The only way to increase the size of Congress is to admit new states, right? That’s almost accurate. It’s true for the Senate, but not for the House. The size of the House of Representatives may be changed simply by an act of Congress—and some say it should. RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende has recently argued the House should be increased to improve the quality of representation in the Lower Chamber, and offers a number of benefits from the change. For instance, it would reduce the size of congressional districts and make gerrymandering a less potent tool for partisans. Additionally certain demographic groups would have a shot at increased representation. For instance, African-Americans are currently underrepresented as compared to their total share of the population. Likewise, as the country has become more urbanized, districts have shifted to the city centers, leaving rural areas with less of a voice. Finally, Trende suggests that the smaller districts could restore some of the trust and confidence in Washington because constituents would have “more personalized representation” since each district would be smaller and campaigns would probably cost less, reducing the amount of time spent on fundraising. Trende concludes, “Of course, this is unlikely to happen…But regardless of whether such a proposal is likely to pass, it seems an unabashedly good idea that citizens and legislators should nevertheless press for.”
We don’t usually cover cultural affairs on this congressional blog, but every so often the two worlds collide—and we aren’t talking House of Cards. A new Broadway play, All the Way, dramatizes the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other events from the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. We ourselves have not seen the play and cannot comment on its artistic or historical merits, but we can certainly say that if you are going to go for an interesting main character, Johnson is a decent pick. He accomplished a ton as Senate Majority Leader and President. Yet he was a tough fighter, and his method of gaining supporters in Congress was known as “the Johnson Treatment”. Both are ingredients for a great story.
Over the past couple of years, within the Republican Party, a number of influential voices have called for the United States to scale back its overseas presence and reduce defense spending. However, the current crisis in Ukraine has allowed some who support a more interventionist foreign policy to increase their clout once again, The Wall Street Journal is reporting. For instance, Senator Marco Rubio, well liked among the Tea Party movement, has called for financial penalties to be levied against Russia. Senator Rand Paul has recently condemned the deployment of Russian military forces to Crimea, even though he had previously said the United States should be “respectful” of Russia.
We’ve already talked about how the Democratic Caucus looks like it will be facing a contentious fight over who will serve as the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the next Congress. Representative Anna Eshoo of California is challenging the more senior Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey. Seniority is a major factor in how House Democrats determine who will lead congressional committees, so Eshoo’s bid could divide the Caucus. It will now become even more interesting since Representative Eshoo has started to build up a leadership political action committee, Anna PAC. A leadership PAC is a way for Members to funnel money to their colleagues’ campaigns. Representative Pallone established a leadership PAC in 2006. They are both holding fundraisers to support their bids for the Ranking Membership.
One of Congress’ most important duties is oversight of the Executive Branch, to ensure that the laws it passes are faithfully carried out and to ensure that the Administration and various officials under its authority are ethically serving the public. One of the major investigations this Congress has been into whether the Internal Revenue Service unfairly audited conservative groups. Both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee have requested information from Lois Lerner, formerly with the IRS. The IRS has now agreed to provide emails and other materials from Lerner to the House Ways and Means Committee.
And for our latest post: The Deans of the House: Capping Off a Career