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Nine Most Likely Words From Congress
"I'm from the government, and I help rich people."

Nine Most Likely Words From Congress

Monkey Cage: The lawsuit rolls forward

Posted on July 31st, 2014 by Daryl

July 31 at 1:30 AM

Speaker John Boehner and President Obama in happier times -- talking about golf. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
Speaker Boehner and President Obama in happier times — talking about golf. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

To no one’s surprise, the House of Representatives has voted to approve a resolution (H. Res 676) authorizing Speaker John Boehner to sue the president on its behalf. Following a party-line vote in the House Rules Committee on July 24, and a party-lineup of expert testimony at a long hearing on July 16, the floor vote made it a matched set: 225 Republicans voted “yes”, along with zero Democrats.

The discussion of H.Res 676, from the Rules Committee hearing on through the floor speeches (“debate” doesn’t quite work in this case) has revealed so many circularities that one can see why it keeps rolling forward.  House leaders stress that the process is not about impeachment: Speaker Boehner has said “we have no plans to impeach the president” and called this charge a “scam” aimed at raising campaign cash. Yet Boehner is up to at least three op-eds arguing the lawsuit is necessary to “defending the Constitution” (here, the Columbus Dispatch; here, CNN; here, USA Today). The rhetoric from the House centered on “treason,” “monarchy,” “tyranny,” “usurpation.”  Rep. Tom Rice declared that “Our freedom is in peril. We cannot stand by and watch the president shred our Constitution.”

If any of this is accurate, then impeachment is the appropriate Constitutional remedy available to Congress. On the other hand, Karl Rove attacked President Obama for “cynically suggesting a constitutional crisis in order to fatten the bank accounts of the… fundraising groups in order to try and energize Democratic turnout for the fall elections.” So perhaps there’s no constitutional crisis?

Maybe it’s a “political stunt” instead, as per Obama’s well-known characterization of the maneuver. But Rep. Rob Woodall said it was “incredibly frustrating… that we can call the defense of Congress a ‘political stunt.’”  The House Rules committee report concludes that “the evidence gathered…demonstrates that the President has failed on numerous occasions to fulfill his duty under Article II…. [This] threatens the very institution of the Congress.” That is a big deal, surely.

The authorized lawsuit, of course, covers little of the above in any case.  As it took legislative form, the “aggressive unilateralism” on “matters ranging from health care and energy to foreign policy and education” noted in Boehner’s June 25 memo to House members were boiled down to one such matter: the administration’s failure to implement the Affordable Care Act as written. In Boehner’s USA Today piece he says “I believe the president’s actions in a number of areas — including job-destroying energy regulations, releasing the ‘Taliban 5 from Guantanamo without notice and waiving the work requirements in welfare — exceed his constitutional authority.”  The House Rules majority adds No Child Left Behind waivers and the DREAM Act to the list. Of these, along the lines of a prior post, only the detainee notice requirement is plausible as a violation of the letter of the law — regulations, even bad ones, are part of the implementation process; and Obama did not actually waive the work requirements in the 1996 welfare act. (At best one could argue he explored the possibility of doing so.)  In any case H.Res 676 is limited to implementation of the Affordable Care Act. I’ve argued (e.g., here) this is indeed a dubious example of discretion on the part of the administration. But even leaving aside the standing question (see below) and the gap between the rhetoric and the specifics of the suit, even legal victory will mean that “Congress’s ability to effectively represent the American people” (as per House Rules) will put in place insurance mandates the GOP believes undermine the will of the American people.  (The Republicans argue that defending a provision they don’t even support shows just how sincere they are about the broader institutional issues.)

All of this is before we get to the legal feasibility of the suit itself, which has of course attracted much attention. The House Rules Committee hearing, which can be watched here - though only by those with an immunity to High Definition seersucker — dealt with this question in depth.  Does the House have standing to sue at all? The entities most affected by the delay in the mandate are businesses who are presumably happy enough with that delay; their prize for winning the suit would be to pay retroactive tax penalties. (An employee of such a business might be a more plausible plaintiff – but going that route would require arguing that employees might benefit from the ACA.)

The fact that the House has acted as a body probably does help. Though the House is not Congress – and the Senate does not seem likely to join in — this helps distinguish this suit from the array of War Powers Resolution cases, for instance, where individual members have sought presidential compliance with WPR provisions. And one should not discount the ability of judges of all ideological stripes to find jurisprudential justification for their policy preferences.  The argument (made by Walter Dellinger) that Congress’ job is done when a law is passed is not particularly persuasive either.

Still, even if this matter is in fact justiciable — still a pretty big if – does that mean it should go to court? The Rules Committee wound up having a quite useful discussion back in mid-July — despite itself, one is tempted to think. Members and witnesses on both sides agreed that, too often, legislative party ID has trumped members’ institutional identification. GWU law professor Jonathan Turley argued that “The problem… is that members of this body increasingly are disconnected to their institutional interests. They don’t identify themselves with the legislative branch…. There was a time when this building was filled with people who fought for institutional interests even over their own party.”  As a result, Congress is “moving from self-loathing to self-destruction.”  An invisible Congress is required for an imperial presidency.

