Archive for the ‘DC’ Category

Shuster-DeFazio Looks Set to Follow Shuster-Rahall Tone

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

 

By David Harrison, CQ Roll Call

Taste of Shuster-DeFazio. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee appears ready to maintain the relatively amicable atmosphere that reigned between Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., and ranking member Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va., after Rahall’s departure at the end of the current Congress.

Oregon’s Peter A. DeFazio will become ranking member, as Rahall lost his bid for re-election. If Tuesday’s Federal Aviation Administration hearing is any indication, DeFazio will try to maintain the cordial relationship with Shuster. The reauthorization of the FAA could be an early test.

The reauthorization bill could be a fairly bipartisan affair. Tuesday’s hearing featured plenty of disagreement but didn’t suggest an impasse. “This is going to be very, very high on [Shuster’s] agenda,” DeFazio said. “I think the problems in aviation are soluble.”

The current authorization expires at the end of the year.  If lawmakers make progress on the FAA relatively quickly next year, it could give them momentum to tackle the trickier highway bill by May.

On the Spending Side. The question remains whether appropriators will try to push through an omnibus bill or settle for a continuing resolution. President Barack Obama’s immigration announcement continues to tie Republicans in knots, making it difficult for appropriators to wrap up work.

Outgoing Transportation-HUD Subcommittee Chairman Tom Latham, R-Iowa, has said he is working with his Senate counterparts to resolve outstanding issue between the House subcommittee bill (HR 4745) and the Senate’s (S 2438). One concern appears to be the spending levels for TIGER grants and the policy restrictions surrounding them.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., meanwhile, is getting ready to take over the subcommittee’s gavel next year. “It is of utmost importance that we prioritize transportation initiatives that will improve our local communities, while also providing housing solutions for those most in need,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement.

Airline Battle. The fight over Norwegian Airlines’ proposed low-cost carrier simmers on. Roll Call’s Tom Curry attended a meeting with Norwegian Air CEO Bjorn Kjos, who made his case for the Department of Transportation to sign off on the company’s application to operate the new Ireland-based airline, Norwegian Air International, between the United States and Europe.

The application has been pending for months and transportation officials don’t have a deadline to rule, but Kjos is getting impatient, saying the delay is a violation of an open skies agreement between the United States and the European Union.

“Transatlantic flights are the last cartel,” he said.

U.S. airlines and labor unions want the government to deny the application, arguing that NAI is skirting tax and labor rules by incorporating in Ireland. Members of the Air Line Pilots Association swarmed the Hill in their sharply-creased uniforms Wednesday urging lawmakers to attach language to the upcoming spending bill to bar the airline’s request.

Tea Party Class More Confrontational Than Ever

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Hawkings Here

Tea Party Class More Confrontational Than Ever

By David Hawkings Posted at 5:16 p.m. on Feb.  3

The atmospherics offered plenty of clues, but the numbers don’t lie: The House was an even more polarized and partisan place last year than it was when the tea party class of Republicans took over the place two years before. And that’s in part because those lawmakers have grown even more antagonistic to President Barack Obama’s agenda — and even more willing to toe the party line.

That is among the central takeaways from CQ Roll Call’s analysis of 2013 congressional voting patterns, the latest installment in an annual study that began six decades ago.

While Obama got his way on 57 percent of the congressional votes on which he staked a position, a fifth-year success rate exceeded only by George W. Bush among the past four re-elected presidents, that was almost entirely because of a record amount of support from his Democratic colleagues running the Senate.

In the House, Obama had his way on just 21 percent of the votes he clearly cared about, and that was because the average member of the Republican majority voted his way only 12 percent of the time, the smallest measure of presidential support any caucus has ever recorded for a Democratic president.

Twelve percent was also the exact amount of support Obama received from the 65 members who remain from the Class of 2010. (Eighty GOP members who had never before served in Congress were elected that year.) But it’s notable that the median went down a whopping 9 points since 2011, the first year those lawmakers were in Washington.

In other words, the group who voted against Obama 4 out of 5 times as brand-new freshmen disagreed with him 7 out of 8 times as first-year sophomores. The substance of the votes taken over the two years was different, so I can’t make a precise apples-to-apples comparison. But the trend would seem to contradict a conventional wisdom about the modern Congress: Even those who arrive with the most revolutionary fervor tend to buff away some of their roughest ideological edges after a couple of years.

In fact, 30 of those elected in the tea party wave saw their presidential support scores decline by more than 10 points from 2011 to 2013, suggesting that many have concluded they are safe in shifting their voting patterns further to the right now that they have secured their first re-election.

