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On the roster: Would bigger be better for the House? - Trump suggests bonuses for armed school teachers - Top DOJ lawyer says agency ‘tuning… out’ trump attacks - Pennsylvania GOP asks SupCo to block new map - No t’challa, but some delicious challah bread
WOULD BIGGER BE BETTER FOR THE HOUSE?
One of the reasons Congress can’t seem to address the most pressing concerns of Americans is because the body did something that the Framers would have never imagined: Made itself nearly irrelevant.
The legislative branch of our government is supposed to be the first among equals. The Framers imagined that Congress would keenly guard its powers to declare war, tax, regulate, make treaties and oversee the other two branches.
But for the past century, with increasing velocity in the past five decades, Congress has become the handmaiden to both of the other branches. As it turns out, the desire of individual members of Congress to remain in power has outstripped the healthy jealousies that are intended to keep our government in check and functioning properly.
There are many suggestions for how to get Congress back in the game, not the least of which is term limits intended to add clarity and urgency to the tenures of its members.
But what if the best way to make Congress better is to make it bigger?
For most of American history until 1920, the number of seats in the House of Representatives increased with each decennial census. The House started with 65 members and steadily grew to its current 435 seats.
When the House reached its current size, each member represented, on average, a little more than 200,000 citizens. Today, it’s almost 750,000.
This has turned members of the House away from their original purpose of representing the narrow interests of similarly situated citizens and into demi-senators. The failure to allow the House to expand in keeping with the population began at about the same time as another constitutional misadventure in the legislative branch: The amendment establishing direct election of senators.
It’s helpful here to understand what the purpose of these two chambers was supposed to be. The members of the House, elected directly every two years was supposed to be the populist part of government, in which the passions of the people could be heard and responded to. Senators, chosen by state legislators until the 17th Amendment was enacted, were supposed to be an American version of the British House of Lords that represented their states’ interests.
Think about it this way: The House was intended to be a boisterous place where new ideas and new energies could shape the government. The Senate was then intended to cool things down and make sure that the big ideas from the lower House fit the federal model.
Now, we do not need the 6,000 or so members in the House that we would have by now under the original proposal from the Bill of Rights that went unratified by the states. Better communication and transportation means that’s not necessary or practical.
But as we consider questions like gerrymandering, gridlock and hidebound career politicians, perhaps leave a thought for how things might be better by decreasing the power of individual lawmakers while simultaneously making them more accountable to the constituents closest to them.
It’s not a panacea by any means, but it would be easily accomplished simply by an act of Congress itself. No amendments needed.
The fact that Congress has failed to do so in almost 100 years should suggest the potency of the idea. The House stopped expanding as members decided their own power was more important than that of the body itself.
THE RULEBOOK: HARD TO HOLD
“It is but too obvious that in some instances the fundamental principle under consideration has been violated by too great a mixture, and even an actual consolidation, of the different [governmental] powers; and that in no instance has a competent provision been made for maintaining in practice the separation delineated on paper.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 47
TIME OUT: BASEBALL IS BACK
If your heart is a little happier today, it may be because we are now just one day away from the return of big league baseball. Teams have been warming up in Arizona and Florida for more than a week and on Friday will play their first scrimmages starting at about 1 p.m. ET. They’re repeating a ritual that stretches back more to the 1910s in and around Tampa. But before that, teams had made other forays into the Sunshine State. Back in 1903, for instance, the Philadelphia Athletics tried late winter warmups in Jacksonville. Manager Connie Mack was not impressed. Aside from the usual distractions for his madcap ace, Rube Wadell, Florida’s subtropical clime offered too many enticements. He is said to have once missed the start of a game because he was in a nearby lagoon wrestling an alligator. Whoever you’re rooting for this year, we wish you a great, alligator-free season.
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 38.2 percent
Average disapproval: 56.8 percent
Net score: -18.6 points
Change from one week ago: down 2.2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 37% approve - 58% disapprove; Gallup: 37% approve - 59% disapprove; Fox: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Marist College: 39% approve - 56% disapprove; IBD: 35% approve - 58% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 40 percent
Democratic average: 47.8 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 7.8 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage up 1.2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 53% Dems - 38% GOP; Marist College: 49% Dems - 38% GOP; IBD: 46% Dems - 41% GOP; Monmouth University: 47% Dems - 45% GOP; Fox News: 44% Dems - 38% GOP.]
