Today’s most ha-larious political news (in the Washington Post, via Ezra Klein at TAPPED) involves the Republican reaction to incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s announcement that the House would eschew the previous late-Tuesday to mid-Thursday work week, and actually require Members to show up five days a week, much like the rest of the American work force.A Republican House Member from my home state of Georgia supplied the Post with the richest comment: “‘Keeping us up here eats away at families,’ said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. ‘Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families — that’s what this says.'”At the risk of taking this fatuous comment too seriously, I would note that the abbreviated work week might have worked fine for a Republican Congress that did very little, and where Members who weren’t committee chairs or in the leadership had no particular role. But if Democrats truly want to ramp up the productivity of Congress, asking Members to spend at least half their time on the job doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable.More broadly, this idea that making Congress spend a fair amount of its time in the Capitol is “anti-marriage” or “anti-family,” is, well, a bit counter-historical. Before the era of easy commercial air travel, most Members went to Washington for each session and stayed there, typically without their families, often living in boarding houses that served as extraordinarily important unofficial venues for bipartisan comity, legislative deal-cutting, and (at the frequent drink-fests) legendary debates and oratory. We are often told by conservatives that marriage and family were safe and supreme in those long-gone days; wonder how they survived those months of nuclear family meltdown?As a lot of the Republican carping about Steny’s announcement indicates, I suspect the real beef here isn’t about denying Members family time, but denying them officially-paid campaign time. Here’s a revolutionary thought: how’s about making your and your party’s actual accomplishments in Congress your key campaign talking points, instead of demanding that you get to go home for four days each week to Bigfoot it around your district?Just wondering.
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.