The steepest plunges belonged to a pair of the bigger upset winners of 2010: Ohio’s Bill Johnson backed Obama just 9 percent of the time last year, down 17 points from his first year in office; the drop by North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers was 16 points.

By contrast, only two members of that class backed Obama more often in 2013 than in 2011. The scores edged up only a few points for both the iconoclastic Justin Amash of Michigan and the electorally imperiled Chris Gibson of New York. (Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates his race, in territory Obama carried in 2012, as Tilts Republican.)

The significant drop-off in support for Obama among the Class of 2010 is echoed, if far less dramatically, in CQ Roll Call’s studies of party unity — how often members stick with the bulk of their caucus on roll calls in which a majority of Republicans are on one side and a majority of Democrats are on the other. (Thanks for number-crunching help are due at this point to vote studies major domo John Cranford and researchers Ryan Kelly and Jay Hunter.)

People with an eye on the Capitol every day won’t be surprised to learn that 69 percent of all the 2013 votes in Congress fell mostly along party lines, a number exceeded less than a handful of times since the start of the Eisenhower administration. But, at a time when it often appeared that Speaker John A. Boehner was struggling to hold his troops together, the average House Republican stayed in the fold on 92 percent of those votes — a record level of party unity for that caucus. The number of times the group was unanimous also was in record territory, another reflection of how GOP leaders put a priority on proposals that would unify the troops.

And sophomores were among the most likely to back their party. Their median party unity score was 96 percent, an increase from their 94.5 percent average during the group’s first year in office.

Five of them supported Obama often enough and strayed from the party line often enough to make those Top 10 lists: Amash, Gibson, New Yorkers Richard Hanna and Michael G. Grimm, and the retiring-after-just-two-terms Jon Runyan of New Jersey.

Still, the takeaway about the Class of 2010 is tough to dispute: They have become a bit more partisan and markedly more confrontational since the first year they had voting cards. Given that the numbers are pushing close to the statistical extremes, these are trends that will be tough to continue, but are sure to bedevil Boehner and Obama in the meantime.

All Things Omnibus: Fiscal 2014.

Friday, January 17th, 2014
CQ Roll Call

Dear Colleague, On January 15, the House passed the omnibus spending package that will help fund the government through September 30. You can find the latest news coverage on the bill in CQ Roll Call’s white paper, All Things Omnibus: Fiscal 2014.
The white paper includes:

  • Current CQ News coverage with a breakdown of how the new measures will affect each of the 12 appropriation-bill titles
  • Overview table of the bill, broken down by federal agency spending vs. last year, the President’s budget and House and Senate recommendations

View All Things Omnibus: Fiscal 2014 now   

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Fast Track is the wrong track for Teamsters

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
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Teamsters across the country have been responding in record numbers to last week’s introduction of Fast Track legislation in Congress.  Thank you to all who have already emailed and called your Representatives and Senators asking that they do one simple thing: Say NO to Fast Track!  The fight has just begun though, so we can’t let up.

Fast Track undermines the authority that we have entrusted to Congress to make sure that trade agreements with other nations are fair and in the best interests of working families – not corporations.  If Fast Track is passed, job-killing trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that have been negotiated largely in secret could become law by a simple “yes” or “no” vote, without the possibility of any amendments. Congress will not be able to change a single word of the agreement, no matter how bad the provisions may be!

Please help us tell Congress that Fast Track is the wrong track by signing the Teamster petition today.  And please share the petition with your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.


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bill to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was introduced in Congress

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Today, a bill to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was introduced in Congress. The deal, which is being negotiated with over 600 corporations behind closed doors, is a threat to clean air, clean water, safe food and our democracy.

We have to stop fast track for the TPP. Email your Congress members now.

If passed, corporations could sue the U.S. government to overturn democratically created laws and regulations if they threaten the corporation’s profits. Things like sourcing local food for schools, banning fracking in your community and labeling genetically engineered foods are at the top of the corporate hit list.

President Obama is trying to fast track this deal to give himself sole authority to negotiate it, leaving Congress and the American public with absolutely no input.

Thankfully we still have time to stop this. Fast Track votes have been defeated in Congress in the past and we can do it again. In recent weeks, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have showed opposition to Fast Track for the TPP. But corporations around the world will stop at nothing to pass this bill. Every single member of Congress needs to hear from their constituents on this.

