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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Chief Justice John Roberts Hits Trump and Trump Hits Right Back
      •  Trump Defends Ivanka, Wanted to Prosecute Hillary
      •  Trump Twitter Feed Is a Pre-Thanksgiving Cornucopia
      •  Opposition to Pelosi as Speaker Collapses
      •  Four Democrats Want to Chair the DCCC
      •  Bourdeaux Concedes
      •  Democrats Made Gains in Rural Areas
      •  Thursday Q&A

PW logo What Trump Is Thankful For
Trump Says He Might Close ‘Whole Border’
Trump Threatens Government Shutdown Again
Trump Resumes Feud with Chief Justice
Trump Disputes CIA Conclusion on Khashoggi Killing
Happy Thanksgiving!

Chief Justice John Roberts Hits Trump and Trump Hits Right Back

In an unprecedented and extraordinary exchange, Chief Justice John Roberts and Donald Trump got into a public fight yesterday. It started when Federal Judge Jon Tigar ruled against Trump's attempt to restrict asylum seekers. Trump called him an "Obama judge." This was too much for the Chief Justice, who publicly rebuked Trump, saying: "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them."

Trump always needs to have the last word, so he sent out these tweets:

Trump also complained that when cases get appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which is located in San Francisco, he always loses. Roberts didn't continue the cat fight, so Trump got the last word, for now.

But Trump doesn't have the habit of thinking long term. It is a virtual certainty that Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), who is soon to be chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, will invoke a 1924 law and ask the IRS for Trump's tax returns for the past 5 or 10 years. Trump could instruct the commissioner of the IRS to object, in which case the matter will end up in the Supreme Court, maybe as soon as January or February. Dollars to donuts the four Democratic appointees on the Court will vote to uphold the 1924 law. Roberts will be the swing vote on that case, so attacking him in public like this is probably not a smart move, especially when Roberts' agenda seems to be making the country safe for conservatives. Trump's tax returns are small potatoes to him. In addition, he likes to vote with the Democrats once in a while to demonstrate how unbiased he is. Trump's taxes would be an ideal opportunity for him to achieve some "balance" on a matter that isn't important to him, unlike campaign spending, voting, and gerrymandering.

One other (small) dimension to this. If a person is impeached, the trial is held in the Senate with the vice president as presiding officer. Except if the person being impeached is the president, in which case the duty of presiding falls to...the chief justice. Is it possible Trump knows this, and is trying to poison the well, so he can claim bias, and a conspiracy, and yada yada should he find himself with Roberts as his judge? It's not likely, since Trump's grip on civics is shaky, but it's possible. If this were to come to pass, and if Roberts were to decide to recuse himself (both things are pretty unlikely), then the duty of presiding would likely fall on the next most senior justice, who is Clarence Thomas. If Trump really is thinking that far ahead, then he's definitely playing 3D chess, because Thomas is considerably more likely to be friendly to him than Roberts. But again, we're skeptical that Trump ever thinks more than a few hours ahead. (V)

Trump Defends Ivanka, Wanted to Prosecute Hillary

Earlier this week, Ivanka Trump was caught with her hand in the cookie jar, using a private e-mail account for government business despite the fact that her father's presidential campaign made a major issue of Hillary Clinton's doing the same thing. There was no chance, of course, that Donald would in any way chastise Ivanka, or admit that she did wrong, because that is not how the Trump family works. The remarkable thing for a group of folks that relies so much on lies and excuses, though, is that they are so very bad at making them. And so it is here, where the official story is that Ivanka did not know it was wrong to use a private account for government business. Is there anybody, even the base, who can take this explanation seriously? Did Ivanka attend none of her father's rallies, watch none of his debate performances, watch no cable news, and read no newspapers throughout the 2016 campaign?

There is one difference between what Hillary did and what Ivanka did, however. Following Clinton, and thanks specifically to her "efforts," use of a private e-mail account became considerably more illegal after she left the State Department. So, whether the Donald wants to believe it or not, there is a very good chance that his daughter broke the law. And even if she really was ignorant, ignorance of the law is no excuse. So, this could come back to haunt the Trumps, among the many things that could come back to haunt the House of Trump.

