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The Hill's Cusack Previews 114th Congress

By    |   Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 07:57 AM

As part of the preview of the 114th Congress, Bob Cusack, editor-in-chief of The Hill, appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal to discuss the issues and personalities that will dominate this upcoming Republican Congress. Cusack was interviewed by C-SPAN host John McArdle.

In response to the first question, Cusack dismissed speculation that the nascent insurgency within Republican ranks actually threatens the House Speakership of John Boehner, R-Ohio. Moving to the issue of the tactics required to pass controversial legislation, like an impending debt ceiling bill, Cusack said that while Boehner theoretically gained 13 Republican votes, some of them are more conservative than are the members they replaced, so Boehner is still going to have to rely on some Democratic votes to offset losses among conservatives.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has vowed to pass a budget, and without Democratic votes, he will have little room to lose votes from Senators like Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky. This writer would add that McConnell has also pledged to allow open consideration of legislation in sharp contrast to the practice of former Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who brought bills up under strict limits that gave Senators of both parties little scope to offer or vote on amendments.

Asked to identify the most interesting committee chairmen, Cusack singled out Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who Cusack called a frequent critic of the president, and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a skeptic of climate change, who will chair the Environment and Public Works Committee.

On the House side, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, will be taking over from controversial Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., as chairman of the Government Reform Committee, proposing a different approach to the oversight agenda, and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will chair the Ways and Means Committee and try to move significant tax and trade legislation while presumably eschewing another bid for national office and seeking to find common ground with the administration on at least the trade agenda. (A recent interview with presidential advisor Jeffrey Zients would suggest room for agreement on some business tax issues as well.)

Cusack is not at all optimistic about tax legislation, but he expects this Congress to be more productive than the last was, with the first test being the Keystone XL Pipeline bill early in this Congress.

An intriguing point Cusack made was that McConnell has shown a propensity to strike deals with the administration through Vice President Joe Biden rather than through President Obama. McConnell managed to survive any backlash from this reputation and not to meet the fate of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who also became known for a propensity to gravitate toward Biden. Perhaps it will be left to historians to explain this phenomenon.

Prompted by McArdle, Cusack mentioned the remarks of Jonathan Gruber, one of the architects of Obamacare, admitting that the legislation passed because voters and legislators were not paying attention, and Cusack sent so far to say that if a Supreme Court decision expected in June strikes down the authority for subsidies, "Obamacare crumbles." (It should be noted that the Court has many alternatives available in fashioning its decision, and the Roberts Court has already shown itself to be creative in upholding this statute so far.)

The climax for viewers was a question from McArdle about prospects for changes in the Dodd-Frank Act and other legislation affecting Wall Street. Cusack credited Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., with stirring up opposition on the left to an amendment to the omnibus budget deal in the lame duck session that weakened swaps regulation, and Cusack predicted that this opposition will be stronger in the new Congress as the Tea Party continues to oppose the Republican establishment "for years." Another outlet for this opposition will be opposition by Warren and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to Antonio Weiss, a high-level Treasury appointee with close ties to Wall Street who will be up for confirmation by this Republican Senate.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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As part of the preview of the 114th Congress, Bob Cusack, editor-in-chief of The Hill, appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal to discuss the issues and personalities that will dominate this upcoming Republican Congress. Cusack was interviewed by C-SPAN host John McArdle.
Cusack, Congress, Senator, Obama
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2015-57-06
Tuesday, 06 Jan 2015 07:57 AM
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