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House of Representatives





















Digital ID: cph 3a05055

Source: digital file from b&w film copy neg.

Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-pga-03229

(digital file from original print) ,

LC-USZ62-1218 (b&w film copy neg.)


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Washington, D.C. 20540 USA




Pictorial Americana

Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress









































The Capitol


The United States Capitol

in Washington, D.C.,

is a symbol

of the American people

and their government,

the meeting place

of the nation's legislature.


The Capitol also houses

an important collection

of American art,

and it is an architectural achievement

in its own right.


It is a working office building

as well as a tourist attraction

visited by millions every year.


Construction of the U.S. Capitol

began in 1793.


In November 1800,

the U.S. Congress met

in the first completed portion,

the north wing.


In the 1850s,

major extensions

to the North and South

ends of the Capitol

were authorized because

of the great westward

expansion of our nation

and the resultant growth

of Congress.


Since that time,

the U.S. Capitol and its stately dome

have become international symbols

of our representative democracy.


The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

is the newest addition

to this historic complex.


At nearly 580,000 square feet,

the Visitor Center

is the largest project

in the Capitol's

more than two-century history

and is approximately

three quarters the size

of the Capitol itself.


The entire facility

is located underground

on the east side of the Capitol

so as not to detract

from the appearance

of the Capitol

and the grounds

designed by Frederick Law Olmsted

in 1874.












in the Capitol





at the Capitol






on Capitol Hill








Capitol Hill





U.S. Capitol police union
















Congress > Resources A to Z


















both houses of Congress





swear in





be elected to Congress





be returned to office





statutes passed by Congress





Congress > veto > override





















lame duck






lame-duck session








lame-duck session / assembly





draw to an end















House of Representatives /  the House




























































in the House

















 in the Republican-controlled House






 on the House floor






the House chamber / chamber








in the House Chamber



























House of Representatives > veto > override








House of Representatives > reject










take oath








majority leader of the House of Representatives








House Republicans










House Republican leader
















Constitution, Article I, Section I > checks and balances


"All legislative powers herein granted

shall be vested

in a Congress of the United States,

which shall consist of a Senate

and House of Representatives."










legislative branch










United States Congress















































Congress / “People’s House”










statutes passed by Congress








sex offenders laws








both chambers of Congress >

House of Representatives, Senate






118th Congress






115th Congress






 114th Congress






113th Congress






112th Congress












110th Congress        2007








before Congress





member of Congress











Congressional crises

















in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol

















Remembering Elijah Cummings

NYT    18 October 2019





Remembering Elijah Cummings

Video        NYT News        The New York Times        18 October 2019


Representative Elijah E. Cummings,

the son of sharecroppers,

rose to become one

of the most powerful Democrats in Congress

and a central figure

in the impeachment investigation of President Trump.


He died on Thursday in Baltimore at 68.




























Congressman > Representative




watch?v=nczFwlo5_7s - NYT - 18 October 2019






















Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri,

the House Republican whip
























USA > the speaker of the House / House Speaker        UK / USA






















































































speaker of the House










elect a speaker










elect a speaker

and convene the 118th Congress










 be elected speaker












House speakership












the speaker’s roll call vote






















receive the gavel from N











step down










speaker of the House > Mike Johnson










Kevin McCarthy










House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

















John A. Boehner

- the 61st speaker of the House    2010-2015






















cartoons > Cagle > Bawling Boehner


















the law of the land






















law > repeal




























House Democrats





















watch?v=bq5GzQFPggI - 28 July 2017


























































Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio

House speaker,

chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee





























House Committee on Rules

















House Homeland Security Committee

























The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

House Intel Committee / House Intel Panel































House Appropriations Committee








House ethics committee










House Financial Services Committee













House Select Committee on N










House Ways and Means Committee








the panel's Social Security Subcommittee

































The Key Moments:

Michael Cohen’s Testimony Before Congress

NYT    27 February 2019





The Key Moments: Michael Cohen’s Testimony Before Congress

Video        NYT News        27 February 2019


Before the House Oversight and Reform Committee

on Wednesday,

President Trump’s former lawyer

accused Mr. Trump of directing hush payments,

lying about his business dealings in Russia

and inflating his wealth.


















House Oversight and Reform Committee














watch?v=JbK8euLYWrg - NYT - 27 February 2019




















House Judiciary Committee / House Committee on the Judiciary



























House panel / House committee

The Judiciary subcommittee

on commercial and administrative law








Congressional hearings




















House Democratic Caucus












contest for House Republican leader






leadership battle





leadership election




















Congressional Black Caucus    CBC


Since its establishment in 1971,

the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC)

has been committed

to using the full Constitutional power,

statutory authority,

and financial resources

of the federal government

to ensure that African Americans

and other marginalized communities

in the United States

have the opportunity

to achieve the American Dream.


The CBC is engaged

at the highest levels of Congress

with members who serve

in House leadership.

- 28 March 2020

































































































along party lines











Roll Call > Yeas / Nays






take part in roll calls






Roll Call > The Newspaper of Capitol Hill since 1955


























































































- May 4, 2017















































gun bills






disputed bill






landmark bill






pull the bill
























































































































- May 4, 2017




















pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill,











pass a bill (...)

to avert a government shutdown










overwhelmingly pass a sanctions bill










pass and send to President X

legislation to...







pass legislation








It passed by a vote of 392 to 31

in the House.







































enactment of a law





















A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates


Beginning with the Continental Congress

in 1774,

America's national legislative bodies

have kept records of their proceedings.


The records

of the Continental Congress,

the Constitutional Convention,

and the United States Congress

make up a rich documentary history

of the construction of the nation

and the development

of the federal government

and its role in the national life.


These documents

record American history

in the words of those

who built our government


















the open seat

— one where incumbents step aside

because of age, ambition, scandal

or other considerations












































































- pet projects

financed by Congress,

usually out of the public eye


tailored individual appropriations > earmarks

























































State of the Union speech


In modern practice,

the State of the Union address

is delivered in the House Chamber.


Prior to the move to the Capitol,

the Annual Message

was often delivered

in the Senate Chamber.
















sex scandal











































USA > be impeached        UK / USA




watch?v=2xjYcfdyex0 - NYT - 27 August 2018








January 13, 2021


Congress > U.S. House of Representatives


President Trump

became the first president to be impeached twice,

after the House approved a single charge citing his role

in whipping up a mob that stormed the Capitol.


He faces a Senate trial

that could disqualify him from future office.
























Trump's second impeachment trial

Impeachment trial

of former President Donald Trump - February 2021

House impeachment managers /

Democratic House impeachment managers








































impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump - February 2021


Lead impeachment manager Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.










Trump's Jan. 6 Speech, A Key Part Of Impeachment Trial - Full text










 approve 25th Amendment resolution Against N










announce a formal impeachment inquiry

into President Trump


















House of Representatives > Office of the Clerk










The United States House of Representatives:

Timeline of Milestone Events


Since its creation in 1789,

the U.S. House of Representatives

has occupied a central place

in American government.


The Constitution

delegates responsibilities

to the House

that make it a unique feature

in the architecture

of the federal government.


In addition,

the constitutional requirement

that all Representatives

must be elected every two years

makes the House

especially responsive

to popular will.


This timeline features

some of the significant

institutional and legislative milestones

important to both House

practice and procedure,

as well as U.S. history itself.










House of Representatives > House Journal






How Our Laws Are Made






National Archives > Center for Legislative Archives






Library of Congress > House Bills and Resolutions

Beginning with the 6th Congress (1799-1800)







In the spirit of Thomas Jefferson,

legislative information

from the Library of Congress






Congressional Budget Office









Pictorial Americana


Selected Images

from the Collections of the Library of Congress > U.S. Congress
















State house








the Legislature / The state Legislature
















at the Legislature





Georgia Legislature / Georgia General Assembly






Georgia House of Representatives











The Assembly speaker










Corpus of news articles


USA > Politics > U.S. Congress >


U.S. House / House of Representatives




Tax Deal Shows Possible Path

Around House G.O.P.

in Fiscal Fights to Come


January 2, 2013

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — With the contentious 112th Congress coming to a close, the talks between the White House, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats that secured a path around a looming fiscal crisis on Tuesday may point the way forward for President Obama as he tries to navigate his second term around House Republicans intent on blocking his agenda in the 113th.

For two years, the president has seen House Republican leaders as the key to legislative progress, and he has pursued direct talks with Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader. That avenue of negotiation proved fruitless, in large part because House Republicans were deeply divided about any compromise that Mr. Obama would accept. The failure led Mr. Boehner to tell his colleagues this week that he would not be engaging in any more one-on-one negotiations with the president.

