Sunday, 11 October 2015

The House Speaker Game

What some historians generally say....at some point in the mid-1960s...a trend started up in Congress.  It likely started after the 1964 House election where the Democrats came to control almost two-thirds of the seats and were able to establish a clear path to any change desired.

At the time....John McCormick of Massachusetts was the Speaker and would serve in the position from 1962 to 1971.  What can generally be said.....at least from one Democratic Congressman...was that the view of working with the House during this period....is that the leadership of the House was the "worst of the past forty years" (a direct quote from Representative Cannon, Dem from Missouri).

In the view of most historians....the Democratic Party was in some type of historic change with more liberal new members showing up and wanting "status".  The belief at the time was that the House itself, and even the Democratic leadership in the House....all centered on a couple of characters and they didn't hand out committee memberships or authority unless they felt you earned your post.

All of this started a trend where the Speaker of the House was a power-broker and "CEO" of the House itself.  Prior to that....the Speaker....at least through the 1950s....was mostly there to enforce the rules and ensure that schedules were known by the membership. The steering committees would ensure who got what committee and who got the leadership role of each group.

As each generation came after the mid-1960s.....more rules were modified and the Speaker of the House came to have more authority.

By 1994, it went to a new threshold....Newt Gringrich arrived and centralized power strictly within the Speaker's duties, and decreased authority of the committee chairmen.  To get anywhere, you had to have party status and the blessing of the Speaker.  If you irked the party leadership or speaker.....you got screwed.  You might as well give up and go back to your state because they weren't going to let you be on the inside.

After the Gringrich era, we eventually came to the Pelosi era who repeated the same formula and added more features.  The PAC's actually had the ability to influence elections by this point and ensure that everyone played by the Speaker's rules and the PAC's rules.....on top of the Party itself.

After Pelosi came John Boehner, who simply continued the same trend.

What has occurred since 2010 is this odd feature of the Republican Party which can't win or survive now without Tea Party status.

The Republicans now have a fairly significant number (maybe half of the House Republicans) who want the rules changed.  This came out late in the week that a questionnaire is now being sent around to various people who say they want to run for the Speaker's job (Paul Ryan got the questionnaire and has not said much about it or how he'd answer the questions).

What the Tea Party crowd is suggesting....is going back to the rules prior to 1964.  They want to downsize the power and authority of the Speaker's job.  This would relate directly to the Republican steering committee, which in turn....would affect how people get appointed to chairman or committee membership status.  There's another odd feature to the whole change as well....they want the Chairman to be barely involved in any decision over what bill or amendments come to the House floor.  They aren't saying clearly how it'd occur, but you get the opinion that if either Party wants to introduce a bill....they'd have the right to do so, and face a vote (up or down), and either pass or fail a bill.
 
The problem?

Well....if you wrote a listing of the top five House members that Boehner would favor....none of them would agree to such a change.  Some people suggest that Paul Ryan, who might be a popular guy and generally supported.....won't agree to the changes.

Newt?  If the Republicans were crazy enough to bring up his name and suggest he be in the mix.....even he won't agree to the changes.

Some people generally think that Paul Ryan will decide to take a run at the speaker job, and probably avoid answering this questionnaire....thus intimidating the Tea Party crowd.  While there's likely to be no scandals in Ryan's closet....the question is....can he get enough votes to take the Speaker job.  You can't be that sure.

The Tea Party folks probably have one thing correct....the Speaker's job has become something that bothers the vast number of members.....Republican or Democrat.  It might be wiser to hire some guy to just run the office like it was run in the 1950s.....but neither Party headquarters or the PAC-support landscape....will allow such to happen.

My bet?  Boehner is still sitting there in January, and probably still sitting there by the end of 2016....until we can have another election and bring in more Tea Party players who will sooner or later consume what exists today.

Why US Businesses Can't Deal With Iran

Back around 2012....while the President still had some leverage with Congress (a Democratic Senate)....they pursued the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act.

It's not something that people generally remember or read....but the significance of the congressionally passed act is that Iran can only removed from the State Department’s list of terror sponsors, if the President certifies they've permanently ceased the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Oddly, in public....Iran has said that it just won't stop supporting terror operations and they won't really stop their effort to build nuclear weapons.  You can't certify much without looking awful stupid.

Naturally, you'd stand there and ask.....how exactly does this President's recent treaty with Iran now work?  The answer?  It won't work.

If the President had done what was a true-treaty and the Senate voted upon it the normal way to approve it.....then no one would say much.  But it was not developed as a treaty, and since they didn't approve it.....it's not a treaty.

How things move ahead?

Unless the House and Senate go and undo this law passed in 2012....it stands.  No American business can do business with Iran because of the 2012 law.  Now that the President has done everything to take down the US and EU-supported episode.....businesses could start up trade and make money off Iran.  Well....all businesses other than US businesses.

I'm guessing that the French, the Germans, and the British all knew about the 2012 law and were grinning as the President hyped up his great treaty.  They can walk in and sign business agreements and make billions.  The US?  If a single company signs a contract....any idiot could drag them into court....even a state court, and sue them for violation of the 2012 law.

Fixing this?  Well....you could executive-action this by Presidential authority but Congress made the law and typically a President can't toss such a law out.  He might pretend the law doesn't exist and order the Attorney General not to prosecute anyone, but that won't work in a civil court if someone chose to punish a company for violation of the 2012 law.

So in some ways....as much as the President and his team thought they were really on top of things.....they really screwed up badly.  Other than getting Congress to dump the 2012 law....there's no way out.  And that won't happen with this President, this House, and this Senate.

The Santorini Story

If you ever go to Greece....especially any of the islands....there's always these stupid donkey-tours.  To get from point X to point Y.....there's this trail that goes along some scenic hillside and Greeks want it to be unique and cost money.....so rather than run some bus or some wagon across the trail.....they have this donkey operation to transport you a mile or two.  They've been doing this for generations and everyone pays for the stupid donkey-ride.  Well....everyone except me.

On the various trips that I've been to Greece.....when this donkey-ride tour comes up.....I just grin and say no.  There's a difference between horses and donkeys.  A horse relates to the human and generally has some acceptance.  A donkey has an awful lot of independence and just wants to be left alone.

Well.....we had this local gal here in Germany....from my region....who went off on a four-star cruise and trip to Santorini (the isle).  It's a brief stop for the cruise.  You park the ship and everyone gets around eight to ten hours to walk around the Greek isle, buy t-shirts or fake Chinese-made statues, eat some local cuisine, and ride the donkeys down some path to a scenic area.

This gal....in her mid-sixties and with her husband....was a political figure of some sorts in the Taunus region (a skip or two past my hillside).  The local news sources won't divulge her name.

The best that they can say is that the couple came up on some donkey-tour.....done the tour and the lady was dismounting the donkey when another donkey went into some wild act.  I'm guessing the second donkey scared the first donkey and he launched into some defensive measure....tossing the lady and she ended up headfirst on the ground with a concussion.  There is some suggestion by the way they wrote the article that she got kicked in the head while on the ground.

It's a sad way to go and simply a reminder that you need to appreciate the thousand ways that you might accidentally die each day.  Death by donkey probably wasn't on her list.