And speaking of prosecuting people, it turns out that "lock her up" wasn't just talk. The President actually tried to get the Justice Department to prosecute both Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey. Although Trump surely does not see it that way, then-White House Counsel Don McGahn did him a huge favor by stepping in and pointing out that: (1) The pair has committed no crimes, and (2) For Trump to prosecute them because he does not like them would be a textbook case of abuse of power, and would basically be handing the Democrats an impeachment case in a nice tidy package. Of course, now that Matthew Whitaker is (sort of) the AG, and McGahn is McGone, who knows what Trump might try, particularly before the new, Democratic-controlled House takes its seats? (Z)

Trump Twitter Feed Is a Pre-Thanksgiving Cornucopia

As we have noted quite a few times, we (and especially Z, the resident historian) feel badly for the scholars of the future who are going to have to try to make sense of American politics in the Age of Trump. So much of it defies logic, or common sense, or normal standards of behavior that it is very hard for someone living today to wrap their heads around it. Trying to do so in the future is going to be a truly Sisyphean task.

Donald Trump is on his Thanksgiving vacation already, and with fairly little to do. That, of course, is prime time for him to fire up Twitter and go bonkers. And so, Wednesday's output alone (14 tweets, total) is probably going to be enough to fuel some future scholar's Ph.D. dissertation. In addition to the shots across John Roberts' bow (see above), there were these:

This means that in the span of 48 hours, the President has gone from wondering if Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud had anything to do with Jamal Khashoggi's murder (hint: he did), to openly thanking the Saudis. So, anyone expecting any sort of punishment for Bin Salman's for his evil actions can now be 100% certain that none is coming (except in the unlikely scenario that Congress steps up to the plate). On top of that, of course, Trump evinces very little understanding of why gas prices are so low. The Saudis have a little bit to do with it, but the primary reason is that when the President announced sanctions against Iran, other oil producers stepped up production to cover the expected shortfall. Then, in an about turn, Trump granted waivers to everyone and his uncle, meaning that Iranian oil is still on the market. So there is a glut, hence the low prices. The downside is that a crash in prices like this will invariably result in a dramatic spike in the other direction once the various oil producers correct for the changes in market conditions. That means that you should enjoy your cheap gas now, because it isn't going to be so cheap come March or April. And when the market corrects, it will hit the world's largest petroleum-producing countries pretty hard. In fact, the #1 oil producer in the world stands to lose tens of thousands of jobs when that happens. That country just so happens to be...the United States.

Also, while one can find stories about how traffic will be heavy this Thanksgiving, and explaining that low gas prices are part of the reason, there are exactly zero outlets attacking Trump in the way he implies. So, his complaints about "fake news" are themselves fake news. Although this pair of tweets does illustrate something that he continually seems not to grasp: That all actions he takes have consequences, and that whatever positive gain he achieves in one area is going to be offset (on some level) by a negative consequence in another area. He has basically lived a consequence-free life for 70 years, so it's not surprising that he does not seem to understand this.

Moving on, one wonders what future scholars will think of Trump's grasp of climate science:

There is no question that much of Trump's base buys into the logic here, but does the President of the United States actually buy it, too? Or is he just pandering? Again, good luck to those future scholars who have to try to figure that out. Needless to say, the tweet is playing word games, and conveniently overlooking the fact that the problem isn't just global warming, it's climate change. Climate change's predictable outcomes are greater extremes at both ends—hotter hot seasons and colder cold seasons. Put another way, whether Trump realizes or not, he actually just helped prove an argument he claims to reject.

And then there was this tweet:

It is not easy to squeeze so many layers of dishonesty into one tweet, but Trump has done it (admittedly, with an assist from the author). First of all, one can only hope that the historians of the future will realize that he most certainly didn't read the book, because he doesn't read any books. He may have read the dust jacket, but even that is only a maybe. Meanwhile, the book's title sounds reasonable, but Gina Loudon's actual "point," such as it is, is that Trump is "the most sound-minded person to ever occupy the White House." Exactly how one can measure such a thing, much less acquire useful data about the sound-mindedness of fellows who served long before psychology was a field (say, John Adams, or James Monroe, or Millard Fillmore) is unclear. You see, we didn't read it either (although at least we admit it).

If a person was going to try to write a book like that, though, one would hope they would have training in history, or psychology, or both. Loudon does have a Ph.D., but it's in "human and organization systems" (whatever that might be) from an online university. In short, what you have here is a dubious endorsement of a dubious book advancing a dubious argument by someone with dubious credentials. As we said, many layers of dishonesty. Of course, the volume was written to cash in on Trump supporters who want "factual" justification for their feelings. It's really quite remarkable how hostile some segments of the GOP are to scholars, higher education, etc. right up until a "scholar" writes a book they agree with. It would seem that Richard Hofstadter was on to something.