But negotiations over the fiscal impasse pointed to a new and unlikely path as more fiscal deadlines approach. In this case, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader and a veteran legislative dealmaker, initiated negotiations with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., which instigated talks between them and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. That produced sweeping tax legislation that averted large tax increases for most Americans and across-the-board spending cuts.

Then both Senate leaders worked hard to deliver the votes of a vast majority of their reluctant members, isolating House Republican leaders, who found themselves with no way forward other than to put the bill before the House and let Democrats push it over the finish line.

“I think this is the fourth time that we’ve seen this play out, where Boehner finally relents and lets the House consider a measure, and Democrats provide the votes to pass it,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat. “When they reach the point where their hand is forced, where there’s no other place to turn, they’ll do the right thing.”

That realization may lead to a more formalized process to begin bipartisan negotiations in the Senate to put pressure on the House. The deal that passed on Tuesday lifted the threat of tax increases that could have crippled the economy, but in other ways it compounded near-term fiscal threats. The government reached its statutory borrowing limit on Monday, giving Congress at best two to three months to raise the debt ceiling or risk a debilitating default on federal debt.

Around the same time, a two-month delay in the institution of across-the-board military and domestic spending cuts will lapse. Then, by the end of March, the current stopgap spending law financing the federal government will end, raising the specter of another government shutdown.

If House Republicans believe they can use those deadlines to extract concessions from the president on spending cuts, the White House may go elsewhere for a deal, Democrats say.

An official knowledgeable about the last negotiations said on Wednesday that the president would use such a strategy only if he was convinced that House Republican leaders would not or could not compromise. But in meeting with Senate Democrats on Monday and House Democrats on Tuesday, Mr. Biden labored to convince lawmakers that the White House had a way forward that would avoid last-minute theatrics and would not entail a stream of compromises on party principles, according to lawmakers who were there.

“One of the main concerns is, where do we go from here?” said Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, adding that Democrats feared that compromises on tax increases for the rich in the deal approved on Tuesday would lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare in the next round of talks. “He has a game plan for that.”

A senior Democrat said that game plan would start in the coming weeks, when Mr. Obama addresses his agenda in his State of the Union address and lays out his budget for the 2014 fiscal year, due in early February.

That opening bid should restart talks with Congress on an overarching agreement that would lock in deficit reduction through additional revenue, changes to entitlement programs and more spending cuts, to be worked out by the relevant committees in Congress. But this time, those talks might start in the Senate.

House Republican aides said the past few weeks were unique and not indicative of anything going forward. The president won re-election on a pledge to raise taxes on income over $250,000. His mandate does not extend beyond that, one aide said. Besides, officials in both parties warn, neither Mr. Reid nor Mr. McConnell will want to lead on the difficult issues now in view. Mr. Reid was reluctant, at best, about joining the Biden-McConnell talks.

And Mr. McConnell has made it clear that future deficit deals should be done through “regular order” — Congressional committees, Senate and House debates and open negotiations, not private talks. Officials in both parties worry that as his 2014 re-election campaign gets closer, Mr. McConnell will be increasingly reluctant to have his fingerprints on deals with the president.

Even if a Senate route can be institutionalized, Mr. Durbin said he doubted that it would smooth the passage of bipartisan deals, given the difficulties Mr. Boehner has getting his troops in line. “His anguish has a timetable. It goes through phases and places that I don’t understand,” Mr. Durbin said of the speaker. “And I am afraid every scary chapter has to play out every step of the way before anything is resolved.”

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the last-minute crunch that produced the tax accord was necessary only because the Senate refused to act earlier. The House passed legislation months ago to extend all the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and to stop automatic military cuts by shifting them to domestic programs.

Tax Deal Shows Possible Path Around House G.O.P. in Fiscal Fights to Come,






House Votes to Cut $60 Billion,

Setting Up Budget Clash


February 19, 2011

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — The House early Saturday approved a huge package of spending cuts, slashing more than $60 billion from domestic programs, foreign aid, and even some military projects, as the new Republican majority made good on its pledge to turn the grassroots fervor of the November elections into legislative action to shrink the size and scope of government.

The vote, of 235 to 189, was a victory for the large, boisterous class of fiscally conservative Republican freshmen that is fiercely determined to change the ways of Washington and that forced party leaders to pursue far bigger cuts than originally planned. It set the stage for a standoff with Senate Democrats and the White House that each side has warned could lead to a shutdown of the federal government early next month.

And it marked the opening salvo in what is likely to be a long, bitter clash of philosophical ideas about fiscal policy, as Republicans repudiate the liberal, Keynesian strategies that the Obama administration has relied on to navigate through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

In Washington, the fight in the weeks ahead will focus on budget policy and the looming need to raise the federal debt ceiling. But the push by Republicans for spending cuts and new austerity is already shaking state capitals, including Madison, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio, where labor unions have begun protesting efforts to reduce benefits and weaken their collective bargaining rights.

The House approved its spending measure in the predawn darkness on Saturday after four days and nights of free-wheeling floor debate — a veritable ultra-marathon of legislating in which hundreds of amendments were put forward. Republican leaders lost votes on some of those amendments, in what they said was a testament to their commitment to allow a more open legislative process than their recent predecessors.

Republicans only seemed to grow more excited as the final vote neared shortly after 4:30 a.m.

“We have a mandate from the American people to cut spending,” declared Representative Judy Biggert, Republican of Illinois.

Immediately after the vote, the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, said in a statement, “This week, for the first time in many years, the People’s House was allowed to work its will — and the result was one of the largest spending cuts in American history.” Mr. Boehner added, “We will not stop here in our efforts to cut spending, not when we’re broke and Washington’s spending binge is making it harder to create jobs.”

Just three Republicans opposed the bill, while 186 Democrats voted unanimously against it.

The Republicans’ plan would quickly impose sharp spending reductions in nearly every area of government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. But Republicans will not have long to bask in the glory of their win, and their bill has little or no chance of becoming law in its current form.

President Obama and Senate Democrats say the cuts would harm the fragile economic recovery, and the White House had threatened to veto the bill even before it was approved. The Democrats say Mr. Obama’s budget proposal, which calls for a five-year freeze in many spending areas, is a more reasonable approach. But Republicans have rejected it as insufficient.

Time is short. The stopgap measure now financing the government expires on March 4. And with Congress in recess next week, party leaders concede there is not enough time to forge a deal, and that a short-term extension will be needed to avert a shutdown of the government.

But with the rhetoric in the House only growing more strident over the four days of debate, and politically-charged amendments dominating the action on Friday, lawmakers and Washington at large have begun to face the possibility that even a temporary accord will be difficult to achieve.

Mr. Boehner has said he would not agree to a short-term extension without added cuts from spending, which is now being held generally at 2010 levels. Democrats, meanwhile, have not shown any willingness to give ground, apparently betting that Republicans will be held responsible for a shutdown as they were in 1995 during a standoff with the Clinton administration.

The House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, late Friday night put forward a temporary extension of the stopgap measure that would maintain expenditures as they are now, generally at 2010 levels, and avert a shutdown through March 31. But Republicans quickly dismissed it.

Democrats, for weeks, have warned that Republicans were risking a shutdown by showing no flexibility in the spending debate.

“The last thing the American people need is for Congressional Republicans or Democrats to draw a line in the sand that hinders keeping the government open,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference earlier on Friday. “Closing our government would mean our men and women in uniform wouldn’t receive their paychecks and veterans would lose critical benefits. Seniors wouldn’t receive their Social Security checks and essential functions from food safety inspection to airport security could come to a halt.”

Aides to the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, sought to play down the possibility of a stalemate that would shutter the government but accused Democrats of rooting for that outcome.

“Instead of cheering for a shutdown, Senate Democrats should join their Republican colleagues in doing the hard work of cutting spending,” a spokesman for Mr. McConnell, Don Stewart, said on Friday.

But Mr. McConnell showed no willingness to consider Ms. Pelosi’s proposed temporary extension. “Freezing in place the current unsustainable spending levels is simply unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

Even without a government shutdown, there were warnings that the Republican cuts could cripple federal agencies. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for instance, charged with carrying out a sweeping new financial regulation law, will end up with $25 million less than last year, which was before the law was adopted.

In a letter to employees on Thursday, the Social Security Administration warned of potential furloughs “given the potential of reduced Congressional appropriations for the remainder of the fiscal year.”