Take action now. It’s the most important thing you can do.
https://secure3.convio.net/fww/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&page=UserAction&id=623&s_src=so

Thank you,

Sarah Alexander
Deputy Organizing Director
Food & Water Watch

3 Reasons Congress’ Year Might Start Unexpectedly Strong

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Hawkings Here

3 Reasons Congress’ Year Might Start Unexpectedly Strong

By David Hawkings Posted at 8 p.m. on Jan.  5

Congress is reopening for business this week, to begin what President Barack Obama says “needs to be a year of action.”

When the president offered that call to arms for 2014, just as the Capitol lights were being dimmed for the holidays, the eye-rolling sentiment from so many lawmakers, aides, lobbyists and journalists amounted to: “Yeah, right. Good luck with that.”

The collective assessment is there’s no way that 2013, the least legislatively productive first year of an administration in six decades, is going to be followed by a more productive spurt from a divided Congress in an election year.

However, the next 10 weeks may hold some genuine prospects for rebutting the conventional wisdom, if only temporarily.

A trio of hallmark accomplishments in the second session of the 113th Congress have strong potential to get done before St. Patrick’s Day. Assuming the Republicans keep to their current course — confining their focus to avoid new, self-inflicted political wounds — lawmakers will be able to extend their current truce in the budget wars not only on the spending front but on borrowing as well. A food and farm bill that gives both sides a claim to victory is well within reach.

And, without traveling too far into optimistic fantasy-land, it’s possible to envision that bipartisan success on that trifecta by March would spawn interest in reaching for some additional deals in the spring. An immigration overhaul may still be the longest of viable long shots, but there’s some hopeful early talk about carefully calibrating compromise on a variety of second-tier issues left hanging at the end of 2013 — from sentencing disparities to water projects, patent lawsuits to online sales taxes, energy efficiency standards to physician reimbursement rates.

All those remain a ways off, but here’s a sketch of why each of the wintertime Big Three are likely to get done.

Appropriations. It sure sounds daunting, producing a single measure in five weeks that apportions all $1 trillion in discretionary spending for the rest of this fiscal year. But, in the current context, the omnibus spending package that’s supposed to be unveiled this week is more the legislative equivalent of a two-foot putt on the 18th hole, with the winner’s purse on the line.  Yes, it’s possible to crack under the pressure and mess it up, but true professionals are supposed to approach the ball with confidence and make sinking the shot look easy.

Bipartisan majorities embraced last month’s budget accord in no small measure because it promised to end talk about government shutdowns until after the midterm elections. But this spending bill needs to get signed to make that promise a reality. Even a little flirting with the Jan. 15 deadline will prompt a revival of the cable TV countdown clock graphics, which in turn would threaten to drive congressional approval ratings back into the single digits from which they’ve just emerged. (And that was thanks entirely to the absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder phenomenon of the two-week holiday break.)

Although the Republicans have more to lose — because they have been blamed most for the last shutdown — neither party can afford to start the year looking like it might fail a test it has essentially told the public it’s already passed. So expectations are high that the bill will be cleared with only minimal fuss, mainly because the appropriations committees are warding off almost all the social, environmental and health policy riders that could threaten the whole process

Debt limit.  If “failure is not an option” is the political watchword on the spending bill, the motto applies doubly to granting the Treasury permission to borrow more.

The last fiscal showdown ended only when the potential for a market-rattling default was just hours away. Republicans may have waited until the final hour before blinking in October, but they’re highly unlikely to make a return to brinkmanship this time. That’s because they know doing so would change the principal national political story — Obamacare’s rocky rollout — back into the tale of GOP extremism

Republicans will talk a while longer about demanding concessions from Obama in return for a higher debt ceiling, but the diverse list of hostages they’ll mention will signal they don’t have the stomach for a real confrontation. And Obama has left absolutely no room in his rhetoric for making the borrowing limit part of any deal. “It is not something that is a negotiating tool,” he said at his year-end news conference. “It’s not leverage. It’s the responsibility of Congress. It’s part of doing their job.”

Permission to issue new debt lapses on Feb. 7, but Treasury says it can stretch cash flow into early March, when the outstanding debt will stand at about $17.3 trillion. Rather than raise the dollar limit on borrowing, which was the legislative practice for decades, Congress will probably move instead to allow Treasury leeway to borrow what it needs until a specific date. Sometime during the lame-duck session, scheduled to start Nov. 12, is a decent bet.

Farm bill.  Negotiators are signaling a breakthrough is imminent on an impasse that began 15 months ago. For farmers, the most important feature will be a new subsidy system to replace direct payments, which are widely derided outside rural America because they are delivered regardless of crop prices.