Finally, we'll end with this:

Like Loudon's book, this article was clearly written to trigger a presidential retweet. Michael Goodwin's argument is that Trump is the first politician to discover that going negative can work, and now everyone is doing it. Ipso facto, Trump reinvented modern politics, and every politician should thank him for his brilliance. Apparently, Goodwin has only been following politics since roughly...yesterday. He might want to read, for example, about the election of 1800 (146 years before Trump was born!), when one candidate (John Adams) was accused of being a hermaphrodite, and the other (Thomas Jefferson) was accused of wanting to collect all of the nation's Bibles and burn them. Or about Abraham Lincoln, who was targeted for all kinds of vitriol, including an op-ed who described him thusly:

Filthy story-teller, Ignoramus Abe, Despot, Old scoundrel, big secessionist, perjurer, liar, robber, thief, swindler, braggart, tyrant, buffoon, fiend, usurper, butcher, monster, land-pirate, a long, lean, lank, lantern-jawed, high-cheeked-boned, spavined, rail-splitting stallion.

There was also this, from an author who hated Old Abe so much that words failed him (well, except for two or three of them):

God damn you god damned old Hellfired god damned soul to hell god damn you and goddam your god damned family's god damned hellfired god damned soul to hell and god damnation god damn them and god damn your god damn friends to hell god damn their god damned souls to damnation god damn them and god damn their god damn families to eternal god damnation god damn souls to hell god damn them and God Almighty God damn Old Hamlin to[o] to hell God damn his God damned soul all over everywhere double damn his God damned soul to hell. Now you God damned old Abolition son of a bitch God damn you I want you to send me God damn you about one dozen good offices Good God Almighty God damn your God damned soul and three or four pretty Gals God damn you.

We could give lots of other examples, including presidents who were attacked viciously for being the offspring of a prostitute (Jackson), or being a pimp (Pierce), or an alcoholic (Grant), or secretly black (Harding), or a double agent for the Pope (Kennedy). Point is, Trump may be unusually willing to take things to extremes for someone who has the bully pulpit (usually it's a president's acolytes who get into the gutter, not the president himself), but his bag of tricks is most certainly well-worn, and is nothing new or innovative.

Anyhow, fisking Donald Trump's tweets is, as we have observed many times, like shooting fish in a barrel, and we always feel a little sheepish when we do it, since it's picking the lowest of the low-hanging fruit. However, Wednesday was a particularly wild day, and for any other president (and probably any other politician) any one of these tweets would be an anchor around their neck for months and months. For Trump, it's just another day (not) at the office. (Z)

Opposition to Pelosi as Speaker Collapses

Nancy Pelosi is a consummate politician. It's not surprising, given that she grew up with politics: Her father was mayor of Baltimore and later a congressman, and her brother was also mayor of Baltimore. Pelosi is famous for working with individual members of her caucus to solve their problems. She scored two big victories this week in her fight to become speaker of the House once again. On Tuesday, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) threw in the towel and endorsed Pelosi. Yesterday, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) did the same. This is significant because Higgins had earlier said he "wouldn't back Pelosi under any circumstances."

Getting two opponents to back down in 2 days just shows how much strength Pelosi has within her caucus. She raised $130 million for her members this year and is a master at cajoling members to support her. There are still about 15 members of her caucus who have said they won't vote for her, but she still has a lot of arrows in her quiver. For example, Rep.-elect Colin Allred (D-TX), who knocked off Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), has said he opposes Pelosi but would like to be on either the Transportation or Education Committee. It is a pretty safe bet that he will be assigned to one of the two and will end up endorsing her before long. She knows how the game is played as well as anyone in D.C.

And it doesn't hurt her that Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the darling of the left, also endorsed her yesterday. At this point, there is no way she can be defeated. (V)

Four Democrats Want to Chair the DCCC

The race for speaker may get the most publicity, but it is not the only one coming up. The Democrats did so well in the House that no fewer than four Democratic House members are competing for the position of chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That person will be in charge of increasing the Democrats' majority in the House in 2020. It is a position that can cut both ways. If the Party wins a lot of seats, the chair is a big star. If the Party loses seats, the chair gets the blame. The fact that four representatives want a job that entails a lot of work and a big risk speaks volumes about the optimism in the Democratic caucus.