The cuts even hit some programs that had support among Republican leaders, including an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The House voted to cancel the engine, achieving $450 million in short-term savings.

The Republicans who opposed the spending package were Representatives John Campbell of California and Jeff Flake of Arizona, both of whom had advocated for even bigger reductions, and Representative Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, who often disagrees with his party.

Democrats on Friday suggested that even if Republican leaders want to avoid a shutdown, Mr. Boehner might not be able to control his rank and file, particularly the conservative freshmen who successfully led the charge for even bigger spending reductions than Republican leaders initially proposed.

Up to the very end, the Republican Study Committee, a conservative bloc, continued to push for even bigger cuts, putting forward an amendment on Friday to slice $22 billion more. That amendment was defeated, as senior Republicans, including the majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, and veteran members of the Appropriations Committee, teamed up with Democrats to hit the brakes.

But flush with enthusiasm on the fourth long day of debate, House Republicans on Friday easily approved amendments to the spending package that would deny government financing for Planned Parenthood, block money for the Democrats’ big health care overhaul and bar new regulation of certain greenhouse gases.

The amendment to deny government funds to Planned Parenthood was put forward by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. It was approved by a vote of 240 to 185.

Ms. Pelosi, who is a supporter of abortion rights, angrily denounced the vote as a camouflaged effort by Republicans to prevent Americans from engaging in family planning, which she said would actually undermine the Republicans’ larger goal by leading to an increase in elective abortions.

“Perhaps we have to have a lesson in the birds and the bees around here for them to understand that,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference. Mr. Pence, in a statement, proclaimed a victory for opponents of abortion. “This afternoon’s vote was a victory for taxpayers and a victory for life,” he said.

There were at least six different amendments approved to block federal agencies from implementing the health care law or crucial components of the law.

For Republican freshmen, however, there was a potentially sobering lesson about American democracy to be learned from the health care law that they hate so much: after countless hours of drafting and floor debate, the health care bill that Mr. Obama signed last year was the one written and approved by the Senate.

In much the same way, the spending measure being debated so feverishly on the House floor has virtually no chance of being enacted into law, no matter how big a victory celebration Republicans hold.

Just as the Senate ultimately controlled the health care debate, so too will it control crucial negotiations in the current spending fight. Senate Republicans have said they support the overall goals of their House counterparts but have not committed to making identical cuts, and Democrats have a majority in the chamber.

In an understated reminder of his chamber’s role in the process, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii and chairman of the Appropriations Committee, issued a statement expressing a desire for compromise.

“It is my sincere hope that all the parties will remain reasonable as we seek to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year,” he said. “Neither house of Congress is in a position to dictate terms to the other, so I remain hopeful that we will come to a sensible accommodation.”

House Votes to Cut $60 Billion, Setting Up Budget Clash,






Build a Bigger House


January 23, 2011

The New York Times




WITH the Senate preparing to debate filibuster reform, now is a good time to consider a similarly daunting challenge to democratic representation in the House: its size. It’s been far too long since the House expanded to keep up with population growth and, as a result, it has lost touch with the public and been overtaken by special interests.

Indeed, the lower chamber of Congress has had the same number of members for so long that many Americans assume that its 435 seats are constitutionally mandated.

But that’s wrong: while the founders wanted to limit the size of the Senate, they intended the House to expand based on population growth. Instead of setting an absolute number, the Constitution merely limits the ratio of members to population. “The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000,” the founders wrote. They were concerned, in other words, about having too many representatives, not too few.

When the House met in 1787 it had 65 members, one for every 60,000 inhabitants (including slaves as three-fifths of a person). For well over a century, after each census Congress would pass a law increasing the size of the House.

But after the 1910 census, when the House grew from 391 members to 433 (two more were added later when Arizona and New Mexico became states), the growth stopped. That’s because the 1920 census indicated that the majority of Americans were concentrating in cities, and nativists, worried about of the power of “foreigners,” blocked efforts to give them more representatives.

By the time the next decade rolled around, members found themselves reluctant to dilute their votes, and the issue was never seriously considered again.

The result is that Americans today are numerically the worst-represented group of citizens in the country’s history. The average House member speaks for about 700,000 Americans. In contrast, in 1913 he represented roughly 200,000, a ratio that today would mean a House with 1,500 members — or 5,000 if we match the ratio the founders awarded themselves.

This disparity increases the influence of lobbyists and special interests: the more constituents one has, the easier it is for money to outshine individual voices. And it means that representatives have a harder time connecting with the people back in their districts.

What’s needed, then, is a significant increase in the size of the House by expanding the number, and shrinking the size, of districts. Doing so would make campaigns cheaper, the political value of donations lower and the importance of local mobilizing much greater.

Smaller districts would also end the two-party deadlock. Orange County, Calif., might elect a Libertarian, while Cambridge, Mass., might pick a candidate from the Green Party.

Moreover, with additional House members we’d likely see more citizen-legislators and fewer lifers. In places like New York or Chicago, we would cross at least one Congressional district just walking a few blocks to the grocery store. Our representatives would be our neighbors, people who better understood the lives and concerns of average Americans.

More districts would likewise mean more precision in distributing them equitably, especially in low-population states. Today the lone Wyoming representative covers about 500,000 people, while her lone counterpart in Delaware reports to 900,000.

The increase would also mean more elected officials working on the country’s business, reducing the reliance on unaccountable staffers. Most of the House’s work is through committees, overseeing and checking government agencies.

With more people in Congress, House committee members could see to this critical business themselves — and therefore be more influential, since a phone call from an actual member is a lot more effective than a request from the committee staff.

True, more members means more agendas, legislation and debates. But Internet technology already provides effective low-cost management solutions, from Google Documents to streaming interactive video to online voting.

The biggest obstacle is Congress itself. Such a change would require the noble act — routine before World War I but unheard of since — of representatives voting to diminish their own relative power.

So if such reform is to happen, it will have to be driven by grassroots movements. Luckily, we are living in just such a moment: the one thing Move On and the Tea Party can agree on is that the Washington status quo needs to change. So far this year, that has meant shrinking government. But in this case, the best solution might just be to make government — or at least the House of Representatives — bigger.


Dalton Conley is a professor of sociology,

medicine and public policy at New York University

and the author of “Elsewhere, U.S.A.”

Jacqueline Stevens is a professor of political science

at Northwestern

and the author of “States Without Nations:

Citizenship for Mortals.”

Build a Bigger House,
NYT, 23.1.2011,






G.O.P. Captures House,

but Not Senate


November 2, 2010
The New York Times


Republicans captured control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday and expanded their voice in the Senate, riding a wave of voter discontent as they dealt a setback to President Obama just two years after his triumphal victory.

A Republican resurgence, propelled by deep economic worries and a forceful opposition to the Democratic agenda of health care and government spending, delivered defeats to House Democrats from the Northeast to the South and across the Midwest. The tide swept aside dozens of lawmakers, regardless of their seniority or their voting records, upending the balance of power for the second half of Mr. Obama’s term.

But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, narrowly prevailed and his party hung onto control by winning hard-fought contests in California, Delaware, Connecticut and West Virginia. Republicans picked up at least six Democratic seats, including the one formerly held by Mr. Obama, and the party will welcome Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky to their ranks, two candidates who were initially shunned by the establishment but beloved by the Tea Party movement.

“The American people’s voice was heard at the ballot box,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who is positioned to become the next speaker of the House. “We have real work to do, and this is not the time for celebration.”

The president, who watched the election returns with a small set of advisers at the White House, called Mr. Boehner shortly after midnight to offer his congratulations and to talk about the way forward as Washington prepares for divided government. Republicans won at least 56 seats, not including those from some Western states where ballots were still being counted, surpassing the 52 seats the party won in the sweep of 1994.

The most expensive midterm election campaign in the nation’s history, fueled by a raft of contributions from outside interest groups and millions in donations to candidates in both parties, played out across a wide battleground that stretched from Alaska to Maine. The Republican tide swept into statehouse races, too, with Democrats poised to lose the majority of governorships, particularly those in key presidential swing states, like Ohio, where Gov. Ted Strickland was defeated.

One after another, once-unassailable Democrats like Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Representatives Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, Rick Boucher of Virginia and Chet Edwards of Texas fell to little-known Republican challengers.

“Voters sent a message that change has not happened fast enough,” said Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Republicans did not achieve a perfect evening, losing races in several states they had once hoped to win, including the Senate contests in Delaware and Connecticut, because some candidates supported by the Tea Party movement knocked out establishment candidates to win their nominations. But they did score notable victories in some tight races, like Pat Toomey’s Senate run in Pennsylvania.