TRUMP SUGGESTS BONUSES FOR ARMED SCHOOL TEACHERS
Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump called for paying bonuses to teachers who carry guns in the classroom, embracing a controversial proposal to curb school shootings hours after offering a full-throated endorsement of the National Rifle Association. Trump told state and local officials gathered at the White House on Thursday to discuss school safety that ‘you can’t hire enough security guards’ and teachers could carry concealed weapons and ‘nobody would know who they are.’ He said that teachers would go through ‘rigorous training’ and could get ‘a little bit of a bonus.’ … It was a jarring contrast for Trump just a day after his emotional meeting with students and parents affected by recent school massacres. Earlier Thursday morning, before a tweet praising the NRA, Trump went the furthest he’s ever gone on gun control, saying he’d push for tougher background checks that screen for mental health, raising the minimum age of buyers to 21, and ending the sale of bump stocks.”
LaPierre says ‘opportunists’ exploiting Florida tragedy for ‘political gain’ - Fox News: “The leader of the National Rifle Association on Thursday pushed back hard against the latest efforts to enact new gun control measures in the wake of last week’s school shooting rampage in Florida, accusing liberals of exploiting the massacre ‘for political gain.’ ‘As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain,’ Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, said here in a fiery speech to conservative activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference. LaPierre railed against ‘the elites’ renewing calls for restricting gun ownership in the United States since the Parkland, Fla. shooting. ‘Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms,’ he said.”
GOP congresswoman ties mass murderers to Dems - The Hill: “Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) said Wednesday that many mass shooters ‘end up being Democrats.’ Tenney made the claim in an interview with radio host Fred Dicker, exactly one week after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. ‘Obviously there’s a lot of politics in it,’ Tenney said. ‘And it’s interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats, but the media doesn’t talk about that either.’ … Tenney said she was concerned that the response to the Florida shooting would result in legal gun owners being ‘targeted.’ … Tenney later defended her remarks as standing up ‘for law-abiding citizens who are smeared by anti-gun liberal elitists.’ … Tenney’s Democratic challenger, Anthony Brindisi, criticized her radio comments on Twitter, calling on Tenney to apologize for the comments.”
Dems ready assault weapons ban - The Hill: “Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) on Wednesday said he intends to introduce legislation next week to ban assault weapons. Ryan Schachter, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School whose brother was killed in last week’s shooting there, asked Deutch during a CNN town hall event what he would do to ensure he will be safe at school. ‘We’re going to introduce legislation to make sure that assault weapons are illegal in every part of this country,’ Deutch said, prompting applause from the audience. He said he supports local law enforcement and school staff to provide as much security and comfort as needed to make sure students feel safe.”
TOP DOJ LAWYER SAYS AGENCY ‘TUNING… OUT’ TRUMP ATTACKS
Fox News: “Former top Justice Department official Rachel Brand, in an exclusive interview with Fox News, pushed back strongly at speculation she left the Trump administration over concerns she could have been tapped to oversee the Robert Mueller Russia probe. ‘Anyone who actually knows me knows that had nothing to do with my departure,’ Brand told Fox News on Tuesday. Brand spoke with Fox News during her last afternoon as associate attorney general, the No. 3 DOJ post. She recently made the surprise announcement that she’s stepping down to take a position as Walmart’s executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary. The move spurred anonymous-source speculation that she’s leaving in order to avoid the possibility of getting caught up in the internal politics of the Russia investigation – namely, being thrust into the role of Mueller’s keeper if Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were to be pushed out.”
