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BAPB* No. 9: What can happen after this election? What about the Civil War game?

Updated: 2 days ago

*Bouncing Around Paul's Brain


Updated Dec. 3, 2022 for football results


What can we expect from the national government in the next two years? What should we expect?


This is the last of three articles on the 2022 midterm elections. Previously I had some initial reactions and then some explanations and interpretations. In this last article, I'll speculate on how Congress will act and what it can accomplish. Then I'll avoid the e-word in public discussion until one year (or less!) before the presidential election.


What will Congress look like? Democrats will hold the presidency for at least two more years, meaning that President Biden can continue to set an agenda, appoint judges and top officials, take some limited actions on his own, and sign or veto bills that Congress passes. Democrats will still narrowly control the Senate but Republicans will take over control of the House of Representatives. Neither party or chamber has any votes to spare, and that's the least of their worries. Anything that Republicans get through the House is likely to get watered down or killed in the Senate. If it's not, Biden will likely veto it. Anything Biden and the Senate want can get bottled up in the House. To have a chance when power is very evenly balanced, a bill will have to be acceptable to the President, some minority Republicans in the Senate, and some majority Republicans in the House. Congress has typically passed roughly one-third fewer significant laws when party control is split than when one party controls the Presidency, Senate and House (like the one about to end) and roughly 9 when party control is split. That means there are limited chances to get much done in the way of significant legislation in the next two years.


In the meantime, Democrats have some flexibility. Democrats will do everything they can to squeeze some more legislation out of the lame duck (after the election but before the new Congress takes its place) session. The Respect for Marriage Act, which requires states to honor marriages that were legal in the state they took place, is on a path for approval. They could take another shot at the Electoral Count Act. Concerns about former President Donald Trump running again and the damage he did to his party this election would seem to make it easier get the few Republican votes that will move it through the Senate. I do know it's important to reduce the chances of utter chaos in 2024 and beyond.


Congress will also need to extend the budget, which expires December 16, at least for a few weeks. While an extension of just a month or two, into the new Congress, is the likely answer, Democrats should do everything they can to force through a budget for the rest of the fiscal year, even if they have to accept some Republican ideas and political talking points. If they can fund aid to Ukraine and other new spending that is broadly supported, not to mention avoid further budget wrangling and government shutdown threats, they must do so.


Then it gets messy. The new session will be more about threats, intimidation and brinkmanship. Republicans' narrow control of the House probably takes impeachment of Biden and his top officials off the table, but investigations will run rampant. I'd expect a new House January 6 committee that talks to different people and finds different results than the Democratic-dominated one that is just finishing up. Wouldn't rule out a new Democratic counter-committee in the Senate, either. If the budget isn't finalized before the new session, there will be lots of hand-wringing and market-panicking as Republicans hold both the budget and the need for an increased debt limit hostage for all manner of related and unrelated concerns. Fortunately the Senate should be able to confirm some of President Joe Biden's judge and cabinet appointments. All bets are off if there's a Supreme Court vacancy; I think it would go empty until 2025 (unless it's the Chief Justice).


But there's a chance for progress. Presidents and members of Congress like to have policy accomplishments so voters know what they stand for and will support them; that gives them incentive to get something done. However, this desire is often balanced by a desire to make the other party look bad, which you can do if you block every one of their ideas. I'm not rarely optimistic, but I can see this dynamic shifting a bit toward accomplishments and less toward blame in the next two years. That's because there are no votes left to change. Democrats are only voting for Democrats and vice versa. The battle for votes isn't about changing minds any more, it's about getting your supporters to vote. Both parties can do that through continued negativity. Meanwhile, I don't think working together where they can hurts either side's election prospects.


Here's a few areas where both parties, both chambers, and Biden might be able to make meaningful change.

  • Supporting families. The temporary expansion of the child tax credit for 2021made a huge dent in child poverty. Sen. Mitt Romney's (R-Utah) child tax credit expansion would create a higher credit that would be paid monthly, just like the temporary Democratic credit did. It would be deficit-neutral, which Republicans should like, and married families with children vote Republican. It would reduce poverty, which Democrats like, though their liberal supporters don't love that it cuts other tax credits and benefits for low-income families. Biden's made the liberals pretty happy the last two years and can afford to dismiss some but not all of their concerns.

  • Find middle ground on immigration. After getting re-elected in a swing state, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) called out his party for not understanding immigration and the Republicans for not being serious about it and I think he's right on both counts. A real fix isn't possible now or maybe for decades, but I think both parties could agree on better controls at the border, more humane treatment and quicker processing for those seeking asylum, and speeding and simplifying the process for making people who are here legally into citizens. There are other, more difficult ideas around, too. Americans are becoming more favorable to immigration overall, but regardless of their belief, how many really want to see the chaos and suffering at the border continue? It will until we make some policy changes.

  • Reform Congress: Perhaps the fact that Congress is split and is within a few seats of going either direction in a couple years, and then switching two years later makes a bipartisan effort to fix some institutional problems possible. I can think of four things to start with.