Senator Reid said in a speech that he was “more determined than ever” after his victory. “I know what it’s like to get back on your feet.”

The outcome on Tuesday was nothing short of a remarkable comeback for Republicans two years after they suffered a crushing defeat in the White House and four years after Democrats swept control of the House and Senate. It places the party back in the driver’s seat in terms of policy, posing new challenges to Mr. Obama as he faces a tough two years in his term, but also for Republicans — led by Mr. Boehner — as he suddenly finds himself in a position of responsibility, rather than being simply the outsider.

In the House, Republicans found victories in most corners of the country, including five seats in Pennsylvania, five in Ohio, at least three in Florida, Illinois and Virginia and two in Georgia. Democrats braced for the prospect of historic defeats, more than the 39 seats the Republicans needed to win control. Republicans reached their majority by taking seats east of the Mississippi even before late results flowed in from farther West.

Throughout the evening, in race after race, Republican challengers defeated Democratic incumbents, despite being at significant fund-raising disadvantages. Republican-oriented independent groups invariably came to the rescue, helping level of the playing field, including in Florida’s 24th Congressional District, in which Sandy Adams defeated Representative Suzanne Kosmas; Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, where Mr. Boucher, a 14-term incumbent, lost to Morgan Griffith; and Texas’s 17th Congressional District, in which Mr. Edwards, who was seeking his 11th term, succumbed to Bill Flores.

Democrats argued that the Republican triumph was far from complete, particularly in the Senate, pointing to the preservation of Mr. Reid and other races. In Delaware, Chris Coons defeated Christine O’Donnell, whose candidacy became a symbol of the unorthodox political candidates swept onto the ballot in Republican primary contests. In West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, triumphed over an insurgent Republican rival to fill the seat held for a half-century by Senator Robert C. Byrd. And in California, Senator Barbara Boxer overcame a vigorous challenge from Carly Fiorina, a Republican.

But Democrats conceded that their plans to increase voter turnout did not meet expectations, party strategists said, and extraordinary efforts that Mr. Obama made in the final days of the campaign appeared to have borne little fruit.

The president flew to Charlottesville, Va., on Friday evening, for instance, in hopes of rallying Democrats to support Representative Tom Perriello, a freshman who supported every piece of the administration’s agenda, but he was defeated despite the president’s appeals to Democrats in a state that he carried two years ago.

In governors’ races, Republicans won several contests in the nation’s middle. They held onto governorships in Texas, Nebraska and South Dakota, and had seized seats now occupied by Democrats in Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas. Sam Brownback, a United States Senator and Republican, easily took the Kansas post that Mark Parkinson, a former Republican turned Democrat, is leaving behind.

Though Democrats, who before the election held 26 governors’ seats compared to 24 for the Republicans, were expected to face losses, there were also bright spots. In New York, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo easily defeated the Republican, Carl P. Paladino, even as Republicans were expected to pick up seats in the state legislature and the congressional delegation. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick won a second term.

As the election results rolled in, with Republicans picking up victories shortly after polls closed in states across the South, East and the Midwest, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and other party leaders made urgent appeals through television interviews that there was still time for voters in other states to cast their ballots.

But the mood in Democratic quarters was glum, with few early signs of optimism in House or Senate races that were called early in the evening. Surveys that were conducted with voters across the country also provided little sense of hope for Democrats, with Republicans gaining a majority of independents, college-educated people and suburbanites — all groups that were part of the coalition of voters who supported Mr. Obama two years ago.

“We’ve come to take our government back,” Mr. Paul told cheering supporters who gathered in Bowling Green, Ky. “They say that the U.S. Senate is the world’s most deliberative body. I’m going to ask them to deliberate on this: The American people are unhappy with what’s going on in Washington.”

The election was a referendum on President Obama and the Democratic agenda, according to interviews with voters that were conducted for the National Election Pool, a consortium of television networks and The Associated Press, with a wide majority of the electorate saying that the country was seriously off track. Nearly nine in 10 voters said they were worried about the economy and about 4 in 10 said their family’s situation had worsened in the last two years.

The surveys found that voters were even more dissatisfied with Congress now than they were in 2006, when Democrats reclaimed control from the Republicans. Preliminary results also indicated an electorate far more conservative than four years ago, a sign of stronger turnout by people leaning toward Republicans.

Most voters said they believed Mr. Obama’s policies would hurt the country in the long run, rather than help it, and a large share of voters said they supported the Tea Party movement, which has backed insurgent candidates all across the country.

The Republican winds began blowing back in January when Democrats lost the seat long held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, with the victory of Scott P. Brown serving as a motivating force for the budding Tea Party movement and a burst of inspiration for Republican candidates across the country to step forward and challenge Democrats everywhere.

On Tuesday, the president did not leave the grounds of the White House, taking a respite from days of campaigning across the country, so he could meet with a circle of top advisers to plot a way forward for his administration and his own looming re-election campaign. The White House said Mr. Obama would hold a news conference on Wednesday to address the governing challenges that await the new Congress.

“My hope is that I can cooperate with Republicans,” Mr. Obama said in a radio interview on Tuesday. “But obviously, the kinds of compromises that will be made depends on what Capitol Hill looks like — who’s in charge.”

But even as the president was poised to offer a fresh commitment to bipartisanship, he spent the final hours of the midterm campaign trying to persuade Democrats in key states to take time to vote. From the Oval Office, Mr. Obama conducted one radio interview after another, urging black voters in particular to help preserve the party’s majority and his agenda.

“How well I’m able to move my agenda forward over the next couple of years is going to depend on folks back home having my back,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with the Chicago radio station WGCI, in which he made an unsuccessful appeal for voters to keep his former Senate seat in Democratic hands.

There was little Democratic terrain across the country that seemed immune to Republican encroachment, with many of the most competitive races being waged in states that Mr. Obama carried strongly only two years ago. From the president’s home state of Illinois to neighboring Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio — all places that were kind to the Democratic ticket in 2008 — Republicans worked aggressively to find new opportunities.

For all the drama surrounding the final day of the midterm campaign, more than 19 million Americans had voted before Tuesday, a trend that has grown with each election cycle over the last decade, as 32 states now offer a way for voters to practice democracy in far more convenient ways than simply waiting in line on Election Day.


Megan Thee-Brenan, David M. Herszenhorn

and Michael Luo contributed reporting.

G.O.P. Captures House, but Not Senate, NYT, 2.11.2010,






House Passes Bill to Address

Threat of Climate Change


June 27, 2009
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation on Friday intended to address global warming and transform the way the nation produces and uses energy.

The vote was the first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change. The legislation, which passed despite deep divisions among Democrats, could lead to profound changes in many sectors of the economy, including electric power generation, agriculture, manufacturing and construction.

The bill’s passage, by 219 to 212, with 44 Democrats voting against it, also established a marker for the United States when international negotiations on a new climate change treaty begin later this year.

At the heart of the legislation is a cap-and-trade system that sets a limit on overall emissions of heat-trapping gases while allowing utilities, manufacturers and other emitters to trade pollution permits, or allowances, among themselves. The cap would grow tighter over the years, pushing up the price of emissions and presumably driving industry to find cleaner ways of making energy.

President Obama hailed the House passage of the bill as “a bold and necessary step.” He said in a statement that he looked forward to Senate action that would send a bill to his desk “so that we can say, at long last, that this was the moment when we decided to confront America’s energy challenge and reclaim America’s future.”

Mr. Obama had lobbied wavering lawmakers in recent days, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore had made personal appeals to dozens of fence-sitters.

As difficult as House passage proved, it is just the beginning of the energy and climate debate in Congress. The issue now moves to the Senate, where political divisions and regional differences are even more stark.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, a co-sponsor of the bill, called the vote a “decisive and historic action” that would position the United States as a leader in energy efficiency and technology.

But the legislation, a patchwork of compromises, falls far short of what many European governments and environmentalists have said is needed to avert the worst effects of global warming. And it pitted liberal Democrats from the East and West Coasts against more conservative Democrats from areas dependent on coal for electricity and on heavy manufacturing for jobs.

While some environmentalists enthusiastically supported the legislation, others, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, opposed it. Industry officials were split, with the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers opposing the bill and some of the nation’s biggest corporations, including Dow Chemical and Ford, backing it.

Republican leaders called the legislation a national energy tax and predicted that those who voted for the measure would pay a heavy price at the polls next year.