Former Trump campaign adviser will meet with Mueller - Politico: “Sam Nunberg, one of President Donald Trump’s earliest campaign advisers, is scheduled to meet Thursday with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators in Washington, according to a person with knowledge of the interview. Nunberg was an outspoken Trump aide who got fired in August 2015 over racially charged Facebook posts. Trump later sued Nunberg for $10 million for breaching a confidentiality agreement. They settled the case a month later. Nunberg, who will be accompanied for the Mueller interview by defense attorney Patrick Brackley, got an invitation to meet with the special counsel in mid-January soon after the publication of Michael Wolff's tell-all ‘Fire and Fury.’ The book quotes the former Trump aide describing everything from his allegiance with ex-strategist Steve Bannon to Trump’s decision to run for president and attempts to explain the Constitution to the rookie political candidate.
Dems seek money to fight potential Russian election meddling - Reuters: “U.S. Democratic leaders called on Congress on Wednesday to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation $300 million to fight foreign efforts to interfere in congressional and state elections in November, amid growing concerns about potential Russian influence on the polls. Citing warnings from intelligence agencies that Russia is trying to influence the upcoming vote, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi asked that the additional funds be included in a bill to fund the government which Congress aims to pass by March 23. ‘This additional funding should be targeted to ensure the resources and manpower to counter the influence of hostile foreign actors operating in the U.S., especially Russian operatives operating on our social media platforms,’ Schumer, Pelosi and the top Democrats on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees wrote in a letter.”
Republicans paying big bucks to former Trump bodyguard - CNBC: “When President Donald Trump's longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller decided to leave his White House job last fall, many in the West Wing wondered how the president would manage without his personal security chief-turned-confidant, who had been working for Trump nearly 20 years. As it turns out, Schiller didn't go very far. Within weeks of leaving his job as director of Oval Office operations, Schiller's private security firm, KS Global Group, began collecting $15,000 a month for "security services" from the Republican National Committee. According to an RNC official, Schiller is being paid for security consulting on the site selection process for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Schiller's fee comes out of the RNC's convention fund, not its campaign fund, the official noted.”
The Judge’s Ruling: Mueller’s hot pursuit - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano asks why Special Counsel Mueller would indict individuals that he cannot prosecute: “He did so for a few reasons. One was to reveal the scope of the unlawful activity that he has found. The American people are entitled to know what went on under our noses and who knew about this and looked the other way. As well, this indictment gives credibility to Mueller’s work. The other reason for the indictment is to smoke out any American collaborators. He has identified American collaborators, but not by proper name, and the Department of Justice has said -- not in the indictment, in which case it would be bound by what it says, but in a press statement, which binds no one -- that the American collaborators were unwitting dupes of the Russians.” More here.
PENNSYLVANIA GOP ASKS SUPCO TO BLOCK NEW MAP
Fox News: “The Republican presiding officers of Pennsylvania's House and Senate asked the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday to block a new congressional district map that is widely expected to boost Democratic prospects in the November midterm elections. The emergency request filed by Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnetti says the state Supreme Court usurped legislative authority when it issued the new map on Monday, calling it an unprecedented decision. ‘The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map,’ they wrote. Last month, the Democratic-majority Supreme Court of Pennsylvania threw out a 2011 congressional district map that had been drafted by Republicans, saying it violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections. On Monday, the court released new maps of Pennsylvania's 18 congressional districts.”
Trump to fundraise for Hawley - St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “President Donald Trump will travel to St. Louis in mid-March to host a high-dollar, invitation-only fundraiser with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley — an event that could shore up more than just Hawley’s campaign fund. Hawley, widely viewed as the front-runner for this year’s GOP nomination to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has faced talk lately of party dissatisfaction with his campaign, which some say has failed to catch fire. Chatter in Missouri and Washington has included the possibility of pulling U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, into the race. An appearance by Trump at a Hawley event full of big-money donors presumably would tamp down such talk.”
Arizona candidate’s campaign threatened by ‘lewd photography’ - WashEx: “The fate of Arizona’s 8th Congressional District could hinge on a naked selfie. Last November a state Senate staffer texted Steve Montenegro a topless photo. Now that lewd digital photography has surfaced, threatening his campaign to win the seat vacated by Republican Rep. Trent Franks (who resigned after asking two female staffers to be surrogate mothers). In his first interview since the story broke, Montenegro tells the Washington Examiner he never solicited the photo. Less than one week before the special election, the front-runner accuses his opponents of sabotaging his political career with ‘revenge porn.’ ‘I want you to know I did not have any inappropriate relationships with this woman,’ Montenegro said with deliberate emphasis over the phone Wednesday night.”