Politically, the No. 1 issue remains how much to pare nutrition assistance for the poor. House Republicans appear united behind the view that, with the economy on the mend, a 6 percent cut to food stamps is not unreasonable. A bipartisan majority in the Senate, viewing the safety net fundamentally differently, went for a cut of about half of 1 percent. Negotiators have settled on 1.5 percent, or $8 billion over a decade, combined with some of the stiffened work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients that GOP conservatives want.

The assumption here is that — as an extension of his newly short-fused approach to the tea partyers in his ranks — Speaker John A. Boehner will permit the House to debate such a package, knowing it would clear with far less than a majority of the majority.

The Ohio Republican’s rationale would be that, for the election-year good of the party, he needs to bring a belated end to at least one marquee piece of the class warfare debate. Plus, Boehner knows Republicans are going to dig in their heels elsewhere, starting with the future for the minimum wage and long-term jobless benefits.

One sure bet: Even if the farm bill doesn’t get done, Congress will make quick work of a yearlong stopgap. Lawmakers may still be gridlocked, but they’re not crazy — and the absence of a temporary farm bill, to make a complex story short, would threaten a doubling of retail dairy prices.

If there’s one way not to start a campaign year, it’s being blamed for a $7 gallon of milk.

NTSB To Hold Final On-Scene Media Briefing in North Dakota

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
Logo NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD MEDIA ADVISORY
An independent federal agency

NTSB To Hold Final On-Scene Media Briefing in North Dakota

Jan. 1, 2014

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold its final media briefing today on its investigation into Monday’s accident involving two BNSF freight trains in Casselton, North Dakota.
Event: Media Briefing
Date/Time: Wednesday, January 1 at 4 p.m. (CST)
Location: Holiday Inn (Executive Meeting Room), 3803 13th Ave S., Fargo, ND 58103
Participant: NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt
On Scene Media Contact: Eric Weiss eric.weiss@ntsb.gov (202) 557-1350
Follow us on twitter (@ntsb) for additional announcements related to the investigation.

Contact Information

Office of Public Affairs 490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW Washington, DC 20594
Eric M. Weiss (202) 314-6100 eric.weiss@ntsb.gov


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FAMILY Act Would Create Paid Family Medical Leave

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

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Posted: January 1, 2014 by laborradio

By Doug Cunningham

Twenty years after the first family medical leave act, an effort is being made to create a paid family leave act. The Family Medical Insurance Leave Act or FAMILY Act, would set up an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to provide 66 percent of workers’ pay during family medical leaves. It would be funded by employer and employee contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka says it would strengthen America’s workers and the economy by providing income stability for families during medical emergencies. The Labor Department says only 12 percent of U.S. workers now have access to paid family medical leave. Most workers can’t take advantage of it the existing medical leave act because it’s unpaid.. The labor movement is urging Congress to approve the FAMILY Act.

The House Winner and Loser of the Year — and Other Notable Members’ Highs and Lows

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

218

The House Winner and Loser of the Year — and Other Notable

Members’ Highs and Lows

By Emma Dumain  and Matt Fuller Posted at 10 a.m. on Dec.  23

    At the end of the first session of the 113th Congress, it’s hard to call anybody much of a “winner,” as no one got close to everything they wanted. Republican leaders had an ambitious legislative agenda that was repeatedly squelched by a rebellious rank and file — or by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s circular file. Democrats hoped for more relevance, given the GOP leadership’s precarious grip on its conference, but Democratic “victories” were mainly a result of Republican meltdowns.

For the power players in the House of Representatives, it was mostly a year of lows, with not-so-very-high highs, and few lawmakers emerged unscathed from the heartburns of 2013. But when 218 took up the daunting task of designating the year’s “winners” and “losers,” it was hard to fit members into that binary, which felt overly simplistic, anyway.

So in the very first, year-end wrap-up post since the blog’s inception, 218 is offering up, for your consideration, one “winner” and one “loser” of 2013 — with a few runners-up. The rest of the the lawmakers profiled here defied those clear-cut characterizations, and are instead viewed through the prism of simply their wins and losses.

In 218′s estimation, the one clear winner of 2013 was …

Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

One year ago, the House Budget chairman was the just-defeated vice presidential candidate and, though long-referred to as a GOP “thought leader,” hadn’t proved he could translate his respect within the conference into something tangible.

This year changed that. Ryan is now a deal-maker. He got the budget deal — a small one, granted — across the finish line, and proved he could work across the aisle when it mattered. He was also instrumental in helping to end the shutdown. Though he kept quiet for months leading up to the battle over the continuing resolution, his Wall Street Journal op-ed was a turning point for Republicans: It signaled that the fight over defunding Obamacare was over, and that the GOP ought to refocus on entitlement spending.

