Norman Ornstein

[Guest post by Norman Ornstein:]   The “Do Everything” 111th Congress and the “Do Nothing” 112th Congress both have one thing in common: abysmal approval ratings among the public. How can that be? Here is a simple way to explain it. The Affordable Care Act was and is not widely popular—but, if parsed out in public opinion surveys into its individual components, the reaction is very different. Nearly all of the components meet individually with public approval.

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[Guest post by Norman Ornstein:] John Boehner had a very bad day Wednesday. First, the Congressional Budget Office eviscerated his debt limit plan, forcing him to scramble to come up with another $350 billion in discretionary budget cuts, which in turn means that Boehner will have to bring up his revised plan late—but also with less than the three days notice he pledged to allow for every significant piece of legislation brought before the House.

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When a divided Supreme Court issued its highly controversial Citizens United decision allowing corporations free rein to use their dollars to intervene in elections, there was one seemingly shining light, an area where broad consensus existed and that was endorsed by eight of the nine justices: the value of disclosure. The Court stated in the decision, “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.

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The Lame-Duck Session

Democrats didn't get much done during the last session of Congress, instead opting to put off big votes until after the election.  Republicans responded by freaking out, demonizing the lame-duck session as zero-hour, when Democrats would have a free hand to pass their agenda without the brake of electoral accountability. This article, which originally ran on September 20, 2010, explains how that battle will—and will not—play out. Congress is back, and one thing is obvious: There is no way they can complete the amount of work they have left before the November election.

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Newtered

“We are all Keynesians now,” said Richard Nixon in 1971. That phrase came to mind reading historian and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s riposte in The Washington Post to my op-ed expressing amazement that President Obama is being attacked on the right as a radical, a socialist, and more.

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Disgruntled (if not former) Democrats Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen are the latest to join in offering advice to President Obama and Congressional Democrats to abandon their health reform quest before it causes catastrophic damage to the party.

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'Reconciliation" means "restoration of harmony." But as a term of art in budgeting, it has become an act of war. President Obama and most Democrats in Congress hope to include health and education reform in reconciliation instructions as part of the budget process. No mystery why. The sixty vote hurdle in the Senate of the filibuster could scotch these central components of their agenda via united Republican opposition. Bills considered under reconciliation cannot be filibustered and can therefore pass the Senate by majority vote.

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Norman Ornstein is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track, with Thomas E. Mann. Two key words have been largely missing from the debate over our financial crisis: moral hazard. Moral hazard is a concept used by economists for situations where no adverse consequences flow from risky behavior or failure; and where wrongheaded risky behavior that goes unpunished begets even more wrongheaded risky behavior. Investment in a market system is supposed to balance risk and reward.

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