One of the aspiring chairs is Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), a former Microsoft executive. She is currently co-chair of the DCCC's finance committee. Her campaign pitch is that she knows the big donors, especially in the tech industry, and can raise lots of money.

A second candidate is Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA), who is chairman of the DCCC's recruitment committee. His pitch is that he can find really good candidates to run in districts Republicans currently control. It is extremely unusual for two candidates from the same state to run for the same position. Normally, one defers to the other, but that is not happening this year.

The third candidate is Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY). He is an openly gay man who represents suburbs and exurbs north of New York City. His pitch is that the Democrats need to finish the conversion of the suburbs from Republican to Democratic and he knows the suburbs as well as anyone. In today's Democratic Party, being gay is a plus rather than a minus, which is a sea change from just 10 years ago.

The fourth candidate is Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL). She is a moderate and represents IL-17, in the northwest corner of Illinois. Her pitch is that Democrats need to win back the Midwest, and what better person to do it than someone born and raised in rural Illinois. If people want to know how her ideas will play in Peoria, she ought to know— she represents it in the House.

Each of the candidates brings something different to the table, but the election is about more than what each one has to offer. As in any election, personality plays a big role, that is, how much do House Democrats like each of the candidates. The election is Nov. 28 and the result should give some interesting insight into the blue team's strategy heading into 2020. (V)

Bourdeaux Concedes

The recount in GA-07 is over, and Rep. Rob Woodall (R) maintained a paper-thin lead (a little over 400 votes). A paper-thin lead is still a lead, though, and it means that Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux has no further rabbits to pull out of her hat. So, on Wednesday, she conceded to Woodall. The Congressman, who will serve his fifth term, is among those who should savor every day because of the giant target that will be on him in 2020. With a year to find the right candidate, and a presidential-year electorate, GA-07 will be a premium flip opportunity for the blue team.

There are, depending on whom you believe, as many as three House races left that aren't 100% decided. In NY-27, Rep. Chris Collins (R) leads Nate McMurray (D) by 2,560 votes with only provisional and military ballots remaining to be counted. It is unclear how many of those there are, but it's probably less than 3,000. Meanwhile, in NY-22, Anthony Brindisi (D) leads Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) by 1,886 votes with 1,900 ballots to be counted. In both cases, the leader (i.e., Collins and Brindisi) has declared victory and the follower (i.e., McMurray and Tenney) is threatening legal action and/or to ask for a recount. That is what it will take to change the outcome, since that duo has no real mathematical chance of prevailing. Anyhow, because of this uncertainty, these are the only two races the AP has not called.

Meanwhile, there is CA-21, which the AP has called, but a few other outlets have not. There, Rep. David Valadao (R) has a lead of 450 votes over T.J. Cox (D) with about 10,000 ballots left to count. Given that the district has a PVI of D+5, and that absentee ballots tend to break Democratic, it's probably fair to say that the AP jumped the gun. In any event, the suspense will linger for at least a few days more, as they don't count ballots during holiday weekends, so the next update from California won't be until Monday afternoon. (Z)

Democrats Made Gains in Rural Areas

Now that the midterms are over, people are starting to dig into the data and analyze it more carefully. Reuters has just published an analysis that shows Democrats made important inroads in rural areas of New York, Iowa, Maine, Pennsylvania, and other states.

Compared to the 2016 elections, Democrats posted gains in 54 heavily rural districts, although they didn't win many of them outright. In 2020, that could make all the difference. If Democrats can improve their score in rural areas of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and hold their margins in the cities, they could easily pick up the 77,000 votes that they needed to win the electoral votes of those states. The effect of rural areas moving toward the Democrats was clearly visible in 2018 as the blue team won the governorship and a Senate race in each of those states.

The DNC apparently now has the message. In the past, it focused entirely on battleground states and districts and put almost no resources at all in rural areas that looked hopeless. DNC Chairman Tom Perez put some money into rural areas this year, such as ME-02, and flipped a Republican House seat. He is committed to continuing to put up a fight for rural areas in 2020 because he understands that although pouring money into an R+25 district is a waste of money for the local House race, a vote there is just as valuable as a vote in a big city for a statewide contest. (V).