Disgraced GOP Rep. Murphy’s mistress to run for congress - WashEx: “Shannon Edwards, whose affair with Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., ended his congressional career, announced Wednesday in Pittsburgh she's running for Congress. Murphy, a staunch pro-life Republican, resigned in the face of a scandal last October when it was revealed the married lawmaker had an affair with Edwards and then urged her to have an abortion during a pregnancy scare. Edwards said at the Allegheny County Court House that she is running for office because Pittsburgh deserves someone who will fight the battles no one wants to fight. She also said she expects her relationship with Murphy will come up again and again during the campaign.”
Andrew Sullivan: ‘The Poison We Pick’ - NY Mag
Trump will over power the Tea Party’s presence at CPAC - WashTimes
Trump looks at new candidates for top environmental adviser position - NYT
AUDIBLE: CIVILITY ALERT
“I told him before we came out here tonight that he had guts coming here - when, in fact, there is no representative of the state of Florida. Our governor did not come here, Gov. Scott. But Marco did.” – Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday night, giving Sen. Marco Rubio credit for attending CNN’s town hall on gun reform. Gov. Rick Scott declined his invitation.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Superb article on religious affiliation and the bipartisan divide in American politics!! Have you considered syndication of your lead articles from each Halftime???” – Liana Silsby, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
[Ed. note: You are very kind, Ms. Silsby! As for syndication, I am sorry to say as a newspaper man at heart that those days are mostly gone. I tend to think that the internet is plenty good as a replacement, but I do miss the days when newspapers helped steer the national dialogue by choosing syndicated columnists from a stable of the best. On the upside pundits have to work a lot harder these days because you are only as good anymore as your last piece.]
“Will you have an easy to read chart that shows the status of the candidates power ratings published regularly?” – Jim Healy, Monte Sereno, Calif.
[Ed. note: You bet, Mr. Healy! We will be unveiling a new webpage soon. Look for regular updates, including a link to that page very soon.]
“I used to enjoy your newsletter. But now it comes so late in the day it’s old news. It was a welcome break during the work day, but now I’m watching Fox News rather than reading your newsletter. Please return to the days of old and get these out at ‘Half Time’ which I would consider Noon to 1pm, EST. Otherwise, I’ll have to unsubscribe.” – Bob Czachor, Sedro Woolley, Wash.
[Ed. note: You are a tough customer, Mr. Czachor! We would hate to see you go, but a shift in our schedule here has caused us to redefine “halftime.” One of those big shifts has been the addition of “Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream.” I get to spend a few evenings each week with Shannon and her squad so despite Brianna’s best efforts I can’t always get out the door before the work day is done. I will confess that I like this new schedule as both an analyst and a news consumer because we simply have more to work with later in the day. But we understand if you feel the need to let us go, but at least you can say that we’re worth what you pay for us.]
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NO T’CHALLA, BUT SOME DELICIOUS CHALLAH BREAD
Chicago Sun Times: “Well, it had to happen. On Tuesday, Wauconda [Ill.] village hall got its first phone call from somebody yelling ‘Wakanda Forever.’ It’s the thrilling battle cry from the smash hit movie ‘Black Panther,’ which opened over the weekend. ‘We had a guy call and [he] was shouting that. I was a little confused,’ said Alise Homola, who works at the village hall in the far northwest suburb. ‘He was joking around about it,’’ she said. ‘He just said that ‘I was searching the Wakanda from the movie, and your village came up, so I thought I’d call you and give you a hard time.’’ … To be clear, Wauconda is not the futuristic vibranium-filled African utopia of ‘Black Panther.’ It’s a town in Lake County with a landmark nature bog. But that hasn’t stopped comic book geeks and fans from joking on social media that the smash hit film about Wakanda might make Wauconda seem cooler than it is.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.