The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is one of the most powerful and successful military alliances in history. However, the organization hasn’t been without its controversies. At the center of many of these debates is the amount of money member countries have allocated to defense spending. Because NATO is a collective defense pact, it is essential that all member countries make adequate investments in their military and are ready and able to respond in the event of an attack against any one member country. This past week, debates over NATO spending came to a head when President Trump urged member countries to raise their target for annual defense spending from 2 percent to 4 percent of their GDP. Here are five facts you need to know about NATO history and defense spending:
1. NATO was established on April 4, 1949 as a political and military alliance among 29 North American and European countries. The organization was created as a response to increased Soviet aggression in the wake of World War II. Since the end of the Cold War in the late 20th century, NATO has taken action around the world to ensure the security of its members. One of the core tenets of NATO is Article 5, which states that an attack against one member of NATO is an attack against all members. The only time Article 5 has been invoked was following the 9/11 attack on the United States when NATO allies joined the U.S. in the “war on terror.”
2. The current benchmark for NATO member defense spending is 2 percent of a country’s GDP. At the 2014 summit in Wales, NATO leaders pledged to lift their defense spending to 2 percent of their country’s GDP by 2024. This decision came in response to imbalanced defense spending from member countries. At the time, only the U.S., United Kingdom, Greece, and Estonia spent at least 2 percent on defense. The remaining members spent less than 2 percent and eight countries allocated only 1 percent or less of their GDP to military spending. Despite this new agreement, by the end of 2017 only six countries — the U.S., U.K., Greece, Estonia, Romania, and Poland — met the 2 percent threshold. There is no penalty for not meeting the 2 percent mark.
3. Due to size of the American economy, the U.S. allocates the most money to defense spending. In 2017, the U.S. spent 3.58 percent of its GDP on defense. In terms of raw dollars, 3.58 percent of U.S. GDP translates to $685 billion. Measuring in raw dollars, the U.K. comes closest to the U.S. in defense spending. In the same period, the U.K. allocated $55 billion to defense (about 2.14 percent of its GDP).
This past week, Congress held another hearing on budget reform. Two former budget committee chairmen, Leon Panetta and David Obey, both testified. They lamented the current state of congressional budgeting and identified aspects of the 1974 Budget Act that discourage fiscally responsible and timely annual budgeting.
Readers might be tempted to shrug this off as a non-event. “Elected officials complain about the budget, but never do anything,” is a common sentiment. But there are reasons to believe that we might actually get budget reform this year.
Importantly, virtually everyone in Congress agrees the budget process is broken. Indeed, lawmakers began complaining about it as early as the 1980s, and over the years, have tried various fixes (such as Gramm-Rudman-Hollings).
Congressional recognition of the problem has expanded with each passing year, as deficits have skyrocketed and the budget process itself has broken down. Consider: By law, the House and Senate are supposed to approve a spending blueprint for the year (a budget resolution), and then pass a dozen individual spending bills that comport with the blueprint. However, Congress has agreed upon budget resolutions only three of five times in the past five years, and completed only one of the 60 appropriations acts on time. Viewed over the past decades, the picture is even worse: five of 10 budget resolutions finalized and five of 120 spending bills completed on time.
As the mayor of Brockton, Massachusetts, about 20 miles south of Boston, my priority and responsibility to my city and its residents is to rebuild Brockton’s economy, finance the renovation of Brockton High School, and insure that our residents have the necessary public safety services for our police and fire departments. While we have made significant progress in Brockton over the past four years, the economic challenges we face are stark, and our unemployment rate remains higher than the state average.
In order to continue the revitalization of Brockton, we envision a detailed plan to build a sports and entertainment district near the site of the Brockton Fairgrounds that would include a resort casino, which would pump $60 million per year into our local economy.
However, in 2016, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission rejected our casino proposal, which was backed by Rush Street Gaming, a Chicago-based casino and real estate company with the most successful suburban casinos in the country. The commission expressed concerns about over-saturation, as the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe had announced plans in late 2015 to construct a $1 billion casino — backed by Genting, a Malaysian casino company — just 17 miles away from Brockton in Taunton, Massachusetts.
This may appear to be a merely local issue, but the jurisdiction of tribal rights has been elevated to the federal level. A Supreme Court ruling (Carcieri v. Salazar) makes it clear that, because the Mashpee do not meet the federal statutory requirements, the Department of the Interior does not have the right to take East Taunton land into trust to allow the Mashpee to build a casino.