Thursday Q&A

Today is Thanksgiving, so let's start there:

Which president made Thanksgiving into a holiday? J.B., London, England

The tradition predates the presidency, of course. And so, it has existed throughout the United States' history as an independent country, including a 1789 proclamation by George Washington that Americans should celebrate a day of Thanksgiving to God on November 26. For threescore and eleven years, however, the holiday was celebrated only intermittently, until Abraham Lincoln came along and called for a day of prayer and thanksgiving (as opposed to eating and football) in 1863, during the Civil War. Thanksgiving was celebrated pretty consistently thereafter, on the last Thursday in November, though some Southerners were holdouts for a while against a holiday proclaimed by the Great Emancipator. In 1939, FDR moved it from the last Thursday in November to the next-to-last Thursday. This was during the Great Depression, and the goal was to create more Christmas shopping days and give the economy a little shot in the arm. In 1941, he moved it again, to the fourth Thursday in November, where it remains today.

Donald Trump does not seem to have much to be happy about this Thanksgiving; has any president ever had a worse one? W.I., New York, New York

Hmmm. Because cold weather has historically made it difficult to travel, fight battles, or riot, most of the worst days in U.S. history happened in the spring, summer, or early fall (e.g., the Sultana disaster, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the Watts Riots, etc.). We would say that the president who had the worst Thanksgiving luck was JFK, who spent his first Thanksgiving in office dealing with a particularly bad flare-up of his Addison's disease and his chronic back pain, his second coping with the Cuban Missile Crisis, and his third dead, having been assassinated six days before the 1963 edition of the holiday. The runner-up is probably Herbert Hoover, whose Thanksgivings in office witnessed the deterioration of the stock market (1929) and the sinking of the nation into the Great Depression (1930-32).

On May 19, 2018, the New York Times reported a Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Erik Prince, George Nader and others in the summer of 2016. The meeting was to discuss clandestine aid to Trump's campaign from Mohammed Bin Salman among others. Could President Trump's reluctance to blame Bin Salman for the murder of Mr. Khashoggi be because Bin Salman can blow the whistle on this bit of collusion? F.F., Sunnyvale, CA

In other words, maybe Bin Salman has a little almusawama (Arabic for kompromat) on Trump? Possible. Here are four other theories:

  1. Trump is trying to protect his business interests, current or future, in Saudi Arabia
  2. He honestly doesn't see why the killing of one journalist, who wasn't even a U.S. citizen, is a big deal
  3. He has persuaded himself that arms sales to the Saudis are key to his economic/political program
  4. Like all presidents since WWII, he has persuaded himself that access to Saudi oil, and airspace (for military operations) is essential to U.S. security

It is possible that any or all of these theories, including yours, are correct. Only Trump knows for sure, of course.

I know this is impossible but if Mueller dropped a bomb today and Congress got its act together very quickly (I know it's impossible) and somehow impeached both Donald Trump and Mike Pence and Paul Ryan (R-WI) became President, would he continue to be president as of January 4, 2019 or would that honor move over to Nancy Pelosi or whoever is speaker at that time? A. N., London, UK

When the Constitution was written, and each time it's been amended, the folks doing so have favored economy of language, presumably so as to keep the document from being unwieldy. Consequently, it is rarely specific in matters like this, and this would theoretically be a matter for the courts.

If it did happen, though, and if it did reach the courts, they would quickly decide in Ryan's favor, and he would remain president until the end of Trump's term. The first reason that would be the case is when a president first left office ahead of schedule (William Henry Harrison, in 1840), the new president (John Tyler) made clear that he was president, and not acting president. Pretty much all of the relevant custom and jurisprudence since then has favored this interpretation, including the 25th Amendment, which specifically draws a distinction between a president and an acting president (the latter happens when the president is temporarily incapacitated). If Ryan was "acting," then there might be an argument that he would have to step down. But he would not be "acting," he would simply be president.

The second reason is a technicality, perhaps, but an important one. If Ryan were to succeed to the presidency, he would not remain as Speaker, any more than Gerald Ford or Andrew Johnson remained vice president once they became president. This being the case, the new Democratic speaker would not actually be replacing Ryan. They would just be assuming a vacant office.

The third reason worth noting is this: If changing speakers meant changing presidents, that would mean that control of the White House would essentially be at the whim of 435 folks. Such an approach may work for you Brits, but it would be seen as very anti-Democratic by Americans, would not be good for the stability of the U.S. government, and would potentially open the door to serious corruption. The courts would surely note all of these problems, in case their ruling was not already a slam dunk.

