 16: Senator John McCain (R-AZ) delivered the following remarks after being awarded the NationalConstitution Center's annual Liberty Medal. Full text: https://goo.gl/kJ5hGt

· June 20: Seventy-two percent (72%) of Republicans approve of the job Mr. Trump is doing; along with 9% of Democrats and 35% of Independents (CBS News poll, 6/15-18/17, margin of error 4pts)
· July 17: “According to a POLITICO survey of more than two dozen local Republican Party leaders in counties where 2018’s most competitive races are shaping up, the GOP grass roots aren’t fazed by news of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting last year with a Kremlin-linked lawyer or the daily drip of stories about Trump and Russia. They aren’t even paying close attention. . . Local Republican leaders say the only collusion going on is between Democrats and the media.” Politico



· August 17: Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Republicans approve of President Trump’s reaction to theCharlottesville attack; along with 10% Democrats and 32% Independents (CBS News poll, 8/14-18/16, margin of error 4pts)
· August 21: “Loyalty to Trump has quickly become the most potent issue for the Republican base, according to a dozen candidates and strategists immersed in 2018 races.” Politico

· Official GOP Listening to America Survey. 32 questions the last of which is open ended and you may submit your written concerns to the question: What else do you think the President needs to know about the real America? We’re listening.



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Shared Legislative Power: Inspiring, Refreshing, Encouraging, Promising

I just returned from a few days visiting an old friend of mine of some 42 years. We yak. We yak a lot about politics and the great issues of our time. We’ve been yakking for 40 some years. It’s fair to say that this year, considering all that’s going on with Donald Trump and Congressional gridlock, we yakked ourselves into depression -- literally coming away from our visit feeling hollow and somewhat hopeless about the future.

Somewhere during the yakking I mentioned to my friend about a post I had done about Michigan's experience with shared legislative power way back in 1993-94 when the Michigan House was deadlocked 55 Republicans & 55 Democrats. I told him how uplifting it was and how it demonstrates there is a better way.

When I returned home I re-read the post and found it was inspiring, refreshing, encouraging and promising. I needed that after all of the depressing yakking.

I decided the post needed to be emphasized and to focus just on the summary of Legislator comments and hope it may provide solace to others who may be suffering depression, frustration and general pessimism about what lies ahead.

Here is an excerpt from the post I did back in March 2017, entitled: Shared Committee Power And The Ambience of Bipartisanship. Hope it helps.

Here are brief excerpts of the thoughts of 26 Michigan legislators who express, far better than I ever could, what I am now calling the ambience of bipartisanship.


John Gernaat (R-Cadillac) – “Shared power will go down in history as an example of how people on both sides can work together to get things done.”

Ilona Varga (D-Detroit) – “Both sides had to compromise. I feel the people got the best two years of representation in the over eight years I have been there.”

Tom Middleton (R-Ortonville) – “The House had a much more open line of communication in solving partisan problems [referring to the fact that the Senate during this time remained under Republican partisan control].

Michael J. Griffin (D-Jackson) – “…people of goodwill and determination can put public policy ahead of partisan consideration. . . Students of government, civics, political science, et cetera, can learn a great deal from this experience.”

Glenn Oxender (R-Sturgis) – “It gave a variety of leadership and made bipartisan support necessary for the passage of each bill. I rate it as a success because of the significant amount of legislation that was passed.”

David Points (D-Highland Park) – “The Eighty-seventh Legislature was an example of an unbiased bipartisan balance.”

Timothy L. Walberg (R-Tipton) – “A pleasant by-product of this situation was the development of friendships with the members of the other party who were once only acquaintances.”

Clyde Le Tarte (R-Horton) – “I found that in the main, we tended to focus on policy issues instead of political advantage because political positions could not be sustained through the process.”

Jan C. Dolan (R-Farmington Hills) – “Even when a vote comes down along party lines, there appears to be a willingness to hear out all viewpoints. Michigan has been well served by this cooperative spirit.”

Richard A. Young (D-Dearborn Heights) – “I believe that you can learn from the fact that you can accomplish the people’s work and you don’t have to do it in a hostile manner.”

James Mick Middaugh (R-Paw Paw) – “People seemed to genuinely want to work together. You had to, or you did not get anything accomplished.”

James Agee (D-Muskegon) – “I think it made us respect those on the other side of the aisle and know that we had to compromise with them.”

Carl F. Gnodtke (R-Sawyer) – “I have often thought it worked well enough that there should be a constitutional amendment requiring equal numbers from both parties be elected to serve in the House.”

Joseph Palamara (D-Wyandotte) – “I found the shared power arrangement to be an unqualified success… To me, the essence of representative government was embodied in the shared power agreement.”

Harold J. Voorhees (R-WyomingMI) – “Truly shared, the power agreement that was adopted by the House of Representatives in 1993 is and was a genuine masterpiece – a model for future legislatures throughout the land.”

Candace Curtis (D-Swartz Creek) – “The experience was one of compromise between not only the two parties but also between controlling interest groups.”

Don Gilmer (R-Augusta) – “As a body we at least had a greater amount of respect for one another because of power sharing, and a lot of that still carries on.”

Lynn Jondahl (D-Okemos) – “Working under the shared power agreement was successful in that we quickly adapted to the new rules/procedures and were able to proceed quite smoothly.”

Susan Grimes Munsel (R-Howell) – “One, you had to have the best policy, or two, you had to have a lot of factions with you on an issue, and that kind of focus forces you into the central area which is where the best policy making is anyway.”

Clark Harder (D-Owosso) – “While political pundits swore in advance it would never work, they were obviously proven wrong.”

Tom Alley (D-West Branch) – “Power sharing was probably the greatest experience any legislator could go through in a career of elected office.”

Frank Fitzgerald (R-Grand Ledge) – “I think that what you learn from shared power is that it is possible in a tie situation to make a legislative body operate.”

Pat Gagliardi (D-Drummond Island) – “The best part of shared power, for me as well as many others, was the fact that relationships from both sides of the aisle improved on a personal as well as on the professional level. . . Having been in the majority and the minority, the people of the state of Michigan would be best served if each party was equally represented.”

Paul Baade (D-Roosevelt Park) – “An opportunity to develop a spirit of cooperation and negotiation to move on many issues.”

Kirk A. Profit (D-Ypsilanti) – “I am personally very grateful to have had the wonderful opportunity to represent the eighty-five thousand people in the Ypsilanti area at such an incredible time in Michigan history when new standards for legislative production were set and new foundations of faith in government were laid.”

William Bryant (R-Grosse Pointe Farms) – “Shared power works because it encourages each party to act like a responsible majority.” [Note: Rep. Bryant presented a proposal to the co-Speakers to perpetuate the agreement into the future as an historic opportunity to move “politics not just in Michigan but nationally past sheer partisanship. . .” He concluded by saying, “Seize the moment. Have the vision. Change what it means to be a member of a legislative body. Make history.”]

Can you imagine 26 diverse U.S. Congressional members commenting on the state of the current Congress with the sincerity, excitement and insightfulness of the comments above? Isn’t this what the vast majority of Americans want from their government and their legislators? [Congressional approval rating is currently 10% (8/3/17)]

Congress must accept the fact that the electorate is divided 50-50 and stop trying to propose one-sided solutions to complex problems. True bipartisanship is just a decision away. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi could make it happen now and end the madness if they wanted to.

It is possible. There is a better way. #BetterGovmt

Other posts on shared committee power and true bipartisanship:


·        
Shared Committee Power And The Ambience of Bipartisanship