“No matter how you doctor it or tailor it,” said Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, “it is a tax.”

Only eight Republicans voted for the bill, which runs to more than 1,300 pages.

Representative John Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, stalled the vote by using his privilege as a party leader to consume just over an hour by reading from a 300-page amendment added in the early hours of Friday.

Apart from its domestic implications, the legislation represents a first step toward measurable cuts in carbon dioxide emissions that administration officials can point to when the United States joins other nations in negotiating a new global climate change treaty later this year. For nearly 20 years, the United States has resisted mandatory limits on heat-trapping emissions.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who was in Washington on Friday to meet with Mr. Obama, strongly endorsed the bill even though it fell short of European goals for reducing the emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Mrs. Merkel, a longtime advocate of strong curbs on emissions, has been pushing the United States to take a leading role before the climate negotiations, set for December in Copenhagen.

After meeting with Mr. Obama, she said she had seen a “sea change” in the United States on climate policy that she could not have imagined a year ago when President George W. Bush was in office.

The House legislation reflects a series of concessions necessary to attract the support of Democrats from different regions and with different ideologies. In the months of horse-trading before the vote Friday, the bill’s targets for emissions of heat-trapping gases were weakened, its mandate for renewable electricity was scaled back, and incentives for industries were sweetened.

The bill’s sponsors were making deals on the House floor right up until the time of the vote. They set aside money for new energy research and a hurricane study center in Florida.

The final bill has a goal of reducing greenhouse gases in the United States to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by midcentury.

When the program is scheduled to begin, in 2012, the estimated price of a permit to emit a ton of carbon dioxide will be about $13. That is projected to rise steadily as emission limits come down, but the bill contains a provision to prevent costs from rising too quickly in any one year.

The bill would grant a majority of the permits free in the early years of the program, to keep costs low. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the average American household would pay an additional $175 a year in energy costs by 2020 as a result of the provision, while the poorest households would receive rebates that would lower their annual energy costs by $40.

Several House members expressed concern about the market to be created in carbon allowances, saying it posed the same risks as those in markets in other kinds of derivatives. Regulation of such markets would be divided among the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The bill also sets a national standard of 20 percent for the production of renewable electricity by 2020, although a third of that could be met with efficiency measures rather than renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.

It also devotes billions of dollars to new energy projects and subsidies for low-carbon agricultural practices, research on cleaner coal and electric vehicle development.

Mr. Gore, who shared a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, posted an appeal on his blog for passage of the legislation.

“This bill doesn’t solve every problem,” Mr. Gore said, “but passage today means that we build momentum for the debate coming up in the Senate and negotiations for the treaty talks in December which will put in place a global solution to the climate crisis. There is no backup plan.”

House Passes Bill to Address Threat of Climate Change,
NYT, 27.6.2009,






House Passes Spending Bill,

and Critics Are Quick

to Point Out Pork


February 26, 2009
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday passed a $410 billion omnibus spending bill packed with pet projects requested by Democrats and Republicans alike.

The 245-to-178 vote came just a week after President Obama signed one of the largest spending bills in the nation’s history, a $787 billion measure meant to rejuvenate a sluggish economy.

The new bill, a reflection of Democratic priorities, increases spending on domestic programs by an average of 8 percent in the current fiscal year, which began in October.

On Thursday, Mr. Obama is scheduled to send his budget for the next fiscal year to Congress. He did not take a formal position on the bill passed by the House.

“It’s a big document,” a White House official said. “We are still reviewing it.”

Republicans, however, did not mince words in describing the spending bill as wasteful. And one watchdog group said the bill provided nearly $8 billion for more than 8,500 pet projects favored by lawmakers, including $1.7 million for a honey bee laboratory in Weslaco, Tex.; $346,000 for research on apple fire blight in Michigan and New York; and $1.5 million for work on grapes and grape products, including wine.

Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana, said Mr. Obama’s call for fiscal responsibility, in a speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, was “sandwiched between two wasteful spending bills.”

Representative Mark Steven Kirk, Republican of Illinois, pointed out that the new bill came just two days after the White House held a forum to promote fiscal restraint.

The legislation includes nine of the regular appropriations bills for this fiscal year. Unable to reach agreement with President George W. Bush last year, Congress provided most domestic agencies and programs with a short-term infusion of cash, which runs out at the end of next week.

Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate have already negotiated and agreed on the contents of the new legislation. But conservative Republican senators could try to amend the bill, to pare it down or delete earmarks. If they succeed, the bill would need to go back to the House before it could be presented to the president.

The bill increases budgets for the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation, among others.

Over all, it provides $19 billion more than Mr. Bush requested for the same agencies and $31 billion more than what they got in the last fiscal year.

Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the bill “turns the page once and for all on the last eight years.”

Democrats boasted that they had not included earmarks in the economic stimulus bill, but lawmakers of both parties relished the opportunity to stuff the new bill with pet projects.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, counted more than 8,500 “Congressionally designated projects” in the bill and said the cost of these earmarks totaled $7.7 billion., up 3.4 percent from last year.

Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said it was unseemly for Congress to finance so many pet projects at a time when “the Justice Department is investigating the connection between earmarks and campaign contributions.”

By a vote of 226 to 182, the House killed a proposal by Mr. Flake calling on the House ethics committee to investigate such connections.

Representative David R. Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said earmarks were a small part of the bill and had been fully disclosed. Without the earmarks, he said, “the White House and its anonymous bureaucrats” would control all spending.

Moreover, Democrats said 40 percent of the spending on earmarks went to projects that had been requested by Republicans.

Representative Jerry Lewis of California, the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said that to understand the magnitude of new federal spending, one must look at the money in the omnibus bill and the money for the same agencies in the economic stimulus law, which together total $680 billion. That sum is 80 percent higher than spending for those agencies last year, he said.

A number of policy changes are included in the bill. It would, for example, make it easier for Americans to visit immediate relatives in Cuba. And it would forbid Mexican trucks to operate outside certain commercial zones along the border with the United States. The Teamsters union, which supported Mr. Obama’s election last year, had sought the restriction.

Among the pet projects is one to help producers of genuine pork, in contrast to the Congressional variety. The bill includes $1.8 million to conduct research in Iowa on “swine odor and manure management.”

The legislation includes $173,000 for research on asparagus production in Washington State; $206,000 for wool research in Montana, Texas and Wyoming; and $209,000 for efforts to improve blueberry production in Georgia.

It also includes $208,000 to control a weed known as cogongrass in Mississippi; $1.2 million to control cormorants in Michigan, Mississippi, New York and Vermont; $1 million to control Mormon crickets in Utah; and $162,000 to control rodents in Hawaii.

Democrats also earmarked money for the presidential libraries of three Democrats: Franklin D. Roosevelt ($17.5 million), John F. Kennedy ($22 million) and Lyndon B. Johnson ($2 million).

The bill even includes earmarks requested by some lawmakers who have left Congress, like Senator Pete V. Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, and Representative William J. Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana.

House Republicans have been divided on the merits of earmarks. Some, like Mr. Flake and the minority leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, do not request earmarks. But other Republicans, including many on the Appropriations Committee, do request such projects.

In the Republican response to Mr. Obama’s speech on Tuesday night, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana said Republicans lost the public’s trust in recent years because they “went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington.”

House Passes Spending Bill,
and Critics Are Quick to Point Out Pork,
NYT, 26.2.2009,






From Bush,

Foe of Earmarks, Similar Items


February 10, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Bush often denounces the propensity of Congress to earmark money for pet projects. But in his new budget, Mr. Bush has requested money for thousands of similar projects.

He asked for money to build fish hatcheries, eradicate agricultural pests, conduct research, pave highways, dredge harbors and perform many other specific local tasks.

The details are buried deep in the president’s budget, just as most Congressional earmarks are buried in obscure committee reports that accompany spending bills.

Thus, for example, the president requested $330 million to deal with plant pests like the emerald ash borer, the light brown apple moth and the sirex woodwasp. He sought $800,000 for the Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Missouri and $1.5 million for a waterway named in honor of former Senator J. Bennett Johnston, a Louisiana Democrat.

At the same time, Mr. Bush requested $894,000 for an air traffic control tower in Kalamazoo, Mich.; $12 million for a parachute repair shop at the American air base in Aviano, Italy; and $6.5 million for research in Wyoming on the “fundamental properties of asphalt.”

He sought $3 million for a forest conservation project in Minnesota, $2.1 million for a neutrino detector at the South Pole and $28 million for General Electric and Siemens to do research on hydrogen-fuel turbines.

