Smart Ideas: Committees Should Make a Comeback

Reps. Sam Gibbons (left) and Dan Rostenkowski, who both served as chairs of the House Ways and Means Committee
AP Photo/John Duricka
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Nov. 20, 2017, 8 p.m.

Leadership should strengthen the committee system

Matt Glassman, writing for The Ripon Society

One way to fix congressional gridlock is to strengthen committees, a “low-hanging fruit” reform that could pay quick dividends. “In recent decades, an increasing proportion of major legislation has been crafted outside the committee system, with leadership taking the lead in partnership with allied committee chairs, and the rank-and-file mostly left out. Such bills are now routinely brought to the House floor under highly restrictive rules,” which “discourages rank-and-file members from participating in policymaking or developing expertise.” Another reform would be for Republicans to copy Democrats and get rid of the three-term limit they have for committee chairmanships, a Newt Gingrich-era rule that “has reduced both the ability of chairs to become true experts in their jurisdiction, and given them less incentive to defend committee power against leadership encroachment.”

Garrett should rethink how Ex-Im bank does business

Veronique de Rugy, writing for Townhall

The Export-Import Bank has been hamstrung for months. Its authorization has lapsed, and it lacks “enough members on its board to authorize deals over $10 million,” which represent 85 percent of its activity. The nomination of former Rep. Scott Garrett to lead the bank could “bring much-needed accountability and transparency to the agency.” Sixty-five percent of Ex-Im’s loans, which help lower the “cost of borrowing for foreign companies when they buy some American goods,” went to 10 large companies, most notably Boeing, yet these companies are going strong without the bank’s help. Garrett, who was an avowed foe of Ex-Im while in Congress, could “flag inappropriate loans, making sure that when Iran buys Boeing planes, taxpayers aren’t subsidizing the deal,” and conduct oversight of the bank by regularly reporting to Congress.

Military is not toothless in preventing a first-strike nuclear launch

Peter Feaver, writing for Foreign Policy

In assessing the president’s ability to launch nuclear weapons, it’s important to differentiate between cases when the military theoretically “wakes up” the president, or vice versa. In the former case, when the military detects an imminent strike from a hostile foreign power, the generals “would already be providing a certain degree of de facto concurrence since it was they who made the decision that the threat required a presidential decision, and they who presented the range of options to the president for the decision.” In that case, they would likely carry out the president’s orders posthaste.

“It is a different matter in the other context: when it is the president who wakes up the military and tries to get them to go from peacetime to war, i.e. to launch a preventive nuclear attack. … The steps the president would have to take in order to pass a nuclear order to someone who could physically launch the missiles would simultaneously alert the rest of his national security team. Efforts to bypass the senior leadership would themselves further alarm subordinates, increasing the likelihood that they would draw in the rest of the national security team, even if ordered not to. … The president does not need anyone else to help him fire off a tweet, but he does need many others to help him fire off a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile. If he were trying to do so it would take an enormous effort of persuasion that would involve many more people than are involved in the streamlined, launch-under-attack scenario.”

An ICBM launch-control facility near Minot, N.D., in 2014 AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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