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Balance of Power
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"From 1952 through 2016, Republicans and Democrats have taken eight-year turns in the White House with just two exceptions: A four-year interregnum for Democrat Jimmy Carter followed by a dozen straight GOP years under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush," notes LaRue.

It's time to make presidents face the country's six-year itch

LaRue is former deputy director of the Eisenhower Institute, a nonpartisan think tank at Gettysburg College, and of the American Society of International Law. He adapted this piece from an article he wrote in 2018 for the Election law Journal.

Getting reelected is becoming too easy for our presidents. Nine of the last 12 incumbents who sought a second term, including four of the last five, succeeded. A re-elected President Trump would make it four in a row.

The structure of maximum presidential service — eight years in two equal terms — strengthens this probability. Every incumbent has an advantage in pursuing reelection. And reelection itself is not a bad thing. But its timing at four years has become so unfair that I call it the "four-year crutch."

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Allowing President Trump's stonewalling to continue "without the potential of a judicial backstop would gut Congress' ability to effectively check executive overreach and lawbreaking," writes former Rep. Tom Coleman.

A court must decide: Does the law still apply to everyone, the president included?

Coleman was a Republican members of the House from Missouri from 1976 to 1993. He is a retired lobbyist and an advisor to the Protect Democracy Project, an anti-authoritarian watchdog group.

It is a bedrock American principle that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. The president, like all Americans, must pay taxes, must give evidence when sought by a court or Congress, and must follow the law. If this principle is to survive, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals must reverse a ruling that Congress cannot sue to enforce subpoenas of executive branch officials.

In the wake of the report from special counsel Robert Mueller, last April the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to provide testimony about President Trump's efforts to obstruct the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. The White House informed the committee that the president ordered McGahn not to appear, asserting that certain presidential aides are "absolutely immune" from being forced to testify — a privilege no other president has ever claimed. As a result, the committee sued to enforce its subpoena.

In February, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit punted on the central question, ruling 2-1 their court does not have the power to settle this dispute between the congressional and executive branches. If that is allowed to stand, Congress' ability to conduct legitimate oversight will be severely limited and Trump will be further emboldened to ignore our constitutional system of checks and balances.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers could still enact the reform package through the standard legislative process.

Public financing, suppression of 3rd parties in N.Y. on hold after ruling

New York's new public campaign finance system and rules limiting the power of small political parties were struck down Thursday, a state judge ruling their creation by an independent commission last year violated the state Constitution.

A package with both provisions took the force of law in January under an unusual procedure in which the Legislature's choices were to either reject it or let it happen. That was "an improper and unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority," Niagara County Supreme Court Justice Ralph Boniello ruled.

Third parties hailed the ruling, which preserves their candidates' relatively easy access to spots on the ballot in the nation's fourth most-populous state. Advocates of reducing big money's sway over campaigns, meanwhile, said there was plenty of time to recover. The new taxpayer matching funds were not going to start flowing for six years — allowing plenty of time for the system to get enacted the usual way.

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Emerging Legal Issues in Congressional Oversight and Investigation

Organizer: R Street Institute

he 116th Congress may rank with those of the Teapot Dome Scandal and Watergate in terms of its importance in defining the congressional powers of oversight and investigation. In just over a year, this Congress has seen a presidential impeachment trial that revolved, in part, around allegations that the president obstructed an impeachment investigation as well as an unprecedented amount of litigation regarding Congress's investigatory powers. This meeting of the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group will discuss these cases and the significant issues they have raised, including:

  • How to distinguish between investigations for purposes of legislative oversight, impeachment, and for other purposes?
  • What constitutes a "legitimate legislative purpose" needed for a congressional investigation?
  • To what extent can the president invoke executive privilege or "absolute immunity"?
  • Does Congress have standing to sue to enforce subpoenas?
  • Does executive branch counsel have the right to attend depositions of current or former government officials?
  • What is the extent of Congress' power to obtain grand jury information?
  • May Congress seek tax records or other personal information of the president?
Location: Rayburn House Office Building, 45 Independence Avenue Southwest, Room 2043, Washington, DC
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