The projects, itemized in thousands of pages of budget documents submitted last week to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, show that the debate over earmarks is much more complex than the “all or nothing” choice usually presented to the public. The president and Congress both want to direct money to specific projects, but often disagree over the merits of particular items.

The White House contends that when the president requests money for a project, it has gone through a rigorous review — by the agency, the White House or both — using objective criteria.

Congressional leaders said they would focus more closely on items requested by the president this year. “The executive branch should be held accountable for its own earmark practices,” said the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats agreed that “the large number of presidential earmarks deserve the same scrutiny and restraint” as those that originated in Congress.

Mr. Bush has often derided Congressional earmarks as “special interest items” that waste taxpayer money and undermine trust in government. Congress, he said, included more than 11,700 earmarks totaling almost $17 billion in spending bills for the current fiscal year.

But some of those earmarks were similar or identical to ones included in the 2009 budget that Mr. Bush sent Congress last week. For example, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip, obtained an earmark of $1.5 million last year to deal with the emerald ash borer, a beetle that attacks trees, lawns and crops. Mr. Bush now wants more money to fight that insect.

A similar pattern is evident at the Bureau of Reclamation, an Interior Department agency that provides water and power in 17 states. Congress and the White House both support construction of a huge water project known as Mni Wiconi, which would deliver water from the Missouri River to rural South Dakota.

At the behest of South Dakota lawmakers, Congress earmarked $38 million for the project last year. In its budget justification for 2009, the bureau requests $779 million for more than 150 specific projects, including $26 million more for the one in South Dakota.

Similarly, the Bush administration is requesting money for a water project near the Nueces River in South Texas — the same project that benefited from a bipartisan Congressional earmark last year.

In effect, the president accepted some Congressional earmarks as worthy of continued federal support. But he rejected many more and sought no money for them in 2009.

The White House defines “earmarks” in a way that applies only to projects designated by Congress, not to those requested by the administration.

“Earmarks,” as defined by the White House, “are funds provided by Congress for projects or programs where the Congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the executive branch to properly manage funds.”

Sean M. Kevelighan, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said: “The administration’s budget proposals are available for any taxpayer to see. We submit a justification for each item. That’s very different from what happens on Capitol Hill, where items are dropped into legislation at the last minute, for no rhyme or reason other than the seniority of a member of Congress.”

Democrats sometimes say the Bush administration has approved projects to help its political allies, but such assertions are hard to prove. In the 2004 campaign, administration officials raced around the country handing out money for federal programs, including some that Mr. Bush had tried to cut or eliminate.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is winning support with a different tactic. Mr. McCain regularly receives cheers and applause when he declares, “I will not sign a bill with earmarks in it, any earmarks in it.”

It is virtually impossible to determine the dollar value of items requested by the president because they are scattered through voluminous budget documents prepared by dozens of federal offices and agencies, and the administration does not publish comprehensive lists, as Congress did last year for the first time.

Administration officials say that many projects in the president’s budget — though they may look like Congressional earmarks — were evaluated as part of a coherent program to address some national need, like pest eradication or flood control.

Mr. Bush’s budget says, for example, that the Army Corps of Engineers uses “performance-based guidelines” to set priorities for navigation and flood control projects, ensuring that benefits will outweigh costs.

But the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, found that the corps’s studies of proposed projects were “fraught with errors, mistakes and miscalculations” that tended to overstate the benefits and understate the costs.

When Transportation Department officials unveiled their 2009 budget this week, they boasted of more than two dozen new projects, and they said they had carefully weighed factors like “benefits per passenger mile.”

The president requested $125,000 for a new rapid bus line on Troost Avenue in Kansas City, Mo., and $11 million for bus-only lanes along parts of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

“We are putting tax dollars where they will move the greatest number of people, so taxpayers get a good return on their investment,” said James S. Simpson, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

Criticism of earmarks has been a constant theme in the Bush administration. Within three months of taking office, Mr. Bush asked Congress to kill many of the earmarks enacted into law at the end of the Clinton administration.

In his State of the Union address last year, Mr. Bush complained that 90 percent of Congressional earmarks were concealed in committee reports.

“You didn’t vote them into law,” Mr. Bush told Congress. “I didn’t sign them into law. Yet they’re treated as if they have the force of law.”

On Jan. 29, Mr. Bush ordered federal officials to “ignore any future earmark that is not voted on and included in a law approved by Congress.”

The president submits legislative language to Congress for every appropriations bill, but most of his project requests are not found there. They are buried in thick documents that carry titles like “Budget Estimates” or “Justification of Estimates for Appropriations Committees.”

From Bush, Foe of Earmarks, Similar Items,
NYT, 10.2.2008,






Earmarks Likely to Continue,

but With Details


January 22, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Bush is unlikely to defy Congress on spending billions of dollars earmarked for pet projects, but he will probably insist that lawmakers provide more justification for such earmarks in the future, administration officials said Monday.

Fiscal conservatives in Congress and budget watchdogs have been urging Mr. Bush to issue an executive order instructing agencies to disregard the many earmarks listed just in committee reports, not in the text of legislation.

More than 90 percent of earmarks are specified that way, not actually included in the texts. White House officials say such earmarks are not legally binding on the president.

Congressional leaders of both parties, who are scheduled to meet on Tuesday with the president, said Mr. Bush would provoke a huge outcry on Capitol Hill if he ignored those earmarks.

Lawmakers, including the House Republican whip, Roy Blunt of Missouri, have cautioned the White House that a furor over earmarks could upend Mr. Bush’s hopes for cooperation with Congress on other issues, including efforts to revive the economy.

Moreover, Republicans shudder at the possibility that a Democratic president might reject all their earmarks.

In effect, the White House is avoiding a clash with Congress over specific projects while preserving the president’s ability to demand a further reduction in earmarks generally.

A band of Republican lawmakers led by Representative Jeff Flake of Arizona and Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina has attacked earmarks, saying they waste money and corrupt the legislative process. But a larger number of lawmakers avidly seek them and boast of success in securing money for constituents. Republicans received about 40 percent of the earmarks in the spending bills for 2008.

A new tally by the White House Office of Management and Budget shows that the 2008 spending bills signed by Mr. Bush include more than 11,700 earmarks, totaling $16.9 billion. By the White House count, the number was down 1,754 from 2005, and the amount of money was down $2.1 billion, or 11 percent.

Using different definitions, some groups have come up with different figures, showing a larger decline in the dollar value of earmarks. Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog, estimates the reduction at 25 percent, half the goal set by Mr. Bush.

The earmarks for this year set aside money for museums and bicycle trails, control of agricultural pests like the emerald ash borer beetle and aid to specific military contractors producing items like missiles, munitions and “merino wool boot socks.”

Mr. Bush recently mocked earmarks for a prison museum in Kansas and a sailing school in California.

Nearly one-fifth of the earmarks and more than one-third of the money were in the Defense Department appropriations bill.

On Dec. 20, Mr. Bush instructed Jim Nussle, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to “review options for dealing with the wasteful spending” in earmarks.

At the same time, 19 groups urged Mr. Bush to shut “the Congressional favor factory” by directing agencies to disregard earmarks tucked into committee reports.

“Such an action is within your constitutional powers and would strike a blow for fiscal responsibility,” said a letter from the groups, which included the American Conservative Union, the National Taxpayers Union and Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The groups pressed their case in a recent meeting with Barry Jackson, a top aide to the president, but they said they received no assurances.

In his State of the Union message last year, Mr. Bush said: “Over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate. They are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn’t vote them into law. I didn’t sign them into law. Yet, they’re treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice.”

White House lawyers have found many court decisions holding, as the Supreme Court said in 2005, that “restrictive language contained in committee reports is not legally binding.”

The comptroller general, the nation’s top auditor, and the Congressional Research Service agree with that position, as a matter of law. But in setting forth that view in a 1993 case, the Supreme Court observed, “An agency’s decision to ignore Congressional expectations may expose it to grave political consequences.”

Mr. Blunt, the Republican whip, said that any White House actions were likely to be prospective, setting standards for future earmarks. The purpose, he said, would be to ensure that a project “meets the criteria the taxpayers want it to meet before the money is distributed.”

Grover G. Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a coalition of taxpayer groups, said he expected the White House to establish rules and procedures to screen out “the most egregious earmarks.”

The sponsor of an earmark might, for example, be required to provide a written justification, including requests for the money from local officials, universities or companies that would benefit.

Presidential candidates should be asked whether they would keep such standards, Mr. Norquist said.