In his inaugural address, President Trump promised that “today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another — but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.” This week the President took a significant step toward fulfilling that promise when he nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
For too long the federal government has been the central authority in matters great and small in our country. The result is an increasingly ruptured political fabric, tribalism, and a polarized identity politics that continue to strain our body politic.
The Supreme Court, as much as any branch of our government, has been a culprit. By inserting itself into the most divisive political and cultural issues the Court has superseded the will of the people for decades and usurped the role of state legislatures and Congress. This of course has been the design of the progressive Left, which has sought an end-around those legislatures, fast-tracking its agenda through the courts.
Look no further than the issue of marriage. Before the controversial 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the meaning of marriage was debated throughout the country in local communities and state legislatures. Same-sex marriage was in fact legal in most states. But instead of leaving it to the American people to work through the issue with their neighbors and in their churches and civil institutions, the Supreme Court stepped in and legislated from the bench. A new right to same-sex marriage was read between the lines of the Constitution.
Something has gone wrong in our political life. On this much the American people, who can’t seem to agree on anything, agree. The unexpected success of Donald Trump’s campaign three summers ago and the subsequent reaction has made this conclusion ineluctable. But what if the problem that assails our political life isn’t, strictly speaking, political, but a broader deterioration of our culture and communities? What if loneliness is the problem with our politics?
Such is the starting point of a new initiative called the American Project, led by Pete Peterson, Dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, and Rich Tafel, a pastor at Church of the Holy City in Washington, D.C., and managing director of Raffa Social Capital Advisors. In the absence of community, Peterson and Tafel argue, politics has rushed in to fill the void left by our eroded civic life. The result is an increasingly powerful and unaccountable federal government, polarization, dysfunction, and the rise of strong leaders who would protect us.
Despite a growing economy, historically low unemployment, and all the benefits and comforts of modern technology, we are, as a society, lonelier than ever. Cigna has recently categorized it a “public health issue” of “epidemic” proportions, while the American Psychological Association has warned that it poses a greater public health threat than obesity. Though we are more connected than ever and standards of living are higher than ever, we are also more unhappy than ever. Suicides rates have surged over the last two decades in the United States.
Part of the explanation may be economic. Despite our recovery from the Great Recession, problems persist, including sluggish wage growth, low productivity, and an alarming number of able-bodied Americans who have dropped out of the workforce altogether. (It seems significant that suicide rates are highest among non-college-educated white men — a demographic that makes up a large share of those outside the labor force and a key constituent of Trump’s base.) Added to this, the dislocations of automation, globalization, and the collapse of manufacturing employment over the last two decades cast a shadow over today’s otherwise rosy economic reports.
A Way Forward: A Call to Restore the American Project is a significant initiative of the Pepperdine Public Policy School that roots American exceptionalism in our Constitution. The Constitution, the organizers write, provides the basis for “the energetic social and political institutions — from schools and houses of worship to workplaces and political parties — to supply moral order and speak to our deep human needs for virtue and belonging.”
The call of A Way Forward invites a recovery of relational human truths that have been lost in our ongoing emancipations from the real and exaggerated oppressions of the past. As the organizers well recognize, politics is key, but such an effort must involve more. We need to think broadly and engage the human person at the level of imagination, education, and culture. And part of that spirit will involve telling great stories that connect with our best sense of who we are. In what follows, I venture a brief undertaking in that regard.
Walker Percy’s apocalyptic novel “Love in the Ruins” is a crucial work of the imagination that can help us understand American malaise, angst, and internal divisions. Set in 1984, Percy’s novel sees its protagonist Tom More pondering American decline:
Is it that God has at last removed his blessing from the U.S.A. and what we feel now is just the clank of the old historical machinery, the sudden jerking ahead of the roller coaster cars as the chain catches hold and carries us back into history…?
For the first time since 2000, the number of jobs open in the United States exceeds the number of unemployed workers.
As I said during my recent testimony at a U.S. House Small Business subcommittee hearing, we face a labor shortage, and declining labor mobility is one reason it’s hard to find workers. There are pockets of the country that have few jobs and too many workers. But there are far more with many jobs and too few workers.
