October 27th, 2010
October 27, 2010 | By Bethany Murphy
Heritage's Plan to Reform Congress
The midterm elections are now exactly a week away. And these elections could transform the way that government in Washington runs.
The Heritage Foundation doesn’t have a dog in any of the election fights. As a non-partisan organization, we are in the unique position of being able to hold members of both parties accountable to uphold conservative values and principles.
Heritage has developed a plan that could help make congressmen more accountable to the people that elected them. If enacted, this Heritage proposal would change what elections cannot: how Congress itself is run. A shakeup of Congress’ internal structure could help newly-elected conservatives get a hearing for their ideas.
We have four major recommendations that both parties should implement before November 15, when new committee members will be chosen.
The steering committee, rather than party leaders, should select all committee chairmen and members.
Party leaders should no longer dominate or control the steering committee. This would allow rank-and-file Representatives to nominate and elect the controlling votes on each steering committee.
Term limits should apply to all House and party leaders, including the Speaker, as well as to committee chairmen and ranking members.
A cap should be placed on the overall size of each committee—such as a 50-member maximum—to avoid scenarios where committees wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the House.
“Over the last several decades, legislative branch authority has become overly concentrated into the hands of a few select leaders of the majority party,” Heritage experts Ernest Istook, Matthew Spalding and Michael Franc argue, “rather than the decentralized lawmaking body that is more consistent with its constitutional responsibilities.”
What does this mean? Because Congressional leaders often require that their members to vote in a bloc, lobbyists and members of the executive branch only need to convince a few Congressmen of the merits of the bill before it is voted on.
Currently, party leaders choose committee chairmen, who have enormous power to shape legislation. Changing the way committee chairmen are chosen is just one important step in reforming the way that Washington operates on a day-to-day basis.
Heritage’s proposal is a useful guide to how the House can be made more responsive to public opinion. By diluting the authority of party leaders, the reforms could create a less partisan Congress. This, in turn, could allow lawmakers to more easily seek solutions across party lines, as they would be less beholden to party leaders. Bringing fresh faces to Washington may change the appearance of Congress, but structural changes will change Congress’ performance – for the better.
> Other Heritage Work of Note
- Unions—and particularly teachers unions—are notorious for keeping even bad workers on the payroll. But while bad teaching may not be a good enough reason to fire a teacher, Heritage’s James Sherk reports, political disagreement is enough reason to fire a union worker. “Duane Hammond . . . had a job helping build a stage for an upcoming Obama rally in Los Angeles,” writes the Heritage labor expert. “His union fired him because he wore a sweatshirt with the name ‘Bush’ on it.”
- National Public Radio, a supposedly unbiased company that receives government funding, has come under attack for its recent politically-motivated firing of Juan Williams. Heritage’s Mike Gonzalez examines this situation and concludes: “They present themselves as an objective media organization, but they’re not.”
- “In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they came out by the thousands. They were some of the first on the scene and among the last to leave,” writes James Carafano about the State Defense Forces, groups of state volunteer militia that provide invaluable disaster relief without very much funding. Because of their low-cost, invaluable assistance, Heritage’s expert on homeland security believes that these forces should be expanded in various states.
- “When King George III asked if the colonists could boycott British goods, his solicitor general informed him it was beyond the power of the king to mandate that his subjects buy specific goods like tea,” writes Heritage’s Conn Carroll. Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli compared this to the new mandate to buy health insurance. “The power of the United States government under the Constitution must be smaller than that of King George,” Cuccinelli said.
> In Other News
- To counter perceptions that government officials are lazy and entitled, young federal workers are organizing a “Government Doesn’t Suck March” this coming Saturday in Washington, D.C.
- In the wake of March's earthquake, an influx of foreign aid has destroyed Haiti's private health care system. With a cholera outbreak outside the capital Port-au-Prince, the effects of that collapse are being felt.
- Employers are considering raising the cost of their health care plans or dropping them altogether in response to Obamacare.
- French workers have begun to return to work after striking for weeks against government plans to raise the retirement age.
- Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez plans to expropriate a U.S. company’s factories.
- Iran has started to inject uranium into one of its nuclear reactors.
Bethany Murphy is a writer for MyHeritage.org—a website for members and supporters of The Heritage Foundation. Nathaniel Ward; Amanda Reinecker and Andrew Vitaliti, a Heritage intern, contributed to this report.