Of course, Republicans didn’t really get any concessions on entitlements in any of the big deals at the end of this year. Ryan’s ability to sway the conference, however, even when he can’t deliver the moon, shows he is going places. His first stop might be the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, and from there the speaker’s gavel — if he doesn’t make a run for the White House in between.

When pressed to pick the “loser” of 2013, 218 settled on …

Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla. 

Busted cocaine user and member of Congress are two things that generally don’t go together. Until now. Radel was already a bit of a joker in the House, tweeting about Jay-Z, calling himself a “Hip Hop Conservative” and sharing bizarre Vines about “rolling deep” with his entourage. But Radel became the butt of many more jokes when he was arrested and charged for cocaine possession, adding a bit of buzz to his professed love for Cartagena, Colombia. The media circus chased him around D.C. and down to his Florida district, where he held a 10:30 p.m. news conference to announce he was taking a leave of absence from Congress — in his first year in office — to head to rehab. While he emerged from rehab and plans to return to Congress, he faces a tough road ahead, including an ethics review.

A few others had standout years:

Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C.

Watt gets points for scoring a one-way ticket out of the most dysfunctional Congress in memory. Watt was the House’s biggest beneficiary of Senate Democrats’ vote to “go nuclear” on nominations, clearing the way for him to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. His confirmation was also a victory for the Congressional Black Caucus, which had long been pushing for the White House to diversify the executive branch — especially with one of the CBC’s own. When Senate Republicans blocked Watt’s confirmation, Watt kept quiet, letting fellow CBC members lobby on his behalf and cry foul against GOP obstructionism that the CBC said was at least, in part, racially motivated.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa

The Iowa firebrand is a one-man wrecking ball smashing the GOP’s Latino outreach efforts — he most memorably said undocumented immigrants were, by and large, drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”  But say what you will about Steve King, he got his top priority this year: keeping anything with a hint of amnesty off the House floor and far from the president’s desk. Indeed, the only immigration vote taken by the full chamber this year was on an amendment he sponsored to resume the deportation of DREAMers.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.

Ellmers was criticized for calling Obamacare the “real” war on women, but she should get the “Right Place at the Right Time Award” for relaunching the Republican Women’s Policy Committee just as her male colleagues were beginning to come to terms with the party’s problems with women. The highlight of her tenure as RWPC chairwoman so far was when she shamed Speaker John A. Boehner into appointing one of the House’s 19 Republican women to sit on the budget conference committee after an all-white-male GOP negotiating team posed for the cameras during the shutdown.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

Cole gets the “Oracle at Norman Award” this year. He has emerged as, perhaps, the most sought-after hallway interview in Congress. And unlike his main competition for that distinction — Paul D. Ryan — Cole doesn’t shy away from holding court for 20 minutes and answering reporter questions — and he does it with style. Leading up to the shutdown, Cole was presciently critical of the shutdown strategy and emerged as perhaps the key public surrogate for the speaker. Cole also became an Appropriations subcommittee chairman this year, and he’ll have more money to play with in drafting appropriations bills next year because of the budget deal — something he was part of as a budget conferee.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.

Amash could get the “Live Free or Die Award.” He’s from Michigan and not New Hampshire — but he’s made a name for himself by embodying that type of libertarian spirit. Amash was a constant thorn in the side of GOP leaders this year, first with a coup attempt to unseat Boehner as speaker, and then when he came within seven votes of getting an amendment adopted that would have ended the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of phone metadata.

Here’s our look at other high-profile lawmakers’ years that were:

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio

Perhaps the best thing you can say about the speaker is that he survived — something that at times was in doubt. His year started with an attempted coup on his speakership, followed by repeated revolts among his flock culminating in a disastrous government shutdown he was steamrolled into backing. But 2013′s trials have solidified his support in his conference, especially after the shutdown, when his one-time critics walked away feeling that their leader finally had their backs. He ended the year on an especially strong note, taking it to outside groups that have stymied his legislative agenda and rallying a big GOP majority for the budget deal. On a sour note, his treasured “Boehner rule” may have joined the ash-heap of history, but Boehner did hold firm on what turned out to be the GOP’s top priority of all this year: not raising taxes.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

House Republicans went on their Williamsburg, Va., retreat at the start of this year looking for a way forward, and Cantor gave it to them. His floor agenda, he said, would focus on energy issues, the failings of Obamacare, the Senate’s failure to pass a budget and legislation aimed at “making life work” for the American people. But some of his best-laid plans came crashing down at the hands of his own party — like a bill that would redirect Obamacare funding to high-risk pools. The farm bill, which he opted not to take off the floor, ended up going down in flames, though this low point actually became his redemption story this year: Cantor made the bill his baby, ultimately splitting it into two measures and personally ensuring that both passed — including food stamp provisions aimed at enforcing work requirements for able-bodied adults — through the chamber without relying on a single Democratic vote.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