In 2017, fewer Americans moved than in any year in the last 50 years. The U.S. mover rate is now 11 percent, half of what it was just 30 years ago. Instead of moving for a new job, today’s out of work Americans are more likely to simply drop out of the workforce. The University of California at Berkeley’s Enrico Moretti has even connected the decline in labor mobility to increased income inequality.
The result? Fewer Americans are able to access the American Dream. Indeed, fewer Americans believe in the American Dream.
Last month, Fox News reported that 13 percent of “Dreamers” have an arrest record and highlighted that some of those arrests were connected to crimes like murder and rape. Many other right-leaning groups have pointed out the same figures. Unfortunately, these reports lack both context and accuracy. Dreamers are actually less likely to be arrested than U.S. citizens.
The reports are based on new numbers on arrest records for Dreamers published by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “Dreamers,” the common name for individuals brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children and now protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, are at the center of the current immigration debate on Capitol Hill. That makes these numbers politically important for the outcome of the debate. At first, the numbers seem scary.
But the 59,786 approved DACA applicants with arrest records make up 7.76 percent of Dreamers (a number directly reported in USCIS’s publication), not 13 percent. Worse, although many media reports have highlighted arrests related to violent crimes, not enough have noted that those make up a minuscule portion of overall arrests. In fact, most of the arrests among Dreamers were for non-violent offenses. For example, 38.9 percent of the arrests were driving-related and another 22 percent were immigration-related. To its credit, Fox points out that that arrests related to murder make up only 0.02 percent of total arrests. But that’s only after highlighting the murder-related arrests in the article’s headline.
The problem with this kind of reporting is that it focuses on the extremely rare cases to get attention and omits the normal cases, leaving readers with the wrong idea about crime rates among immigrants.
Congress established the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to address the many flaws in current tax and spending procedures. Among the things that need fixing is the Federal Credit Reform Act (FCRA) of 1990, which artificially and systematically lowers the costs of the government’s credit assistance programs.
The federal government makes direct loans and issues loan guarantees to assist students, farmers, small businesses, and others. It also guarantees the mortgages of millions of homeowners directly through certain federal programs and indirectly through the backing of securities sold by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now under full federal control. In providing this assistance, the government subsidizes loans through various mechanisms and takes on potential liabilities associated with loan defaults and other risks, while also receiving fees paid by banks and, in the case of direct loans, repayments from borrowers.
FCRA was enacted as part of the 1990 bipartisan budget agreement to improve the budgetary assessment of the government’s diverse and complex credit-related programs. Prior to 1990, Congress and the executive branch assigned costs and benefits to these programs using cash accounting, which provided a distorted view of their budgetary effects.
For instance, when the government issued guarantees for loans made by private sector banks, the federal budget would often show substantial initial savings from the issuance of the guarantees because the banks were required to pay up-front fees when loans were originated. The cost to the government of guaranteeing the loans was only recorded when payments were made to banks to cover losses associated with defaults. But these federal payments for loan defaults often took place many years after the loans originated and sometimes well beyond the five- or 10-year timeframe of the federal budget. Using cash accounting very often gave the misleading impression that issuing loan guarantees, even with lenient terms for the borrowers and the potential for large financial losses for the government, actually benefitted the federal budget.
Last night President Trump announced the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. While there has been intense speculation surrounding the Supreme Court nomination, Judge Kavanaugh’s official nomination has elicited a wide range of responses from Republicans, Democrats, and the media. It is important to note the differences in nominee coverage between the country’s two leading newspapers, the left-leaning New York Times and the more conservative Wall Street Journal.
Below are the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal headlines for the six most recent Supreme Court nominations, all of which were published the week of the president’s announcement.
1. Brett Kavanaugh, Nominated by President Donald Trump July 9, 2017
The New York Times: “Brett Kavanaugh Is Trump’s Pick for Supreme Court.” On July 9, 2017 the New York Times described Judge Kavanaugh as a connected and influential member of the conservative legal establishment in Washington. In addition, it highlighted that a more conservative ideology on the Supreme Court would be cemented for a generation should Kavanaugh be confirmed.
Recently, Bill Kristol took to Twitter to make it clear that Trump’s Supreme Court pick will be “a product of the intellectual, educational, and organizational efforts of serious conservatives in recent decades,” and not a “product of what Trumpism could produce.” The goal here is to deny the president credit for his Supreme Court pick, which most agree is likely to be a solid conservative that constitutional originalists will be happy to support.