Even in Alaska, long dependent on federal largess, officials are trying to wean the state off earmarks. In her State of the State address last week, Gov. Sarah Palin, a Republican, said, “We cannot and must not rely so heavily on federal government earmarks.”

Earmarks Likely to Continue, but With Details,
NYT, 22.1.2008,






Religious Groups

Reap Share of U.S. Aid

for Pet Projects


May 13, 2007

The New York Times




St. Vincent College, a small Benedictine college southeast of Pittsburgh, wanted to realign a two-lane state road serving the campus. But the state transportation department did not have the money.

So St. Vincent tried Washington instead. The college hired a professional lobbyist in 2004 and, later that year, two paragraphs were tucked into federal appropriation bills with the help of Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania, awarding $4 million solely for that project. College officials said the work would improve the safety and appearance of the road into the campus, which President Bush visited two days ago to give the college’s commencement address.

Religious organizations have long competed for federal contracts to provide social services, and they have tried to influence Congress on matters of moral and social policy — indeed, most major denominations have a presence in Washington to monitor such legislation. But an analysis of federal records shows that some religious organizations are also hiring professional lobbyists to pursue the narrowly tailored individual appropriations known as earmarks.

A New York Times analysis shows that the number of earmarks for religious organizations, while small compared with the overall number, have increased sharply in recent years. From 1989 to January 2007, Congress approved almost 900 earmarks for religious groups, totaling more than $318 million, with more than half of them granted in the Congressional session that included the 2004 presidential election. By contrast, the same analysis showed fewer than 60 earmarks for faith-based groups in the Congressional session that covered 1997 and 1998.

Earmarks are individual federal grants that bypass the normal appropriations and competitive-bidding procedures. They have been blamed for feeding the budget deficit and have figured in several Capitol Hill bribery scandals, prompting recent calls for reform from White House and Congressional leaders.

They are distinct from the competitive, peer-reviewed grants that have traditionally been used by religious institutions and charities to obtain money for social services.

As the number of faith-based earmarks grew, the period from 1998 to 2005 saw a tripling in the number of religious organizations listed as clients of Washington lobbying firms and a doubling in the amount they paid for services, according to an analysis by The Times.

Sometimes the earmarks benefited programs aimed at helping others. There have been numerous earmarks totaling $5.4 million for World Vision, the global humanitarian ministry, to conduct job training, youth mentoring and gang prevention programs. Another earmark provided $150,000 to help St. Jerome’s Church in the Bronx build a community center, and Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical seminary in Pasadena, Calif., received $2 million to study gambling and juvenile violence.

But many of the earmarks address the prosaic institutional needs of some specific religious group, like the ones giving the Mormon Church control over two parcels of federal land of historic significance to the church, transferring 10 acres of federal forest land to a small church in Florida, allowing a historic church surrounded by a federal park in Ohio to use public land to expand its parking space, and handing several acres of government land over to a Catholic college in New Hampshire. (An interactive database of almost 900 faith-based earmarks can be found at nytimes.com.)

Earmarks have also helped finance new buildings on religious college campuses, including a fitness center at Malone College, a small evangelical Christian liberal arts college in Canton, Ohio.

The $1 million that helped build the center came from an earmark by Representative Ralph S. Regula, whose district includes the college, according to Suzanne Thomas, director of communications for the college. Another earmark helped pay for a new school of nursing, she said.

In seeking the earmarks, the college hired a Washington lobbyist “to help us with a ‘boots on the ground’ program of meeting with various Congressional and Senate leaders,” Ms. Thomas said, noting that many private colleges are enlisting similar lobbying help.

Several scholars who wrote books about religious advocacy work in Washington in the 1980s and early 1990s say the push for earmarks identified in The Times analysis represents a sharp departure from the lobbying strategies traditionally associated with religious groups. One of them, Allen D. Hertzke, a professor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, said, “I never heard religious lobbyists talk about earmarks.” That view was echoed by Daniel J.<133>B. Hofrenning, a professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.: “Getting heavily into the pork-barrel politics of earmarks — that is a distinctive change.”

It is a shift that some religious advocates find worrisome.

“Earmarks are bad public policy,” said Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Office of Government Relations in Washington. “If earmarks are not in the public interest, I would wonder why the faith community would be involved in them. It would hurt our credibility.”

James E. Winkler, who has represented the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society since 2000, says he fears that the pursuit of earmarks could muffle religion’s moral voice. “For example, we’ve opposed the war since day one,” he said. “But what if an earmark benefiting us — money for a Methodist seminary, perhaps — is attached to the supplemental appropriation for the war? You can see how very serious moral conflicts could arise.”

The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, said that while religious organizations should be able to compete for federal money, such groups “shouldn’t do that through earmarks.” He explained, “As good stewards of the public trust, we have to be transparent and above board — and earmarks are not transparent or above board.”

And, constitutional lawyers point out, because the First Amendment prohibits direct government financing of religious activities, earmarks that steer money to religious groups pose constitutional risks. Indeed, several faith-based earmarks were successfully challenged as unconstitutional long after Congress approved them.

Paul Marcone, a lobbyist and former Capitol Hill staff member who specializes in getting earmarks for nonprofit clients, disputes the notion that religious groups should not pursue them.

“Despite what the critics say, there is far more transparency in earmarks than in the discretionary grant process,” Mr. Marcone said. “It’s the difference between unelected bureaucrats using a peer-review process and an elected member of Congress.”

Applying for competitive government grants “is a very frustrating process,” Mr. Marcone added. “You might score very high and have an innovative program, and still not get funded.” By contrast, he said, all his nonprofit clients who sought earmarks received grants within two years of signing on with him.

The lobbying firm to which Malone College and dozens of other religious organizations have turned is Mr. Marcone’s former employer, the Russ Reid Company, based in Pasadena, Calif. Since 1964, Russ Reid has provided direct-mail and other fund-raising services to some of the nation’s largest charities, like World Vision and Habitat for Humanity.

But it also maintains a government relations office in Washington, directed by Mark D. McIntyre, a former Congressional press secretary and a vice presidential speechwriter in the Reagan administration. “If your focus is on how faith-based organizations are getting earmarks, I’m your guy,” Mr. McIntyre said in a brief telephone conversation last month. But the company subsequently canceled an interview with Mr. McIntyre and declined to comment further about his work.

Among the dozens of institutions for which Russ Reid has helped obtain earmarks are several faith-based rescue missions, including the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, the Light of Life Mission in Pittsburgh and the Gospel Rescue Ministries of Washington; a host of religious colleges and seminaries, including Fuller seminary and Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, Calif., which got a $750,000 earmark for its new science center; and various Catholic ministries, including the specialized children’s educational programs of the Holy Family Institute in Pittsburgh.

Russ Reid has also lobbied for earmarks for World Vision, the humanitarian service ministry. Seeking earmarks is a departure for World Vision. “On the international side, we do not do earmark advocacy,” said Joseph Mettimano, director of public policy and advocacy. Instead of competing for an earmarked slice of money, the charity joins with other aid organizations to lobby for a bigger pie of foreign aid, he explained, adding that similar solidarity on the domestic front could “absolutely” be beneficial.

World Vision is evaluating whether to continue to seek earmarks, according to Romanita Hairston, its vice president for domestic programs. A main concern is the cost-effectiveness of such financing, but the controversy over earmarking is also being weighed, she said.

Among the beneficiaries of Mr. Marcone’s lobbying was the Silver Ring Thing, a faith-based abstinence program for teenagers. The program’s earmarked grant was suspended after being challenged as unconstitutional in May 2005, but other earmarks have been granted to Silver Ring Thing programs in Pennsylvania, Alabama and South Carolina.

Federal law and regulations require that all faith-based recipients of earmarks use the money only for non-religious purposes. But a federal appeals court decision late last year has raised fresh constitutional questions about earmarks awarded specifically to religious rescue missions.

The ruling came in a pending case that involves a homeless shelter owned by the city of Boise, Idaho, but operated, under city contract, by the Boise Rescue Mission. In a preliminary ruling, a trial judge refused to ban voluntary worship services at the city-owned shelter.

In November, the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco reversed that decision, citing “serious questions” about whether the city’s support for the faith-based rescue mission has the unconstitutional effect of advancing religion.

Constitutional questions aside, the political controversy over earmarks has already begun to affect their availability for all petitioners, including faith-based groups. But some lobbyists are optimistic that earmarks for faith-based groups and other nonprofits will be spared.