If McCarthy were to win a distinction this year, it’d be for “Mr. Congeniality.” He hasn’t always been the most effective whip, but he has gotten better at taming the wild GOP conference this year. On spending bills, he has to somehow please Republicans who think sequester numbers need to be lower, as well as appropriators and Armed Services members who say sequester numbers are wholly inadequate — and he has to do it without old whip carrots like earmarks or a Republican in the White House. Once seeming to be the guy rushing to the TV cameras, McCarthy now appears to enjoy working behind the scenes and focusing on his personal relationships with members. It didn’t help prevent the shutdown or any number of embarrassing GOP defeats, but the unruly conference may have learned some lessons coming out of the shutdown — and that could make McCarthy’s job a lot easier next year.

Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

The first-term chairwoman charged with fostering the public image of the House GOP started 2013 with big ideas about how to broaden the party’s base. She urged members to embrace new media strategies, turning the conference on to the world of Twitter hashtags, Google Hangouts and Vines. She also sought to forge new bonds with nontraditional GOP constituencies, inviting delegates from various cultural backgrounds to meet with Republican leaders to find common ground. McMorris Rodgers’ urging that members make inroads with the Latino community fell short with members like King, however, and, memorably, an outdoor news conference with Hispanic pastors ended in the guests being heckled by anti-immigration activists holding their own demonstration just yards away. Her year also had a sweet ending — she gave birth to her third child.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. 

So close, and yet so far. House Democrats’ hopes that Pelosi might return as speaker in 2015 briefly surged during the GOP’s shutdown fiasco – but the Democrats’ own fiasco with the Obamacare rollout quickly overwhelmed those dreams. And the budget deal for which Pelosi helped rally the votes wasn’t what she and her fellow House Democrats had in mind — at one point urging the caucus to “embrace the suck.” But in her favor, the California Democrat repeatedly forced the majority into awkward positions by holding a rock-solid grip on her minority, proving again that Boehner sometimes needs her more than he’d like.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.

The Democratic whip again proved a formidable tag-team with Pelosi, his longtime rival. The Democratic leaders repeatedly kept their members in line on many of the toughest fights of the year. Among the highlights was Hurricane Sandy relief, the Violence Against Women Act and the deal to reopen the government. Hoyer ended the year, though, as the only Democratic leader to vote against the budget deal — it didn’t have an unemployment insurance extension, it wasn’t the grand bargain he was looking for, and it took a whack at the federal employees and military retirees who disproportionately populate his district. But it did provide $63 billion in sequester relief, and Hoyer, perhaps more than anybody in Congress, became known as the sequester’s opponent-in-chief.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

The ranking member of the House Budget Committee and rising star within Democratic leadership had high aspirations for 2013. He wanted to be known as the Democrats’ voice of reason against the sequester: check. He wanted to be the House Democrats’ loudest champion for convening the first bicameral budget conference in years: double check. The Marylander ultimately got significant notoriety, a budget and a smattering of sequester relief to boot. The cut to federal worker pensions is a loss, but ended up being much lower than had been considered by the White House and top negotiators in part because Van Hollen pushed back, and President Barack Obama called him to promise his budget wouldn’t include a new round of cuts to federal workers.

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee had a tough year, though through little fault of his own. He tried desperately to pass spending bills through “regular order,” only to be thwarted by a conference at war with itself. Though he attempted to be a good soldier for his leadership, he finally unleashed a screed against sequestration that became a rallying cry for Democrats. But the Kentucky Republican’s fortunes are due to change in 2014, when the budget agreement’s new higher spending levels will empower Rogers and other appropriators to take back Congress’ “power of the purse.”

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.

If there was a “Sisyphus Award,” it would go to Dave Camp, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Like the protagonist of the Greek myth, Camp has been tasked with trying to roll an enormous boulder (tax reform) up a hill (Capitol Hill) only to watch it roll back down again – and again and again. Camp promised at the end of 2012 that he would rewrite the nation’s tax code by the end of 2013, a goal on which he has made significant headway, but one that is still far from finished. The challenges ahead of him in 2014 are magnified by recent news that his closest ally, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is expected to resign soon to accept a gig as ambassador to China. Camp has a lot to be thankful for this year on a personal level, however: He’s been cancer-free for a year.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The Oversight and Government Reform chairman has been searching desperately for the issue that will tarnish the Obama legacy. He may have finally found something he can sink his teeth into: The Obamacare rollout. There’s no doubt that Issa has continued to raise his personal profile, but the richest member of Congress also came under fire for his partisan approach to investigating the administration, and his efforts to target the White House itself in the assorted scandals du jour have tended to fall flat.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va.