I happened to learn lately that Arnold Schwarzenegger became California Governor in 2003 by taking advantage of a process called "Recall Election" through which it's possible to replace a public office holder before the expiry of his/her term. On what grounds can the process be triggered? Are there any other states other than California that envisage this possibility? How about the highest federal public offices (House/Senate seats and the Presidency)? A.R., Milan, Italy

There are nineteen states that allow recall elections. Some of them only allow certain offices to be recalled (for example, only the governor can be recalled in Illinois; only members of the executive and legislative branches—but no judges—can be recalled in Alaska). In 10 of them, mostly Western and Midwestern states, any official elected to state office can be recalled. We are fond of noting that Gerald Ford once said that the meaning of "high crimes and misdemeanors" (the prerequisite for federal impeachment) is whatever 218 members of the House think it is. In most of the 19 states, the basis for recall is pretty much the same: Whatever the voters think it is. In that case, thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of folks generally have to sign a petition, and then a special recall election is held. Quite often, as was the case in California, people also simultaneously vote on who the new person will be if the recall is successful. So, when Schwarzenegger was elected, he was on the ballot with about a hundred other people, including Arianna Huffington (of HuffPost fame), porn star Mary Carey, 80s sitcom star Gary Coleman, watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher, and a bunch of other wacky candidates. If you're interested in the rules, on a state-by-state basis, there's a rundown here.

There are no federal recall elections, nor would they be legal if a state tried to establish them. Although states are empowered to hold elections, membership in Congress is the purview of each chamber, specifically the Senate Rules Committee and the House Rules Committee. In other words, once a senator-elect or a representative-elect presents the Secretary of the Senate/Secretary of the House with proof they have been duly elected, and assumes their seat, then their membership is controlled by their colleagues, and not by the state that elected them, until they are expelled or their term expires.

Right now, while still in a minority, the Democrats have a slightly better chance of getting a bill passed in the Senate, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will likely never let anything that they propose ever get up for a vote. Let's pretend, though, that they could. Given that they know that the Senate will be less friendly in 2019, but the House will be Democratic, is it possible for the Senate to pass a bill before the last 2018 session closes, but leave its House approval as something for the 2019 House to approve, thus passing a bill that could not pass in either 2018 or 2019? Or does a bill have to pass with the House and Senate being of the same "vintage"? S.B., Boston, MA

The more likely scenario, if this kind of gamesmanship were to happen, would be for the GOP-controlled House to pass a bill now, and then to wait until 2019 for a slightly redder Senate to pass it as well. In theory, something like an Obamacare repeal might not make it through the current Senate, but could make it through the next one.

However, as you correctly anticipate, this is not legal. When a bill passes both houses, it has been approved by whatever Congress gave its assent. In the scenario you describe (or the one we describe), it would have been passed in part by the 115th Congress, and in part by the 116th. Neither of those makes a complete set. In effect, it would be like if Donald Trump signed his first name to a bill on his last day in office, and then his successor signed his or her last name on their first day. Just as Donald O'Rourke or Donald Warren or Donald Winfrey is not a real president, a hybrid of two Congresses is not an actual Congress, and so has no authority to pass legislation. For this reason, all pending bills die on the last day of a Congressional session, and would have to be re-introduced and re-voted on in the next session in order to become law.

So my question may be fairly basic, but I've always wondered about the term "Registered Democrat/Republican." Why would someone register with one pollical party? I'm not sure that I see any good reason to do this since invariably this association is used by the other party to suggest that this person is unqualified (read bias) to work at a government position or on a personal level limits your choice when voting. So what are the advantages, disadvantages and obligations once you register with a political party? J.C., Sault Ste. Marie, Canada

When it comes to candidates for office, it is true that registering with a political party means activating a built-in opposition. However, it also means activating a built-in base of support, one that likely requires years of networking and campaigning to fully engage with. So, joining a political party may trigger certain challenges when it comes to being elected, but failing to join a political party makes it close to impossible to be elected. Of the 543 current elected federal officeholders (1 president, 1 vice president, 100 senators, 435 voting members of the House, 6 non-voting members of the House), only two are not members of a major party (Sens. Bernie Sanders, VT, and Angus King, ME). That's 0.3%, and even having that many independents in office is somewhat unusual. There have only been about half a dozen of them in the Senate, and a few more than that in the House, in the last century. No third-party candidate has ever been elected president (unless you count the party-less George Washington).