October 27th, 2010
By Barry Secrest
And yet, while the President was lambasting better than half of the population and trying to score political points against the Republicans on his never-ending campaign trail in Los Angeles--and virtually everywhere he manages to string intelligible syllables together--we concurrently read of an article, ink still damp, within the National Journal of Obama stating, "we want people in Washington to act like grown-ups, cooperate and start trying to solve problems instead of scoring political points." But wait Mr. President! You just stated in the paragraph directly above...(sigh)...never mind, You just can't make this stuff up.
When Free Men Shall Stand
As an internecine war in America now rages, sparked by Obama and the Democrats pursuit of all things "redistributive," we can begin to now see a bit of sunlight dancing through the eye-wall of the liberal storm as the upcoming election looms in what promises to be a stark defiance of Obama's policies. Many see this particular storm as having been raging since President Obama was elected--but this storm that we have been enduring is but a spin-off of a larger storm which has waxed and waned throughout the 20th century. In fact, the path to a redistributive society from a free market capitalism powerhouse being based on the rule of law would, logically, have many points along the way to bleed off various individual liberties. Interestingly, these "bleed-off" points seem to always come at times of either economic or military duresss. It is the ideology in power at the times of these "bleed-off" points that often determine where the ultimate damage falls. We can, in essence, see these points as either lessening our liberties or lessening the relentless creep of Statism, with a preponderance of the damage more often strengthening the latter.
October 27th, 2010
When it comes to typos and spelling, everyone makes mistakes... even the White House.
In a White House press release sent Tuesday evening, there's a misspelling, and it's a big one: The first lady's first name.
"Michele and I are deeply saddened by the loss of life, injuries, and damage that have occurred as a result of the recent earthquake and tsunami in West Sumatra," reads the release.
Of course, the first lady's first name is spelled "Michelle," with two "l"'s.
October 27th, 2010
Democrats are looking to a pair of comedians to do what President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and dozens of other leaders haven’t done yet this election season: Get party members excited about voting.
Comedy Central television hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert expect tens of thousands of fans to join them at the “Rally to Restore Sanity” in Washington Oct. 30, three days before congressional elections across the U.S. The president will appear on “The Daily Show” tonight in his first visit to Stewart’s program since he was elected.
“It will be a great chance to rally the base, especially among young people,” said Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate at American University in Washington. “For Stewart, sanity is a code word for Democratic.”
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday Obama is going on Stewart’s show because it “reaches an audience that isn’t watching cable television every day, or the nightly newscasts, but they’re probably going to participate in this election.”
Stewart is promoting the rally as a “million moderate march” to counter what he calls extreme rhetoric dominating the national political discussion.
Glenn Beck Rally
The event mimics the “Restoring Honor” rally held Aug. 28 in Washington by Glenn Beck, a Fox News commentator popular with Tea Party and other conservative activists. Like Beck, Stewart says his rally isn’t a political event. Rather, he says, it’s an alternative format for the “fake news” humor he and Colbert do on their television shows. “The Colbert Report” follows “The Daily Show” each night from Monday through Thursday.
“It is in fact not a political rally in any way, shape or form,” Stewart said on CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Oct. 20.
The event’s organizers said in a permit application filed with the National Park Service that they expect about 60,000 to attend, said Comedy Central senior vice president Steve Albani. Guest stars for the event haven’t been announced.
According to a Facebook web page created for the rally, more than 310,000 people have said they plan to be there, and hundreds of satellite events are planned in sites as far away as Tel Aviv and the Mt. Everest base camp.
Media experts say that just as fans rely on Stewart’s and Colbert’s “fake news” shows for real information, they view the rally as an actual political event.
“It’s an alternative form of activism,” said Danna Young, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Delaware. “The goal is to have a real rally for moderates.”
When the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in Washington asked Americans to rank their favorite journalists in March 2007, Stewart tied for fourth place with anchormen Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and cable host Anderson Cooper.
Stewart’s show has become an important media stop for presidential candidates. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards announced his presidential campaign on the show. Obama sat for an interview a few days before the 2008 election and his Republican opponent, Arizona Senator John McCain, has been a frequent guest.
Obama said during a Sept. 29 appearance in Richmond, Virginia, that he was “amused” by plans for the rally and that most voters are looking for “common sense” and “courtesy.”
Struggling to Motivate
Democrats have struggled to motivate the young voters who helped the party win the White House in 2008. This year, 45 percent of voters under age 30 say they will definitely cast ballots Nov. 2, compared with 76 percent of those 30 and older, according to a Pew study conducted in September.
