Poll: Partisan Divide–A Good Thing?
Americans still have a very negative view of Congress these days, and majority think that the institution is becoming more divided. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, more and more people are starting to think that that is a good thing, according to a new USA Today/Bipartisan Policy Center Poll. About four fifths of the poll respondents thought the divisions was harmful in February 2013, since it means that it is more difficult to accomplish anything. However, a poll conducted earlier this month shows that the number who think the divisions are bad was reduced to about 55 percent. In neither party did a majority think that it was good for the Congress to be so divided. Among Republicans, 49 percent said it was bad, while 47 percent thought it good. Among Democrats, more disliked the divide: 62 percent versus 35 percent. Over half of the respondents in each party—54 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Democrats—said they thought their representatives’ most important job was to prevent bad laws from being passed.
Congress is back in town from a weeklong recess and there is plenty for Members to do. One of the most important items of business that Congress will have to take up is Ukrainian aid legislation. The House already passed a bill providing loan guarantees to Ukraine, and on Friday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Representative Ed Royce of California, introduced a bill aimed at punishing those responsible for the civil unrest in the country, particularly Russia for its seizure of Crimea. The bill would allow the President to issue sanctions against those responsible for the turmoil and deny such persons travel visas. The House and Senate disagree on whether the legislation should include provisions reforming the International Monetary Foundation (IMF). Republicans opposing the provisions say that they are irrelevant to Ukrainian aid, and they are not included in the House bill. A few notable Senate Republicans, Senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Marco Rubio of Florida, have said they would support a bill with the IMF reform provisions. On the other hand, some top-ranking Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs and Appropriations committees would support the bill that does not include the same.
As if the conflict in Eastern Europe were not enough for America’s government to keep track of, they still can’t forget another important hot spot: Iran. Last year, the Obama Administration, in concert with a number of other nations, brokered a temporary accord with Iran to limit its nuclear capabilities. Last week, 23 Senate Democrats sent the President a letter urging him to continue to work to ensure that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. Additionally, they asked that he keep the Congress informed on the progress of the negotiations, so they could impose more sanctions on the country. The letter is very similar to one that 216 House Republicans and 179 Democrats sent not too long ago.
Senate Blue Slip Process
Now that the filibuster for Executive Branch and most Judicial Branch nominees has been eliminated, one significant blockage to the President’s nominees is the “blue slip” process. This procedure is a courtesy whereby the Senators from the state where a judicial office is located have the privilege of approving the nominee. As a tradition, hearings are not held until the home-state Senators return the blue paper on which their recommendation is written. Some of the President’s liberal supporters have been frustrated by the pace of the confirmation process and have been calling on the Senate to do away with the blue slip process. Although many would support such a move, the decision to do so would ultimately rest with the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. “As long as the blue slip process is not being abused by home-state senators, then I will see no reason for a change”, Politico reported the Chairman as saying via a statement released from his office.
And for our latest post: More Nuclear-Option Fallout: Senate Blocks Presidential Appointment