The disagreement came less in the diagnosis than the prescription.  Turley felt that defining “the lines of separation” (of powers) is a “core function” of the judiciary. “The courts have removed themselves from this process, and the result has been the dysfunctional politics that we see.” But this seems to confuse a causal variable with a confounding one.  Simon Lazarus pointed out, about 4 hours into the hearing, that “running to the courts to bail you out, with all due respect, is a huge leap toward radically further diminishing the Congress’s role.”  Congressional outsourcing of its ambition (as per Federalist 51) is what got that body in trouble vis-a-vis the executive branch in the first place. Arguing that legislative leadership must be exercised by the judiciary seems to take separation of powers to an odd extreme.

Yet this seems to be the stand the House wants to make. Lost in the shuffle has been a widely bipartisan (370–40) House vote on Friday that actually did make a statement for institutional pride — arguing that the president’s war powers do not extend to re-inserting combat troops in Iraq. That may be a better battlefield for the concerns raised on the House floor yesterday.

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She The People: Gender equity revolution no longer stalled

Posted on July 30th, 2014 by Daryl

“Back on Track? The Stall and Rebound in Support for Women’s New Roles in Work and Politics, 1977 – 2012″ by David Cotter, Joan Hermsen, Reeve Vaneman

For two and a half decades, from the 1970s to the mid-1990s, every year, a rapidly growing number of Americans began to think that women could bust out of their traditional homemaker roles, take on more public roles and work outside the home and their kids and family wouldn’t suffer for it. More women joined the labor force every year. More got college and advanced degrees. The wage gap between men and women narrowed. And American support for egalitarian marriages rose.

Then something happened. Progress toward gender equity stalled. Then reversed. More highly educated women began “opting out” of high power careers to stay home with children. Far fewer women entered the workforce. The wage gap grew. And more people told pollsters that working mothers couldn’t form close relationships with their kids, and that women weren’t as suited to politics as men.

The “puzzling pause,” as some academics dubbed it, came to be known as the Stalled Gender Revolution. And some argue the revolution’s been stalled ever since.

But now, a group of scholars are releasing a new report through the Council on Contemporary Families, “Gender Revolution Rebound Symposium,” that, they contend, shows that the stall is over and that revolution is, once again, on the march. They found:

• It’s not just younger Millennials who are embracing gender equality. David Cotter, a sociologist at Union College, and his co-authors found that support has been rising since 2006 among all age groups, among both men and women and among conservatives and liberals. Conservatives, actually, though their total numbers are lower than liberals, show the greatest increase in support.

• Less than one-third of Americans now say male breadwinner-female homemaker families are the ideal. (In 1977, 66 percent did.)

• Sixty-five percent of Americans answering questions for the General Social Survey said they disagreed that preschool children suffer if their mothers work, up from about 30 percent who disagreed in 1977 and about half in 2000. (The language of the question itself, first posed in the 1970s, suggests none too subtle a bias. Respondants are not asked whether children suffer if their fathers work.)

• In couples marrying in the late 2000s, 60 percent of the wives had more education than their husbands. And while in the 1980s, couples like this were more likely to get divorced, by the 2000, they were actually less “divorce prone,” reports Christine Schwartz, sociology professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison. And she and her co-authors found that only 28 percent now think it’s better if the husband outearns his wife, down from 40 percent in 1997.

• Both men and women, regardless of their education or income, still expect the guy to make the first move, and for him to propose.

• Couples who share the laundry, really do have more sex. Sharon Sasser, a professor of the Department of Policy Analysis at Cornell University, found that egalitarian partners reported more frequent sex and greater satisfaction than couples in traditional domestic arrangements.

• The least satisfied in the sack? Partnerships where the men do the bulk of the housework. “Apparently, completely reversing gender roles in housework was not a sexual turn-on to either the men or women involved,” she wrote.

• Good news for Hillary: More than three-fourths of Americans now say that men and women are equally suited to politics, up from just 48 percent in 1977.

Where will this continuing revolution lead?

Although surveys show that young men want to be more involved fathers at home, and that more men and women support gender equality at work, their wishes may be thwarted by a very particular American phenomenon: overwork.

Youngjoo Cha, sociology professor at Indiana University-Bloomington, has found that in the 1970s, workers who put in more than 50 hours a week earned less per hour than those who worked the standard 40-hour shift. But by the 1990s, wages began to rise rapidly for the workaholics. By 2009, overworkers were earning 6 percent more per hour than full-time workers, she writes, creating a “substantial incentive” for overwork and a “substantial penalty” for working 9 to 5, not just financially, but psychologically, in who is perceived as the “good” worker.

Men, therefore, feel they have to meet this standard. And more women are unable or unwilling to overwork because they still shoulder more of the children and household duties. In 2007, 17 percent of men, but only 7 percent of women worked 50 hours or more a week.

Cha argues that, without financial reward for overwork, the gender gap in wages would be 10 percent smaller.

Scholars say they don’t really know why the sputtering revolution has starting moving again. The Great Recession, surprisingly, may have had something to do with it, said Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College and director of Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families.

“This is a real sea change in attitudes. Women worked during the Great Depression, but afterward, there was so much misgiving about women working that laws were passed to give men preference in getting hired, and bar married women from working and married couples from being hired at the same place,” said said. “It may be that this time, the recession reminded people of women’s labor and they respected them for it.”

Brigid Schulte writes about work-life issues and poverty, seeking to understand what it takes to live The Good Life across race, class and gender.

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