Voting rates for people under 30 were at least 20 percentage points lower than for older people in every midterm congressional election since 1972 and six of 10 presidential elections, according to a chart by Circle, a youth-voting research group at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
The only years in which the national under-30 voting rate topped 50 percent were in 1972, the first time 18-to-20-year- olds had the vote, in 1992 when Clinton was elected, and in 2008 when Obama won, according to the Circle chart.
Stewart is more popular among Democrats and independents than Republicans, according to a Oct. 7-10 Bloomberg National Poll. The survey by Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co. found that 43 percent of Democrats and independents had a favorable view of Stewart, compared with 20 percent of Republicans.
His audience is also younger than for other cable programs. Almost 8 in 10 viewers who say they regularly watch “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are younger than 50, according to a March report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. More than 60 percent who regularly watch Fox News Channel shows hosted by Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity are 50 or older, the report said.
On the same day as the rally, Democratic groups will be focusing on traditional get-out-the-vote efforts. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s website said it is coordinating buses to take volunteers to Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.
“The vast majority of hard-core volunteers and hard-core Democrats are not picking up and paying money to go to a rally in D.C. the weekend before the election,” said Laurie Moskowitz, founder of FieldWorks, a grassroots organizing firm. “It’s a critical weekend.”
Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan group that seeks to involve young people in civic life, plans to host events at satellite rallies held across the U.S.
“It feels like the country’s largest public service announcement just a few days prior to the midterm elections,” said Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Bloomberg Articles:
October 27th, 2010
A petition was filed with the Board of Elections over absentee ballots.
A trio of Bucks County residents backed by the county Republican committee say they have evidence linking Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy's campaign to a scheme to flood the county voter registration office with fraudulent applications for absentee ballots.
In a petition filed Tuesday, county Republicans say the name of Murphy's campaign manager appeared on a Bristol post office box where voters were urged in a series of letters paid for by the state Democratic Committee to send absentee ballot applications.
The county Republicans submitted with the petition a photograph of a note inside the mailbox that said, "Tim Percico and Paul Hampel only pick up mail." Tim Persico is Murphy's campaign manager, although his name is misspelled in the note. Hampel is a volunteer for the Democratic state committee who said he collects mail from the box.
While county and state Democratic officials denied involvement in the letter campaign or refused to discuss it, Persico said Tuesday that the "PA Vote 2010" project that paid for the letters is a partnership between Murphy's campaign and the state Democrats.
Persico said the goal of the project is to help eligible Democratic voters obtain and cast absentee ballots.
He dismissed assertions by Republican critics that the letters were misleadingly worded and noted that the Democratic state committee clearly takes credit for the mailings, which comply with all election laws.
"The only reason the Republican Party is mad is working parents and college kids are sending in an application because they want to vote," Persico said.
Neither Murphy nor a spokeswoman for his campaign returned calls Tuesday.
Bucks County Democratic Party Chairman John Cordisco said the county Democratic organization has no connection to the letters or the fraud alleged in the petition. "If there was voter registration fraud, it was being done outside the Democratic organization," Cordisco said.
In response to the Republican petition, the Bucks County Board of Elections scheduled a hearing 9:30 a.m. Friday at the courthouse to hear evidence of what the Republicans characterize as a coordinated effort to trick voters into improperly applying for absentee ballots and efforts to submit fraudulent applications for absentee ballots.
"While some of these invalid applications have been caught and rejected by the Board of Elections, we believe many other defective and objectionable applications were inadvertently approved by the Board of Elections due to the pervasive nature of the fraud," the petition says.
The petition also asks county election officials to secure all completed absentee ballots at the courthouse in Doylestown until the board of elections can conduct an investigation of the claims.
The petition is signed by Kelly McGinty of Middletown, and Carlo and Lucy Grilletto of Plumstead. Bucks County Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Pat Poprik said party officials and volunteers have gathered evidence in support of the claims put forth in the petition. The signatories are people who have been involved in the Republican Party, she said.
"They're a group of people who are just disgusted with what's been going on," Poprik said. "God bless them, they came forward to do something about it."
The petition is the latest in a series of alarms county and state Republicans have sounded over an influx of questionable absentee ballot applications. Last week, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said his office would investigate allegations of fraud leveled by state and county Republican officials.
Voter Registration Director Deena Dean said her staff had rejected more than 600 defective absentee ballot applications as of Friday. Although the voter registration office continued to accept applications until the close of business Tuesday, Dean was unable to provide an updated total.
The petition focused foremost on a series of letters voters in Bucks County began receiving some time after Labor Day. On letterhead of the fictitious Pennsylvania Voter Assistance Office, the mailings warned recipients that their right to participate in the Nov. 2 election might be in jeopardy if they failed to respond.