As the first-term chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte set an ambitious legislative agenda in 2013. He followed leadership’s directions to tackle an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system in a “piecemeal” fashion that wouldn’t alienate the anti-amnesty base, facilitating passage of four stand-alone immigration bills through the committee that met these criteria. They never made it to the House floor, however, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t have gotten support from Democrats, nor would they have survived in the Senate. Goodlatte also endured criticism for waffling on whether he supported providing a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The ‘Hell No’ Caucus

The contingent of hard-line conservatives and tea party sympathizers started off the year strong, fighting — and often winning — battles with GOP leadership against bills that they believed strayed too far from far-right principles. Any clout it might have had to dictate the House’s legislative agenda, however, diminished after the shutdown, when the push to tie government funding to administration concessions on Obamacare proved thoroughly unsuccessful. The unofficially labeled “Hell No Caucus” — or is it the “Tortilla Coast” Caucus? — ended 2013 with little to show for all its sound and fury.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Bachmann gets the Icarus Award. A tea party favorite and a 2012 presidential candidate, Bachmann used to be a player. Unfortunately for her, all that stardom may have finally caught up to her: She flew too close to the sun. She is still being investigated by the Ethics Committee for a number of potential violations, mostly stemming from her failed presidential bid, and she announced this year that she won’t be seeking another term in office, making her a lame duck. Still, she was at center stage when a group of Republicans were blocking an immigration overhaul — “amnesty,” as she prefers to call it — and she once again upped her tea party creds by making the IRS scandal one of her constant talking points.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest
Leading Off:

 

  • Census: The Census Bureau released its 2008-2012 American Community Survey data this week, but, more fun to play with, they’ve also rolled out a new feature called Census Explorer. It’s an interactive map tool that lets you look at scrollable, zoomable nationwide choropleths or dot maps across a number of different criteria (median income, education, homeownership… nothing about race, though), broken down to county or even census tract levels. You’re also able to switch back and forth between 1990, 2000, and 2008-12 data. 

    Although I can certainly think of more categories I’d want to include, and ways to make the color-scaling more flexible, this is a big leap forward in terms of being able to use the Census site to see data visually. I’d urge you to play around with the site, but if you want a quick taste of what it looks like, here are a few screen shots (courtesy of Conor Sen) of education levels in downtown Cleveland in 1990 and 2010. They offer a very clear representation of gentrification at work. 

    Also, for the first time, the bureau is making health insurance coverage data available all the way down to the census tract level. That information isn’t on Census Explorer, but the New York Times, which has been way ahead of the Census Bureau on the interactivity front, is already out with an interactive map displaying this new insurance data. (David Jarman)

 

Senate:

 

  • MS-Sen: Seeing Gravis Marketing and Human Events team up for a poll is a bit like catching Vladimir Putin skinny dipping in the Trevi Fountain—ugly and disturbing. But while that image of Vlad will make you reach for the brain bleach, Gravis’ survey might actually not be so cray-cray. They find Sen. Thad Cochran tied at 40 with his GOP primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. That’s not too far from PPP’s recent numbers, which had Cochran up just 44-38. Now where’s that bleach…? 

    P.S. Weirdly, we have a dueling poll from Republican outfit Harper Polling that puts Cochran up by a decent-sized 54-31 spread. Go figure. 

  • WY-Sen: Whoops! Carpetbagging is hard!

 

Gubernatorial:

 

  • IA-Gov: In the wake of state Rep. Tyler Olson ending his campaign for governor, another Democrat, state Sen. Janet Petersen, says she’s now considering a run, though she didn’t offer a timetable for making a decision. State Sen. Jack Hatch is currently the only Democrat in the race. 
  • OH-Gov: A new PPP poll for Freedom Ohio shows that Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald may not have suffered much if any damage from the fallout surrounding his former running mate, state Sen. Eric Kearney, who was dropped from the ticket after revelations emerged that he owed some $800,000 in unpaid taxes. GOP Gov. John Kasich leads FitzGerald 40-38, with Libertarian Charlie Earl taking 6 percent. (The poll was taken just before Kearney was booted, at the peak of the media frenzy.) 