In a sense, Kristol is correct. Trump will have a good deal of assistance from astute conservative legal minds in making his pick. But at this point of Trump’s presidency, comments like Kristol’s serve less to inform the debate and more to confirm the worst assumptions of the president’s most ardent supporters.
Such comments cut to the heart of what the #NeverTrump movement was about. For some, it was based on the president’s non-conservative temperament in rhetoric and personal behavior. But for many others, it was based on a fear that Trump as president would not push forward a conservative agenda. This subset of Trump skeptics set themselves up as the conscience of the movement, standing athwart the wave of populism that threatened to undermine American conservatism.
Some of those fears have indeed been realized. For instance, on trade policy, Trump is pushing policies that are less Milton Friedman and more Bernie Sanders. But in many other areas, Trump’s record has been a positive one, with his previous Supreme Court pick of Gorsuch being a prime example. To slight the president because he’s getting advice from serious conservatives on his Supreme Court picks is the height of absurdity for those who also question Trump’s conservative credentials.
To most Americans, whether the federal government handles its budget on a yearly or a biennial cycle is not a pressing matter. For Congress, it should be a top priority: A move to biennial budgeting could reduce the negative implications of continuing resolutions (CRs) and omnibuses.
Congress hasn’t had a functioning budget process for years. In fact, the last time all standalone discretionary spending bills were enacted on time was for fiscal year 1995. Think about that: A majority of federal lawmakers has never seen the congressional budget process operate as it is supposed to. When something is broken for 20 years, it’s time to make changes.
Fortunately, there’s a bipartisan group of lawmakers looking at this issue. The Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform was created in this year’s Bipartisan Budget Act. Its job is to examine ideas for improving how Congress manages its budget process and sets federal spending levels. Historically, omnibuses and CRs have been used to give Congress time to wrap up the budget process. But over the last four decades, they have supplanted regular order and become the de facto process. Both parties are complicit in this, and both parties have a responsibility to fix it. All too often, though, politics comes before good public policy.
Restoring a functioning budget process can lead to a restoration of legislating. Too many lawmakers gripe that they feel more like a voter than a legislator, either being directed by their leadership or by special interests that “score” votes for campaign purposes.
In late May, President Trump announced that, within two weeks, major pharmaceutical companies would agree to large, voluntary price concessions. Restraining drug prices was a major theme of Trump’s campaign for the presidency, so it is not surprising that he is eager for some prominent drug manufacturers to publicly signal plans for holding prices down, for which he will then claim credit.
Trump isn’t the first president to pressure drug companies on their prices. Bill Clinton campaigned on ending pharmaceutical “price gouging.” Once in office in 1993, he and First Lady Hillary Clinton proposed limits on drug price inflation in their health reform plan. They also wanted to create an independent panel to oversee the industry’s pricing decisions.
The Clinton plan rattled drug manufacturers. To slow the plan’s political momentum, several major companies stepped forward in early 1993 and said they had “turned over a new leaf” on pricing. For three years, they would keep aggregate price hikes within the general rate of inflation, which the industry estimated would save consumers $7 to $9 billion during that period.
The drug industry’s 1993 commitment to voluntarily price restraint had no lasting effect on what Americans pay for drugs, but it may have contributed to the demise of the Clinton reform plan. The push for government-enforced drug price controls began to fizzle in 1994 as the economy improved and more Americans gained insurance coverage. The industry’s voluntary efforts also may have reduced the effectiveness of the administration’s criticisms with voters. As the year wore on, Democrats in Congress began to abandon the sinking Clinton reform plan, which failed to pass in either the House or the Senate. Republicans then took control of Congress in the mid-term election.
Last week, Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he would retire from the bench effective July 31. This historic event allows President Trump to fill a rare vacancy on an evenly divided court. Issues that deeply divide Americans, including abortion rights, gay marriage, and health care could be impacted by this decision.
Here are five facts on Justice Kennedy’s retirement:
1. Justice Kennedy served on the Court for 30 years, having been appointed by President Ronald Reagan in February 1988. The average number of years a justice serves is 16, slightly more than half of Justice Kennedy’s tenure on the court. The longest serving justice was William O. Douglas, who was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 and served for more than 36 years. The longest serving chief justice was John Marshall, who was appointed by President John Adams in 1801 and served for over 34 years.
2. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for a number of landmark cases, including Roper v. Simmons in 2005, which declared unconstitutional the execution of people under 18 for committing murder, and United States v. Windsor in 2013, which ended part of the Defense of Marriage Act. Justice Kennedy also wrote a number of influential dissenting opinions, including Hibbs v. Winn in 2004, which challenged a tax credit program that subsidized religious education in Arizona, and Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, which upheld affirmative action at colleges and universities.
Some people believe that America’s best days are behind her — that in the years ahead, the United States will no longer be the world’s engine of innovation and growth. They say that honor and responsibility will inevitably pass to some other country, as the United States declines.
But the United States did not grow into the most prosperous nation in history by accident. If Americans remember and preserve the things that have made America great, we can continue to lead the world in innovation and growth.
Immigration is a part of that formula for success. Throughout history, America has been built by the efforts of hardworking and entrepreneurial people from around the globe, even if some native-born citizens focused only on the challenges created by these newcomers. In reality, these immigrants helped to make America wealthier and more successful. That’s still true today.
Immigration is good for America for many reasons. One is that immigration tends to be driven by people who are ambitious and willing to sacrifice. It’s hard to pack up your life and leave your family and community behind to try to build a new life in a strange place. People who come to the United States, by and large, expect to have to adapt and work hard to succeed. Almost every American today can tell a story about an ancestor who came to our shores with little more than hope for America and a willingness to work hard and sacrifice. For the vast majority of those coming to America today, that hasn’t changed.
Every five years, Congress goes to work to renew the farm bill, an expansive and far-reaching legislative package that guides the nation’s agricultural policy. And every five years, that same legislation comes under attack from a wide range of critics from across the political spectrum. The basic reasoning is almost always the same: Given the fact that fewer and fewer Americans make their living from raising crops and livestock, why do we still need a costly farm bill?
It’s true that farming today requires fewer workers than it did a century ago, as a result of various factors including technological advances, improved agricultural practices that boost yield and productivity, and demographic changes. But the reality is that federal agriculture policy is just as important today as it was in the past. In fact, the farm bill touches a wider range of industries and has a larger impact on American life than many realize.
To take one example: I work for a trade association that represents the horticulture industry — we represent the entire supply chain of this growing industry, from plant breeders to growers and the retail center or nursery where you may buy plants and other green products. It may not be the biggest industry in the nation, but horticulture does employ more than 1.6 million people nationwide and generates almost $200 billion in annual sales.
While the horticulture industry does not solicit or receive government agricultural subsidies, there are important programs under the farm bill that serve as “critical infrastructure” that supports our industry and many others.
As America’s culture wars continue to rage, a common narrative reports widening ideological and political gaps between urban and rural Americans and a middle America in deep economic decline. Many argue that big-city dwellers simply have different priorities, and different views about the world and their role in it, than those living in small, rural communities.
In “The Left Behind,” Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow makes the case that rural Americans, when they think of problems facing the nation, focus more on issues of morality and governance in Washington than on economic considerations. But, despite media perceptions and Wuthnow’s thousands of interviews of rural Americans, the argument that urban and rural areas have diverged in terms of their priorities does not hold up when we look at decades of survey work.
I compiled national samples of New York Times survey data from 2006 through 2016 — the same time frame used by Wuthnow. These surveys regularly asked thousands of Americans: “What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?” I then broke down the data by urban areas, with suburbs included, and found no geographic differences whatsoever. Rural Americans and city dwellers exhibited practically the same priorities over time.
More specifically, I coded the responses into a number of distinct groups, including: 1) economic considerations, 2) education, 3) values and morals including religious values and questions of community and family, 4) concerns related to leadership and governmental dysfunction, and 5) cultural considerations — that is, items that tend to be hot button culture war items such as immigration, gun control, race relations, global warming, and poverty. This list is not exhaustive and excludes defense, national security, terrorism, and international relations. However, these five groupings accounted for about two-thirds to a half of the total responses examined over the decade.
Last week, Justice Kennedy gave notice to President Trump that he will resign from the Supreme Court. Within moments of the news becoming public, a collective shriek of anxiety was heard from many left-leaning Americans who believe that Justice Kennedy has been a brake against members of the court who, in their view, are anxious to halt “progress” on a host of hot-button social issues.