When it comes to voters, there are two reasons for registering as a member of a party that present themselves. The first is that many people just like to formally identify themselves as a member of a "team," not much different from being a Yankees fan or a Cowboys fan. The second is that, in some states, only registered members of a party are allowed to vote for that party's candidates in the primaries (aka, the first round of voting). There are 11 states (and Washington, D.C.) that have this sort of setup, which is called a "closed primary." So, in those places, you have to be a Republican if you want to help decide who the GOP's candidates in the general election will be, or a Democrat if you want to help pick the blue team's candidates. Outside of those places, though, it doesn't particularly matter which party you're a member of when it comes time to vote. In fact, 18 states don't even allow voters to indicate a party preference when registering. For these reasons, just more than 70% of American voters are actually members of one of the two major parties.

I read with interest the question from B.P. in Salt Lake City. My family has discussed this at length, as we live in several different states (all with different voting policies). Seems to me Congress could simply make Election Day a federal holiday as a way to increase turnout? K.H., Maryville, TN

Some states (Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia) have indeed made Election Day a civic holiday, and others (California, New York, a handful of others) have passed laws that require employers to give their staff paid time off to vote (usually two hours).

Many times, a bill has been introduced in Congress to make Election Day a federal holiday, and it never goes anywhere, primarily due to Republican opposition. First, because such a move would increase turnout. As the GOP is the minority party, higher turnout is bad news for them. Second, because it would compel employers to pay a day's pay without getting a day's work. As the party of business, this is a concern that Republicans are very sensitive to, and is the primary reason why Americans get less time off (elections or no) than citizens in any other industrialized democracy.

And with that, happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and as always, thanks for reading! (V & Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov21 Trump Won't Punish Saudis for Murdering Journalist
Nov21 Bye Bye Love
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Nov21 The Blue Wave Was Black
Nov21 Latinos Showed Up, Too
Nov21 Trump Submits Answers to Mueller
Nov21 Poll: Trump Beats All Rivals in 2020 Republican Primary
Nov21 Whitaker Was Paid over $1 Million by Conservative "Charity"
Nov20 Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Trump
Nov20 Troops at Border Are Headed Home
Nov20 Acosta Wins
Nov20 Trump Causes General Irritation
Nov20 Pelosi Opposition Comes into Focus
Nov20 Another Whitaker Lawsuit
Nov20 Everybody Is Waiting to See What Beto Will Do
Nov19 Nelson Concedes
Nov19 Republicans Are Concerned about the Mississippi Runoff
Nov19 Trump Slams McRaven
Nov19 It Wasn't All about College-Educated Suburban Women
Nov19 Texas May Be in Play Sooner than Expected
Nov19 Ohio and Colorado May Not Be Swing States Anymore
Nov19 A Battle Looms among Aspiring Ranking Members of the House Judiciary Committee
Nov19 An Early Look at the 2020 Senate Races
Nov19 Monday Q&A
Nov18 Election Updates: Gillum Concedes, Cisneros Wins
Nov18 Progressives Back Pelosi
Nov18 Trump Wonders about Pence's Loyalty
Nov18 Trump Threatens Shutdown...Again
Nov18 Trump May Take His Ball and Go Home
Nov18 Another Facebook Scandal
Nov18 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Eric Holder
Nov17 Election Updates: Abrams Concedes, Love Leads, Nelson Bleeds
Nov17 Senate Republicans Want to Get Rid of Whitaker
Nov17 Texas Businessman Sues, Challenges Whitaker's Legality
Nov17 Trump's Lawyers Have Finished Answering Mueller's Written Questions
Nov17 Federal Judge Orders Trump to Restore Jim Acosta's Press Pass
Nov17 CIA: Khashoggi Killed on Mohammed's Orders
Nov17 Lindsey Graham Will Chair the Senate Judiciary Committee
Nov17 If Not Pelosi, then Who?
Nov16 Latest Election Updates
Nov16 Trump Growing (More) Unhinged
Nov16 Pelosi Faces Resistance
Nov16 Trump Nominates Lana Marks as Ambassador to South Africa
Nov16 U.S. Sanctions 17 Saudis for Khashoggi Murder
Nov16 No Ruling in Acosta Case
Nov16 U.S. Wants to Prosecute Assange
Nov15 Updates on House Races
Nov15 There Must Be Something in the Water
Nov15 Trump Intervenes in House Leadership Fight