    Last month, a PPP survey for the Ohio Democratic Party found the race tied at 41. These numbers are a good sanity check, since they show that as ugly as the Kearney episode was, most voters aren’t paying attention to campaign trail imbroglios this far from Election Day. 

  • RI-Gov: EMILY’s List has predictably endorsed state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who just announced her campaign for governor earlier this week. Of the two contenders running in the Democratic primary, there’s no real dispute that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is the more progressive option, so this race offers a clear example of where EMILY’s List’s mission (to elect pro-choice women Democrats) conflicts with the goals of those who want to see the most progressive candidates elected to office.

 

House:

 

  • IA-03: Now this is genuinely valuable. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register canvassed just about every conceivable candidate for Iowa’s newly open 3rd Congressional District and got statements from the horse’s mouth about their interest in running. She then arranged things in very helpful bullet-point format so that you can see at a glance who’s considering and who’s out. (So far, no one has actually jumped in.) The list is too long to reproduce here, so I encourage you to click through if you’re interested. This is some really great work, and I wish local reporters would always be this assiduous whenever a seat becomes open like this. 
  • MN-07: State Sen. Torrey Westrom has all the hallmarks of a candidate for whom the NRCC would very much like to see a clear primary, but businessman Scott Van Binsbergen says that he, too, is considering a bid against Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. Van Binsbergen promises a decision “sometime around the first of the year.” 
  • NC-06: State Rep. John Blust says he won’t enter the GOP primary for the seat being left open by Rep. Howard Coble. Several Republicans are already in the race, most prominent among them Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. and Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny. Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips also recently said he’s considering a bid. 
  • NC-12: Following on the heels of her endorsement by EMILY’s List, state Rep. Alma Adams just secured the backing of the North Carolina Association of Educators in the Democratic primary to replace outgoing Rep. Mel Watt. Meanwhile, state Rep. Marcus Brandon earned the support of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund; if he wins, he’d be the first gay black member of Congress. 
  • ND-AL: Democrats so far have come up empty in terms of finding a challenger to freshman Rep. Kevin Cramer, but state party chair Chad Oban says that state Sen. George B. Sinner is a considering the race. Sinner is the son of former Gov. George A. Sinner, who served from 1985 to 1992, so he’d at least start off with a name recognition boost. 
  • NY-13: Well, after all that, veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel has decided to run for a 23rd term, despite his age (83), an ethics scandal that has tarnished his reputation, and the fact that he came extremely close to losing in the Democratic primary last year and could very well do so this time. In fact, in response to Rangel’s announcement, his chief 2012 rival, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, issued a statement saying “we need new energy” and “new leadership”—a strong hint that he plans to run again. If Espaillat does make another bid, Rangel could very well find himself departing the House on terms other than his own. 
  • VA-10: Retiring Rep. Frank Wolf leaves behind the most conservative of the three districts in what is commonly considered Northern Virginia, as the region’s darker blue areas are located in VA-08 and VA-11. However, a good chunk of that safely Democratic turf was once in Wolf’s seat earlier in his long tenure. Kenton Ngo presents some fascinating maps visualizing how the district has changed since Wolf’s first election in 1980. 

    When Wolf took office, he had constituents in what are now solid blue areas like Arlington; as Ngo notes, no Republicans currently hold office anywhere in Arlington anymore. Over time, the district has shifted to the south and west, abandoning areas like Vienna and Reston for Manassas and Winchester. There has been some continuity, though, across the five incarnations of the district that Wolf represented: Leesburg, Sterling, and Great Falls have remained in VA-10 the entire time. (Darth Jeff)

 

Other Races:

 

  • VA State House: Republican Del. Tom Rust’s victory over Democrat Jennifer Boysko in the 86th District was confirmed by a recount on Thursday. Democrats had hopes that Boysko could overcome her 54-vote deficit, but she only netted 22 votes (roughly what we had forecast through some crude math Wednesday, judging by the recount in the attorney general’s race). This means that, despite sweeping Virginia’s three statewide races for the first time since 1989, Democrats only netted one seat in the House of Delegates this year, and they remain in a big hole, with just 33 seats to the GOP’s 67. (Taniel)

 

Grab Bag:

 

  • Polltopia: Pollsters beware! The Centers for Disease Control is out with its twice-yearly survey on telephone usage, and they find (as they have every year for at least a decade) that cellphone use and landline abandonment continue to rise. Thirty-eight percent of all adults only have cellphones, another all-time high. Of particular concern to pollsters who might want a representative sample of people inclined toward voting Democratic: 50 percent of Latinos, 62 percent of renters, and 55 percent of persons in poverty are cell-only. (David Jarman)