Thursday, March 22, 2012

Elsewhere: Against Careful Vetting, More Ryan Plan

At Greg's place, it's more on the Ryan budget, specifically on the mystery of why they moved ahead with it, as it clears committee (barely) and heads to the floor. I really can't remember any precedent for leadership demanding a tough vote on something that has no chance of being enacted. Can you?

Over at Post Partisan, I noted a new report calling for more "vetting capacity" on executive branch nominations, and said that instead we just need a whole lot less vetting.

Both my post and the Aspin Institute report are really focusing only on the nuts-and-bolts side of these appointments. There's also, of course, the breakdown of the Senate norm of confirming all non-controversial exec branch nominees. It's not unusual (nor, in my view, should it be) for individual Senators or small groups to use the opportunity to cut deals with the administration, but until very recently Senators believed that presidents were entitled to the particular people they wanted, unless there was some problem with the individual. I have no idea how you go about re-instituting that very healthy norm. But at any rate, the vetting problem is different, and as far as I can see very fixable.


  1. The Ryan budget is not at all mysterious. You keep calling it a tough vote, but they don't think of it that way. They are more afraid of primaries than general elections. There is a post over at Monkey Cage about how even Republicans don't really like the details of austerity, but since this isn't about policy anyway, that doesn't matter. This is about signaling to tea partiers that "I am a far-right conservative. I'm not Bob Bennett. Please leave me alone. Pretty please. I'll do anything you say. Just put down that ballot."

  2. Maybe they think that forcing Republicans to take the hard vote now will increase the odds of the Party taking the same hard vote in '13 if they have control of Congress and the White House? It is strange though... If they lose the House over this isn't Ryan worried that his plan will take the blame and become untouchable? He seems to be putting everything on the line.

  3. Some would say that the vote on Cap and Trade during the previous Congress was similar. Weren't some of the Democrats complaining (off the record) about Nancy Pelosi forcing a tough vote on something that had no chance to pass the Senate? Indeed, weren't some analyzing it in much the same way Mr. Bernstein has analyzed the Ryan vote, asking whether this was the hubris of the House leadership, the political cluelessness of true believers, or an attempt to line up environmental groups in advance of the election?

    Now, in terms of personal preference I was for Cap and Trade and I am against the Ryan monstrosity. And I don't think the electoral salience is equal (although in part that was because the Republicans were concentrating on the ACA which had, after all, actually passed). Nevertheless, this seems a pretty good example from the recent past of forcing your members to take tough and damaging votes on policies that have no chance of seeing the light of day.

    1. Thank you for supplying the example, Anastasios. I have to say that I agreed with the sentiment, but an example hadn't popped into my mind until you provided this one. But I was sure many existed.

      Under split control of Congress, particularly if it's House being controlled by the out-party, I would expect this to be decently common. I imagine that if I got out my copy of Gilmour's Strategic Disagreement, he'd describe a bunch of these.

    2. I was thinking of cap and trade, but I think I disagree. My impression is that when the House passed it, it was a longshot to wind up in law...but not thought of as impossible. There was a plausible case to be made that something would wind up passing. No one thinks that's the case with the Ryan budget. Cap & trade during the 111th is more like the BTU tax in 1993, I think, than like the Ryan budget now.

      It's probably also true that environmental stuff plays well with swing voters in lots of districts, although certainly not all districts.

      Always like to hear a plug for Gilmour, though.

  4. I think this shines light on what's going on -

    The GOP establishment has somehow convinced itself that the Ryan budget is a political plus for them. If they truly believe that, then all of their actions make sense - they don't see it as a tough vote they're making their members take, they see it as a election year document to run on.

  5. It's all brilliantly Machiavellian. Ryan and the leadership bring the budget up for a vote so that members in vulnerable districts can vote against it, then run as saviors of the Republic against Ryan and Boehner, thus increasing the GOP majority and therefore the power of Ryan and Boehner. I'd do the same thing if I were them. ;-)


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