There are two important pieces of legislation that lawmakers are currently negotiating on, the appropriations omnibus and a five-year farm bill, and both of these are getting closer to where they need to be, but with some hang-ups. On the farm bill, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson disagree on whether the bill should provide subsidies for farmers who agree to limit their milk production. The Speaker is opposed to the subsidies, but Peterson supports them. If the impasse is resolved soon, the House and Senate conference committee could begin meeting by the end of the week to resolve differences between the two Chambers. For the appropriations omnibus, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski emerged from the spending negotiations on Tuesday saying that the “subcommittee chairmen have really done 90 percent of the work” but that the “last 10 percent, like any negotiation is the toughest.” She said they may not make the January 15 deadline.
The appropriations and agriculture negotiations, some would argue, would go a lot more quickly if there were more moderates in Congress. Many link the decline of compromise on the Hill to the departure of so many moderates. This trend will probably get worse in the future, especially since two moderate Democrats recently announced they would retire after this term. On Wednesday, Representative Mike McIntyre announced that he would not seek office again. He follows Representative Jim Matheson of Utah, also a centrist. The moderate Blue Dog Democrats numbered as high as 54, but are now at 15, and Democrats face difficult fights to keep the seats that McIntyre and Matheson are vacating.
The relations between the different branches of the Federal Government, can be uneasy to say the least. The Framers crafted a system where neither the Executive, nor the Legislative, nor the Judicial Branch, may dominate the others, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of conflicts. Obamacare has now become the battleground for some of these skirmishes. Since the law was passed, the Administration has issued a number of waivers deferring various requirements imposed on individual citizens and businesses. This has led some to ask: Can the President simply suspend the whole law, if he can ignore part after part? The Weekly Standard posed the question to three Democratic Senators, none of whom specifically offered any kind of yes or no. Another controversy touching upon the balance Executive-Legislative comes because of a lawsuit filed by Senator Ron Johnson, who is disputing the President’s decision to provide subsidies to Members of Congress and their staff, although the law supposedly forbids. John Yoo, who was a Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General, argues that Johnson is right on the merits, but he does not have the authority to sue, since he has not been harmed by the Administration’s decision, and because, failing that, a Member only has “standing”—roughly, the right to have a case adjudicated—if Congress itself decided to sue because the President has disregarded its laws.
And for our latest blog post: Flattening the Rules: The Implications of the Senate’s Nuclear Option