Opinion & Analysis

Opinion: Issues Matter in Elections Even More Than You’d Think
Both parties need to recognize that the electorate has a clear set of priorities

A street car passes a voting station along St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans during the Louisiana Republican primary in March 2012. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images file photo)

Deciphering what happened in the 2016 election has become a predictable exercise in misinformation for too many people seeking either exoneration or vindication — neither a good pretext for objective analysis. A lot of people got the election wrong before Nov. 8, and even more since.

For most people, the election wasn’t about the Russians or Clinton’s emails. It wasn’t that voters were uneducated or didn’t understand the issues. Quite the opposite. Issues, not party or demographics, drove the 2016 vote.

Capitol Ink | Cribbing Claus

Opinion: Where Science Goes, So Goes Our Nation
Investing in research and innovation pays off big

A scientist tracking tornadoes in Oklahoma in May looks at radar on his smartphone as part of a project that gets funding from the National Science Foundation and other government programs. Rep. Paul Tonko  writes that federal funding has had a direct impact on technology such as Doppler radar, GPS and smartphones. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)

A recent opinion column “Science That Leads” by my colleague, House Science Chairman Lamar Smith, argued that certain kinds of science, especially social and behavioral sciences, are not worth public investment. As an engineer, I take special care when I say: The facts disagree.

In 2014, the world’s foremost doctors and medical experts were working furiously to manage the rapidly growing threat of Ebola. Anthropologists, representing a field of behavioral science, understood the funeral practices in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and were able to act as mediators to intervene in ways that slowed the spread of the illness and saved countless lives. The full economic and public health value of this contribution is impossible to quantify but the lives and resources they saved are very real.

Opinion: The Real Year of the Woman
Female lawmakers are playing outsize role in sexual harassment debate

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., resigned after he reportedly suggested that a female staffer carry his child for $5 million and then retaliated against her when she balked. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

It takes a special kind of depravity for a congressman to suggest to a female staffer that she carry his child for $5 million and then retaliate against her when she declines the offer, as former Rep. Trent Franks reportedly did last year.

Nobody is winning a profile in courage award for asking female staff members to cuddle with him in his apartment and then firing them after they refuse, as former Rep. John Conyers Jr. was accused of doing before he resigned in disgrace. And you’d think that voters would somehow weed out a senator who apparently had a groping habit before he was ever in politics, but former Sen. Al Franken proved that conventional wisdom wrong.

Opinion: One Year Later — Why 21st Century Cures Still Matters
Help underway for diseases that impact virtually every family

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., left, and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., hold thank you signs made by Max Schill, who’s diagnosed with Noonan Syndrome, a rare genetic condition, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act on Capitol Hill in Washington in 2015. Upton and DeGette spearheaded the act. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

 

 

Capitol Ink | Binary Decision

Opinion: Why a DACA Fix Next Year Would Come Too Late
It takes months for the government to ramp up a new program

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, right, here with Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, broke with his party this fall when he announced he wouldn’t support any bill funding the government beyond Dec. 31 until the DACA issue is resolved. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As Congress speeds toward its year-end pileup of “must pass” legislation, a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, remains in the balance. President Donald Trump insists it should not be tied to the annual appropriations scramble. But many Democrats — and a few Republicans — are calling for the issue to be addressed this year, with some threatening to withhold their votes to fund the government if legislation for so-called Dreamers is not attached.

Beyond the political posturing and jockeying for leverage, there is a pragmatic reason why any fix, if that is what both parties really want, should happen this year: it takes months for the government to ramp up a new program.

Opinion: How Debt Limit Drama Gets Resolved Is Up in the Air
Policymakers have always extended limit just in time — but the script is now flipped

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is resorting to so-called extraordinary measures to pay the government’s bills after the debt limit suspension ended Dec. 8. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In the first year of the Trump administration, Capitol Hill has specialized in drama. From health care to taxes, decisions affecting large swaths of the economy have come down to the last minute. Months of wrangling over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act culminated in an ignominious defeat. Tax reform also came down to the wire in the Senate, narrowly squeaking through in a middle-of-the-night roll call. Next up, a debt limit drama could be on the way.

The debt limit’s suspension quietly ended on Dec. 8, the same day policymakers chose once again to punt on negotiating a budget agreement. In what has become ordinary practice over the past seven years, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the implementation of so-called extraordinary measures — accounting maneuvers that temporarily give Treasury extra borrowing room (and thus, cash) to pay the government’s bills while operating at the debt limit. BPC’s projection is that those measures would last until March, although tax reform, spending cap adjustments, and additional disaster relief could shorten the time frame.

Opinion: Al Franken and the Long Goodbye
Minnesota Democrat handled difficult speech about as well as he could

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and his wife, Franni, leave the Capitol on Thursday after he announced on the Senate floor that he will resign his seat “in the coming weeks.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Claiming the distinction of being, at 6 feet 9 inches, the tallest senator in history and ignoring the pesky detail of having lost an Alabama Republican primary to Roy Moore, Luther Strange delivered his farewell address Thursday morning.

It was a good-humored speech filled with predictable references to “this hallowed institution” that was in keeping with Strange’s short-lived Capitol Hill career as the appointed fill-in for Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general.

Opinion: The Need for a Royal Distraction on This Side of the Pond
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle offer relief from White House and congressional dysfunction

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement on Nov. 27 and will marry at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in May 2018. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Though it was heresy in some quarters at the time, I cared not one whit when Prince Charles took Lady Diana Spencer as his bride — and yes, it was pretty much him choosing her as a suitable spouse. I did not indulge in the ritual some Anglophile friends bragged about, setting clocks to wake up to view the 1981 spectacle in real time while nibbling on some British-like snack.

I did not care about the carriage, the bridal party or the design of the wedding dress. These were folks with a guaranteed income, home and life, and I had more serious concerns.

Capitol Ink | Freedom to Go

Opinion: Bottom of the Ninth
Republicans must deliver on tax reform

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul D. Ryan can’t afford another failure like the attempt to repeal the 2010 health care law, Winston writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“Something has to change. The middle class is shrinking and this is our last chance. This is the bottom of the ninth and there are two outs.”

These were the sobering words of a middle-aged man in a postelection focus group conducted for the Congressional Institute in one of the swing Rust Belt states that tipped the scales for Donald Trump. In all the focus groups I did during and after the last election, this man, more than any other, captured the underlying emotions that drove so many voters to cast their ballot not only for Trump but for a Republican Congress who together, they hoped, would deliver dramatic change.

Opinion: A Tribute to John Anderson — A Passionate Moderate
Independent presidential candidate radiated honor

In a partisan era, it is worth pausing to remember passionate moderates like John Anderson, Shapiro writes. (Ira Schwarz/AP file photo)

Every political reporter remembers his or her first time — that is, the first time they sat with a presidential candidate in a car cutting through the dark New Hampshire night listening to the dreams of a man who wanted to lead the nation.

For me, it was November 1979, with the Cold War raging, militant students occupying the American embassy in Tehran and Jimmy Carter in the White House. The candidate I was profiling was ten-term Illinois Rep. John Anderson, who was animated by the outlandish fantasy that he had a chance to defeat Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination.

Capitol Ink | Immoral Majority

Opinion: Wall Street’s Moral Superiority
Private companies act quickly while Congress dithers

The accusations of sexual harassment against Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., would have promptly gotten him fired had he been an anchor on Fox News or NBC, Patricia Murphy writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When Wall Street, Hollywood, cable news and even Silicon Valley are beating you by a mile on the road to dealing with questions of morality, respect and human decency, you can rest assured you’re doing it wrong.

Washington, you’re doing it wrong.