  • First, put term limits on all party leaders and committee chairs (Republicans currently limit committee chair terms). Nancy Pelosi led House Democrats for 15 years and Mitch McConnell will hit 18 years leading Senate Republicans this session. Leaders make enemies, they make targets for the opposing party's candidates, and they become more incalcitrant over time. Ten years is plenty for one person to hold the position.

  • Related, leaders' powers should be restricted in the interest of more open and public debate. Today, leaders decide which of thousands of bills will get a chance for a floor vote. They only bring bills they agree with and know will pass to the floor. Instead, both houses should require floor debate on any bill that has the support of 40% of their members (perhaps with at least a few members from each party).

  • The Senate has extra work to do as well, by reforming the filibuster and ending the absurd practice that allows one member for prevent a nomination from being considered or a bill to be voted on.

  • Stabilize tax policy. Much of Trump's Tax Cut and Justice Act ends in 2025. If Biden wants to take a huge chance and make it easier on the next President, whether it's him or someone else, he might negotiate with the Republicans on renewing the parts of it that made taxes fairer. Democrats may want to make permanent the higher child tax credits (if they can't get a separate bill passed) and higher standard deduction, as well as lower rates for middle-income taxpayers (say, up to $90,000 for singles and $150,000 for married). That keeps taxes level at that range and saves everyone as opposed to letting the Act expire and return to old rates, but it returns to the higher and fairer rates for high income taxpayers. It will be hard for Republicans to vote against continuing tax cuts and it could be even harder for them to fight only for the cuts that benefit rich people in 2025.


And in my wildest dreams, our supposed leaders would find a way to end Washington's role as a part-time nursing home. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), age 82, has decided to step down. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), age 80, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)), age 71, should do the same. Finally, President Biden (age 80) needs to announce he's not running in the coming months. America should be led by people who have the future in mind, not the ones with little or no future left.


Told you I could be optimistic!


College football predictions, week 13


My best week yet, getting 17 of 24 winners correct and 17 of 23 against the line (with one tie). On to the conference championships!


Lots of Top 25 matchups and traditional rivalries this week. Assuming things go as expected among top teams this week (and I expect they will, though Ohio State-Michigan should be a close one, then we'll end the regular season with Georgia, Ohio St., TCU, and Tennessee in the positions to make the College Football Playoff. Michigan will probably fall to 5th or 6th if they lose to OSU, but then Michigan and Tennessee have the advantage of not being able to lose a conference championship, so at least one will make the playoffs.


Best chance for an upset among the top 25 looks like Tulane beating slightly favored Cincinnati. Oh, also, Oregon State looks good to win the Civil War game. Every measure I can think of favors the Beavers right now. If I'm right, then Utah or Washington will play Southern Cal in the Pac-12 championship and will have a great chance of making the playoffs with a win.


Visitor

Home

Line

Winner

Bet on

Georgia Tech

#1 Georgia

GA by 35.5

Georgia

Georgia Tech

#3 Michigan

#2 Ohio St.

Ohio St. by 7.5

Ohio St.

Michigan

Iowa St.

#4 TCU

TCU by 10

TCU

TCU

#5 Tennessee

Vanderbilt

Tenn by 14

Tennessee

Tennessee

#6 LSU

Texas A&M

LSU by 10

LSU

Texas A&M

#18 Notre Dame

#7 USC

USC by 5

USC

USC

Auburn

#8 Alabama

Alabama by 22

Alabama

None-- line was exact

S. Carolina

#9 Clemson

Clemson by 14.5

Clemson

Clemson

#10 Utah

Colorado

Utah by 29.5

Utah

Colorado

Michigan St.

#11 Penn St.

Penn St. by 18

Penn St.

Penn St.

#12 Oregon

#23 Oregon St.

Oregon by 3.5

Oregon St.

Oregon St.

#24 NC State

#13 N. Carolina

UNC by 6.5

UNC

NC State

Miss. State

#14 Mississippi

Miss. by 2.5

Mississippi

Miss. St.

Kansas

Kansas St.

Kansas St. by 12

Kansas St.

Kansas St.

#16 UCLA

California

UCLA by 10

UCLA

California

#17 Washington

Wash. St.

Washington by 2.5

Washington

Washington

Florida

#19 Florida St.

Florida St. by 9.5

Florida St.

Florida St.

#20 Central Fla.

South Fla.

UCF by 19.5

UCF

UCF

#21 Tulane

#25 Cincinnati

Cincy by 2

Tulane

Tulane


Visitor

Home

Line

Winner

Bet on

West Va.

#22 Okla. State (why?)

Okla. St. by 8.5

Okla. St.

Okla. St.

Oklahoma

Texas Tech

Okla. by 2

Texas Tech

Texas Tech

Baylor

Texas

Texas by 8.5

Texas

Texas

Ariz. State

Arizona

Arizona by 4

Arizona

Ariz. St.

BYU

Stanford

BYU by 6.5

Stanford

Stanford


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