Their representatives in Washington are equally vexed. In a fundraising letter, Representative Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, wrote that Republicans are trying to use the court to “jam any racist, xenophobic, ugly policy down the throats of the American people.” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said, “We need all hands-on deck to stop the Court from taking a vicious, anti-worker, anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-civil rights turn.”
This agitated reaction reflects a belief held by many on the Left and more than a few on the Right that the Supreme Court is a kind of super-legislature. This is wrong. The members of the Supreme Court are not oracles in a temple of Vermont marble awaiting requests for guidance on the great moral questions of society. The justices are humans. They have biases, blind spots, foibles, and pet peeves. On their best days, like all of us, they may still get things wrong. That’s why the Founders were brilliant in creating a nation built on laws, not the views of nine men and women.
In creating a nation of laws, the Founders understood that the most effective way to restrain the federal government and ensure individual liberties was to have a written constitution that divides power among the three branches and reserves significant power to the states. The Constitution gives Congress the power to make the law, the president the power to execute the law, and the federal courts the power to interpret the law. In this arrangement, a federal judge’s powers — even a Supreme Court justice’s powers — are limited in comparison to those of the president or members of Congress.
According to the American Lung Association, “Many ex-smokers say quitting smoking was the hardest thing they have ever done.” This includes people who have “climbed mountains and corporate ladders, or tackled childbirth. It can take a smoker multiple quit-smoking attempts before they are completely smoke free.” And too many people simply quit trying to quit because nicotine feels good. It is both a stimulant and a relaxant so it perks you up when you’re exhausted, and it will soothe you when you’re anxious.
There are 38 million cigarette users in the United States, and cigarette smoking kills nearly a half-million people a year. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the world. Yet, anti-smoking activists and government regulators are fighting new technologies and products that will save millions of lives. Wrap your head around this fact for a second: Government officials and ‘do-good’ public health advocates are seeking to stifle innovation that will help people quit cigarettes.
A new survey released by the Center for Substance Use Research (CSUR) confirms that vaping technology is a viable, lifesaving alternative to cigarettes that helps smokers quit. The survey, commissioned by JUUL (a vaping device company), found that for many cigarette smokers the switch to vaping occurred easily. This should be great news for elected officials and public health experts because “almost every single study that has looked into the safety of vaping has found it to be significantly less harmful than traditional cigarettes.” The science says that vaping technology eliminates 95 percent of the harm caused by using tobacco.
Specifically, the CSUR survey found:
On June 21, No Labels launched The Speaker Project, a campaign to change the rules that govern the House of Representatives in an effort to make Congress more responsive to the will of the people. Why did we do this? Because Congress is broken. Convoluted and arcane rules prevent action on commonsense ideas that the majority of Americans support, including many supported by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Earlier this month No Labels conducted a national survey of over 2,000 Americans and found many reasons to support the idea that The Speaker Project has the power to bring about real change in Congress.
Many Americans don’t know how speakers get elected. 50 percent of Americans erroneously believe speaker nominees must receive votes from both parties to win election as speaker. Under the current rules, in order to be elected speaker of the House a candidate needs only a simple majority — 218 votes. This means speakers usually win elections without support from a single member of the minority party.
80 percent of Americans agree that the extremes of both parties have too much influence in shaping legislation. Former House Speaker John Boehner’s sudden retirement in 2015 is an example of the influence exerted by ideological fringes in the House. In July 2015, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), a member of the hardline Freedom Caucus, filed a motion to vacate against Speaker Boehner. This legislative maneuver, which was motivated in part by Boehner’s willingness to work with President Obama on tax and entitlement reform, allows any House member to demand a no-confidence vote of the speaker by the full House. While the House never took a formal vote, the message was clear — those in the Freedom Caucus would not tolerate any form of compromise. Two months later, Speaker Boehner, a 30-year veteran of the House, was out of politics altogether.
77 percent of Americans agree that the rules in the House of Representatives should be changed so that legislation reflects what the majority of the public wants rather than just the majority party. Despite the dysfunction and rampant partisanship in Congress, Americans agree on a lot. No Labels 2016 “Policy Playbook for America’s Next President” notably featured 60 specific policy ideas with majority or super majority support from the American people. But few ideas like this get a fair hearing in the House. Why? Because the speaker of the House can essentially decide which bills receive a vote and which bills do not. Even when a bill has overwhelming bipartisan support, if it doesn’t fit the speaker’s agenda, it will not be considered.