Category Archives: Elected Officials

Filibusters and Cloture in the Senate

Source: Valerie Heitshusen, Richard S. Beth, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, RL30360, April 7, 2017

The filibuster is widely viewed as one of the Senate’s most characteristic procedural features. Filibustering includes any use of dilatory or obstructive tactics to block a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote. The possibility of filibusters exists because Senate rules place few limits on Senators’ rights and opportunities in the legislative process. In particular, a Senator who seeks recognition usually has a right to the floor if no other Senator is speaking, and then that Senator may speak for as long as he or she wishes. Also, there is no motion by which a simple majority of the Senate can stop a debate and allow itself to vote in favor of an amendment, a bill or resolution, or most other debatable questions. Most bills, indeed, are potentially subject to at least two filibusters before the Senate votes on final passage: first, a filibuster on a motion to proceed to the bill’s consideration and, second, after the Senate agrees to this motion, a filibuster on the bill itself. Senate Rule XXII, however, known as the cloture rule, enables Senators to end a filibuster on any debatable matter the Senate is considering. Sixteen Senators initiate this process by presenting a motion to end the debate. In most circumstances, the Senate does not vote on this cloture motion until the second day of session after the motion is made. Then, it requires the votes of at least three-fifths of all Senators (normally 60 votes) to invoke cloture. (Invoking cloture on a proposal to amend the Senate’s standing rules requires the support of two-thirds of the Senators present and voting, whereas cloture on nominations requires a numerical majority.)

Facebook’s new ‘Town Hall’ feature helps you find and contact your government reps

Source: Sarah Perez, TechCrunch, March 14, 2017

In Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s nearly 6,000-word manifesto published last month, he laid out a number of global ambitions he had for the social network in the days ahead — including one where its users became more “civically-engaged” and voted more often. Now it seems Facebook has taken its first steps toward making that possible, through a new feature it’s calling “Town Hall.”

This latest addition has just popped up on the “More” menu in Facebook’s mobile app, and offers a simple way for users to find and connect with their government representatives on a local, state and federal level…..

The Paradox of Community Power: Cultural Processes and Elite Authority in Participatory Governance

Source: Jeremy R. Levine, Social Forces, Vol. 95 no. 3, March 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
From town halls to public forums, disadvantaged neighborhoods appear more “participatory” than ever. Yet increased participation has not necessarily resulted in increased influence. This article, drawing on a four-year ethnographic study of redevelopment politics in Boston, presents an explanation for the decoupling of participation from the promise of democratic decision-making. I find that poor urban residents gain the appearance of power and status by invoking and policing membership in “the community”—a boundary sometimes, though not always, implicitly defined by race. But this appearance of power is largely an illusion. In public meetings, government officials can reinforce their authority and disempower residents by exploiting the fact that the boundary demarcating “the community” lacks a standardized definition. When officials laud “the community” as an abstract ideal rather than a specific group of people, they reduce “the community process” to a bureaucratic procedure. Residents appear empowered, while officials retain ultimate decision-making authority. I use the tools of cultural sociology to make sense of these findings and conclude with implications for the study of participatory governance and urban inequality.

The Role of Constituency, Party, and Industry in Pennsylvania’s Act 13

Source: Bradford H. Bishop, Mark R. Dudley, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, OnlineFirst, First Published December 1, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While a large body of research exists regarding the role of industry money on roll-call voting in the U.S. Congress, there is surprisingly little scholarship pertaining to industry influence on state politics. This study fills this void in an analysis of campaign donations and voting during passage of Act 13 in Pennsylvania during 2011 and 2012. After collecting information about natural gas production in state legislative districts, we estimate a series of multivariate models aimed at uncovering whether campaign donations contributed to a more favorable policy outcome for industry. Our findings indicate that campaign donations played a small but systematic role in consideration of the controversial legislation, which represented one of the first and most important state-level regulatory reforms for the hydraulic fracturing industry.

The D.C. Think Tank Behind Donald Trump

Source: Alex Shephard, New Republic, February 22, 2017

How the Heritage Foundation is shaping the president’s playbook. …. The Heritage-Trump alliance is one of the more improbable developments in an election season that was full of them. A year ago, Heritage’s political arm dismissed Trump as a distraction, with no track record of allegiance to conservative causes. Today the group’s fingerprints are on virtually every policy Trump advocates, from his economic agenda to his Supreme Court nominees. According to Politico, Heritage employees acted as a “shadow transition team,” vetting potential Trump staffers to make sure the administration is well stocked with conservative appointees. …..