Indeed, Mr. Marcone said that increasing the transparency of the earmark process could actually work to the advantage of faith-based groups and other deserving nonprofit groups. If members of Congress are required to put their names on their earmarks, he explained, “they are going to want to award money to programs that are going to make them look good, and those are going to be groups that are doing good work.”

But for those who believe religious organizations should not pursue private-purpose earmarks, that is not necessarily good news.

Clyde Wilcox, a Georgetown University professor who has written extensively on religion and politics, said religious groups would naturally justify earmarks. But their moral authority in Washington — “the extra prophetic power of the religious voice,” as he put it — largely arises from the fact that they are not seen as self-interested, he said. “The loss of that prophetic voice would be profound.”

Kenneth Wald, a professor at the University of Florida who also studies religion in the political arena, foresees a more pragmatic danger for religious organizations that lobby for earmarks. “If they start to act like any other special interest, they’ll start to be treated like any other special interest,” he said. “I think it’s nuts to take that risk.”

Religious Groups Reap Share of U.S. Aid for Pet Projects,






Pork No Longer

Paves the Road to Re-election


December 25, 2006

The New York Times



PLEASANTON, Calif. — Until this year, Richard W. Pombo, the seven-term Republican congressman from the Central Valley, had never caused much fanfare about bringing home earmarks, the special local projects that circumvent the normal budgeting process. He was far better known for his work fighting environmental regulations.

All that changed in the closing months of this year’s surprisingly tight re-election campaign, when Mr. Pombo began trumpeting the money he had directed to his car-bound district — particularly $75 million for highway expansion, a gift for one of the most congested areas of California.

But it was not enough to persuade voters like Alex Aldenhuysen, a self-described independent, just out of the Navy and voting for the first time in two years. He said he was turned off by Mr. Pombo’s earmark talk. And in the end, Mr. Pombo lost his seat to a Democrat in one of the year’s most significant upsets.

A timeworn bit of political wisdom has been that larding one’s district with pork projects can act as an incumbency protection program. And the Republican leaders in Congress ardently followed that principle.

“The leadership talked all the time about how we’ve got to use earmarks to help these vulnerable members,” said Representative Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, who has become one of Washington’s loudest opponents of earmarking. “But what this election showed was that earmarks just aren’t that important to voters.”

The powers of incumbency could not outweigh far more pressing issues, this year, like the war in Iraq — which became the central point of most of the Democratic campaigns — or the scandals that tarnished the Republican Party as a whole. The abuse of earmarks itself became an issue in several races with some of their biggest users, including two senators and four House members who served on the appropriations committees that oversee federal spending, losing their seats.

It would be premature to write off the power of earmarks. Even in a highly unfavorable year for Republicans, some of the biggest pork-style spenders handily won re-election. And though Democrats have vowed to strip earmarks from unfinished spending bills, the practice is such an oft-used political tool that it may prove too tempting to eliminate.

“When you’re talking about institutional change, you need something sweeping to happen in an election,” said James D. Savage, a professor of political science at the University of Virginia and the author of a book on earmarks. “I think the incentive to use earmarks is still there because it’s one of the few tools a member of Congress can use.”

The number and total cost of earmarks reached record highs over the last two years, but they seemed to offer little help to some members.

Representative Anne M. Northup, a Kentucky Republican who was a member of the House Appropriations Committee, was defeated after five terms despite bringing earmarks to her district, which includes Louisville, that were worth more than five times that of two other districts without competitive races. Mr. Flake identified her as one of the Republican leaders who pushed for earmarks to help troubled incumbents.

“Anne Northup was in there saying we’ve got to have these earmarks to help certain members,” Mr. Flake said. “She was always saying how valuable they are.”

In an interview, Ms. Northup defended earmarks as a flexible budget tool for members of Congress, and she took issue with Mr. Flake’s conclusion that voters rejected politicians who relied on them.

Instead, she singled out one of the most notorious earmarks of the last budget cycle — $230 million to build a bridge from a small town in Alaska to an island with fewer than 50 people — as an anchor that dragged down other Republicans. Representative Don Young, an Alaska Republican who served as chairman of the Transportation Committee, guided a bill loaded with a record amount of earmarks, including his bridge project in his district.

“How do you explain to voters a $230 million bridge to nowhere?” Ms. Northup asked. Mr. Young, who has been chairman of the Transportation Committee since 2001, did not respond to interview requests.

A few weeks before the end of his re-election campaign, Senator Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, issued an unusual news release. He added up all the earmark projects he had delivered to his state, boasting of bringing home $2 billion to a state with fewer than a million people.

Montana, Mr. Burns said, had been awarded a huge range of federal projects, from $597,000 for the Montana Sheep Institute to $8 million to encourage private space travel.

“That money is going to be spent somewhere,” Mr. Burns said in a debate at Montana State University, where the Burns Technology Center is named for him. “I want Montanans to get first share.”

Mr. Burns, a three-term senator who was considered one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents, lost by about 3,000 votes.

“These vulnerables were literally screaming at the top of their lungs about what they’ve been able to deliver,” said Steve Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog group.

Representative Mike Sodrel, Republican of Indiana, was put on an influential transportation committee two years ago specifically so he could increase the amount of financing for his swing district, he said in a news release.

For Mr. Sodrel’s district, it paid off. He boasted that he had been able to increase transportation spending there by $220 million, or 37 percent, from the previous spending bill. Mr. Sodrel still lost his seat in November.

There were several races in which the ability to bring home hundreds of federal projects might have made enough of a difference to withstand a Democratic tide.

Representative Deborah Pryce of Ohio, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, issued dozens of news releases over the last 18 months boasting of the projects she brought home to a district that is considered evenly divided between the two parties.

There was $2.27 million to convert a mountain of garbage into a green energy center, $1.1 million to help keep residents of a fast-growing suburb from having to pay more in user fees for a new sewage system, and the latest installment in $2.7 million in federal disbursements to “evaluate freeze-dried berries for their ability to inhibit cancer.”

In a spending bill that never passed the most recent session of Congress, Ms. Pryce’s district stood to get the largest single earmark in Ohio — $1.75 million for a health research institute. In total, the Columbus area lined up about $4.5 million in special money.

By comparison, Portland, Ore. — a similar-sized metropolitan area with no contested Congressional seats — was to receive $625,000 in earmarks.

Ms. Pryce won by barely a thousand votes.

But she was in some ways an exception this year. Several Republican incumbents who tried a similar strategy of touting their earmarks were unsuccessful. Representative Charles Taylor, an eight-term Republican from North Carolina who lost his race, set up an interactive map on his re-election Web site to show the largess that he had directed to every county in his district.

“Click on the map to see how many of your taxpayer dollars Congressman Taylor has returned to your county,” it said, going on to detail items like $1 million for the creation of an Appalachian wine institute, $2 million to an astronomy center deep in the forests of Transylvania County and $3 million to a local school “to promote healthy childhood development and prevent violence.”

Mr. Taylor was chairman of the appropriations panel on the interior and environment, making him a spending “cardinal” in the House. His position may have led him to be caught off guard, said Mr. Ellis said.

“I think being an appropriator makes people lazy,” Mr. Ellis said. “They think they don’t have to do all the other important things for their district. It makes them feel bulletproof — ‘The voters wouldn’t be so stupid as to vote me out of office.’ ”

Mr. Taylor, who refused interview requests, lost his seat to Heath Shuler, who made excessive federal spending one of his campaign themes.

While people who oppose earmarks saw last month’s election as a rejection of the growing volume of special projects, others say that is the wrong way to interpret the results.

“Bringing federal projects home to a district helps an incumbent — period,” said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee. “Jeff Flake is totally misreading the results.”

He said Mr. Taylor and another member of the Appropriations Committee, Don Sherwood, Republican of Pennsylvania, had lost because of personal problems. Ms. Northup, he said, “was just in a bad district — it’s always been tight.”

He attributed Indiana’s three losses to poorly run campaigns.

But Mr. Flake cited his own state as proof that that pork does not ensure re-election. A fellow Arizona Republican member who had embraced earmarks, Representative J. D. Hayworth, lost his seat.

“In the end, the voters saw through it,” Mr. Flake said.

Mr. Forti attributed Mr. Hayworth’s loss to running a single-issue campaign, against immigration.

Still, Mr. Flake cites his own experience to back his point. Two years ago, Mr. Flake drew a strong opponent in the primary who rounded up several mayors in his district and made an issue of his refusal to tag earmarks for the home district.

Mr. Flake still won. This year, he was unopposed.

Pork No Longer Paves the Road to Re-election,










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